Texas border wall map looks a lot like private firm’s proposal


Highlights

Border Patrol officials told stakeholders that levee wall plan is based on now-rescinded letter from county.

Hidalgo County officials sent proposal based on designs from Dannenbaum Engineering.

After public outrage, county sent second letter clarifying first letter wasn’t an “invitation.”

The recently revealed map of Trump administration plans for new border wall segments in Hidalgo County is almost identical to a proposal drafted by a politically connected private engineering firm and endorsed by Hidalgo County officials in February.

In a letter to the Homeland Security Department, Hidalgo County officials proposed a partnership to build 30 miles of combined levee walls and border fences, essentially filling in the gaps in the existing border fencing in the county. The proposed $379 million plan was developed by Dannenbaum Engineering, a firm that built the previous round of levee border walls in the county. Dannenbaum’s offices were raided in April by the FBI, which is reportedly investigating the firm’s pursuit of government infrastructure projects.

SPECIAL REPORT: Life in the shadow of the wall

After an avalanche of criticism from residents and activists, Hidalgo officials sent a follow-up letter in May, emphasizing their opposition to the border wall and, County Judge Ramon Garcia said, clarifying that their initial letter wasn’t an “invitation.”

But it appears that federal officials took it as one.

At a recent meeting with local officials and stakeholders, Border Patrol officials described their plans for 28 miles of levee border walls in the county as reflecting local wishes, according to two people who attended. “It was presented as the locally supported option for the border wall,” said Scott Nicol, co-chair of the Sierra Club Borderlands initiative. “Now we are stuck.”

Customs and Border Protection officials didn’t respond to requests for comment on whether their Hidalgo County plan was shaped by the letter.

But Nicol said that in the meeting, Border Patrol officials clarified that local support was indeed a reference to the February proposal, in which Garcia said that new construction would lead to $500 million of economic impact and more than 5,000 new jobs. “Needless to say, this would be a tremendous economic stimulus and jobs program for Hidalgo County and the Nation,” Garcia wrote.

Garcia has told the Statesman that the February letter was written when it appeared that a border wall in the county was inevitable.

“It looked like there was no way of stopping it,” he said. “If they were really insisting, then we ought to do it in a way that can benefit by helping our comprehensive drainage system.”

But residents pointed out that the flood levees that would be rebuilt into border wall had already recently been repaired with federal stimulus money.

Dannenbaum has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to political candidates around the state, including about $25,000 to Hidalgo County officials since 2009. After the April FBI raids of the firm, Hidalgo County commissioners voted to end negotiations with the firm to build a new courthouse.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

San Marcos considers supporting challenge to ‘sanctuary cities’ law
San Marcos considers supporting challenge to ‘sanctuary cities’ law

The San Marcos City Council will consider writing an amicus brief in opposition to Senate Bill 4, the ban on so-called sanctuary cities, during a special meeting called for Tuesday morning. The meeting, called for 8 a.m. Tuesday in council chambers at 630 E. Hopkins, comes after the council last week voted not to join the cities of Austin...
With rejection of special session core agenda, is GOP civil war next?
With rejection of special session core agenda, is GOP civil war next?

The day before the summer special legislative session began, Gov. Greg Abbott warned lawmakers that he would be keeping an eagle eye on how each of them voted on his 20-item agenda. “I’m going to be establishing a list,” Abbott said. “Who is for this, who is against this, who has not taken a position yet. No one gets to hide...
Two Florida police officers fatally shot, suspect in custody
Two Florida police officers fatally shot, suspect in custody

Two Florida police officers were fatally shot while checking out a report of a suspicious person Friday night, Kissimmee police Chief Jeff O’Dell said. Kissimmee police Officer Matthew Baxter and Sgt. Sam Howard were shot in a scuffle at about 9:30 p.m. at Palmway and East Cypress streets near East Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway and North Main...
After Charlottesville, Austin’s Confederate monuments get a second look
After Charlottesville, Austin’s Confederate monuments get a second look

After a rally by white supremacists fighting removal of a Confederate monument turned deadly in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend, the response in Austin came swiftly. Austin City Council members immediately began paperwork to rename Robert E. Lee Road, near Zilker Park, and Jeff Davis Avenue, near Allandale. At the Capitol, state Rep. Eric Johnson...
‘Free Speech’ rally in Boston draws large crowd of counter-protesters
‘Free Speech’ rally in Boston draws large crowd of counter-protesters

A “free speech” rally in Boston Saturday afternoon drew a large crowd of counter-protesters. An estimated 15,000 counter-protesters marched through the city to Boston Common, where rally attendees gathered to deliver a series of speeches.  The rally ended abruptly, and attendees were escorted by police from the rally area. Tense clashes...
More Stories