By Owen Davidson
On Sept. 12, The Guardian reported that construction of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico has begun in southern Arizona. Construction teams have started building a 30-foot-tall section of the wall in the states Organ Pipe Cactus national monument.
According to The Guardian, the wall is part of the 175 miles of barrier expansion along the U.S.-Mexico being financed by a diversion of $3.6 billion in funds from military construction projects.
CBS reported that the Organ Pipe Cactus wall will replace 15-foot-tall fences with walls twice their size. The wall will feature flood lights to brighten the surrounding areas. The new construction plan will replace nearly 44 miles of existing “pedestrian and vehicle fencing” with 30-foot-tall steel bollards.
The wall passes through a nearby wildlife refuge, according to CBS. Some lawmakers and environmental activists have said that the wall will “cut wildlife off from already-scarce desert water sources” and “threaten animals’ ability to flee natural disasters like floods and wildfires.”
According to USA Today, President Donald Trump’s administration may face issues concerning “lawsuits from landowners who aren’t giving up their property,” as well as environmentalists who say the barriers stop animals from migrating and can cut off sources of water.
The 44-mile-long wall will pass through three federally protected lands ?— the Organ Pipe wilderness, the Cabeza Prieta national wildlife refuge and San Pedro Riparian national conservation area, which includes “the location of Arizona’s last free-flowing river,” according to The Guardian.
“‘Pumping water out of the desert at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, on federally protected land, to support this project is a crime against the American spirit and will do lasting damage to a national treasure,’” Raúl Grijalva, D-Arizona, told The Guardian via email.
Additionally, Kevin Dahl of the National Parks Conservation Association told The Guardian that the border lights will create light pollution, and that the wall itself could be putting endangered species at risk.
The Department of Homeland Security, which has authority over the construction, has the power to waive any laws passed by environmental agencies as to “ensure expeditious construction” of the wall, according to The Guardian. The Trump Administration has waived numerous federal laws, “including the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air Act” in order to “construct barriers in protected areas in every southern border state.”
CBS reported on Aug. 29, around the time the construction had begun, that “waivers have been used to fast-track construction of border barriers and fencing 18 times since 2005, including 13 times under the Trump administration alone.”
According to USA Today, the president and his administration said that they plan on building between “450 and 500 miles of fencing along the nearly 2,000-mile border by the end of 2020.”