Tucson Progressive

Pamela Powers, a progressive voice for Arizona

Mother Nature: Tear down this wall (video)

The US-Mexico border fence between has been ballyhoo’d by the right as necessary to border security, denegrated human rights advocates as a contributing factor in border deaths, and repeated breached by Mexicans with ladders, hack saws, torches, catapults, tunnels, and memorials.

The most recent news is that right-wing Republican Legislators have started a fundraising to build more sections of the fence, since the federal government and the state government are strapped for cash. (Yeah, that’s the ticket ask us workers to pay for it, since we have so much extra cash on our hands.)

The latest assault against the border fence has been at the hands of Mother Nature, who knocked down a 40-foot section of the border fence using flood waters. Apparently, the multi-million-dollar border fence has a design flaw. [doh] Environmentalists and officials with the Organ Pipe National Monument officials warned the Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security of the potential for flood damage before the fence was built, but these warning were ignored.

From the Arizona Daily Star

The design does not allow for the free flow of water in natural washes intersecting the border, he said. In washes, the fence has grate openings at the bottom that are 6 inches high and 24 inches wide with 1-by-3-inch bars.

“The fence acts as a dam and forms a gradual waterfall,” [Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Superintendent Lee] Baiza said. “It starts to pile up on the bottom as the grass, the leaves, the limbs start plugging up. The water starts backing up and going higher. The higher it gets, the more force it has behind it.”

Sunday’s storm dumped 1.5 to 2.5 inches of rain in the area upslope from the area where the fence failed, according to the National Weather Service.

Bursts of strong rain are common at the park, meaning that other parts of the fence that are in the natural washes could be at risk of being knocked over, too, Baiza said.

The problems were anticipated by Organ Pipe officials.

In October 2007, before the fence was built by Kiewit Western Co. for $21.3 million, Organ Pipe officials told the U.S. Department of Homeland Security they were worried that the design would impede the movement of floodwater across the border; that debris would get trapped in the fence; that water would pool; and that the lateral flow of water would cause damage to the environment and patrol roads, according to a report issued by Organ Pipe in August 2008 about flooding that summer.

In response, the Border Patrol issued a final environmental assessment with a finding of no significant impact. It also said the fence would not impede the natural flow of water or cause flooding.
The agency said it would remove debris from the fence within the washes immediately after rains to ensure that no flooding occurred.

At a December 2007 meeting, Kiewit officials stated in a handout that the fence design “would permit water and debris to flow freely and not allow ponding of water on either side of the border” because the drainage crossing grates “met hydraulic modeling requirements.”

“Now we know who’s right,” said Matt Clark, Southwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “Period. End of story.”
The situation is an example of how Homeland Security ignored expert advice from people within the federal government to ram through border-fencing projects, Clark said.

The first sign of problems occurred on July 12, 2008, when the 15-foot-high wire-mesh fence halted the natural flow of floodwater during a storm that dumped 1 to 2 inches of rain in 90 minutes around the border towns of Lukeville, and Sonoyta, Sonora.

Water pooled behind the fence and flooded into the Lukeville Port of Entry and private businesses, causing damage.
At the Gringo Pass convenience store, merchandise was damaged and the store was closed for cleanup, according to a lawsuit filed by the company against the U.S. government in 2009. The lawsuit says the flooding diminished property value by $6 million.

On Sunday, the storm also caused flooding in several buildings in Lukeville owned by Gringo Pass, Inc. after water pooled against the border fence and seeped into the structures. Those buildings now include a restaurant, post office, shuttle company and a duty-free store that had just received a new shipment of goods, said a store spokesperson. The convenience store is now out of business.

After the July 2008 flooding, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument officials issued a 17-page report detailing how it happened. Baiza said then he wanted government officials to revisit the design to prevent future problems.
To remedy the problem, the Army Corps of Engineers installed 50 to 60 liftable gates in 11 drainage systems as part of a 2010 drainage-improvement project. The system calls for the gates to be raised by a hoisting apparatus during storms so water can freely flow.

On Sunday, though, the gates were down, Baiza said.

Questions about the fence, the design and gates were not answered Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security or the Army Corps of Engineers.

The recent events show that there should be no border barriers in water crossings, Clark said. Officials should use alternative security measures such as ground sensors in those areas, which would not only allow floodwater to move freely but also create breaks for wildlife.

“Flooding is a very visual and physical reminder that walls block ecosystem processes,” Clark said. “There are major costs both fiscally and environmentally to building walls across watersheds.”

9 comments on “Mother Nature: Tear down this wall (video)

  1. jpass
    August 10, 2011

    I’m sure the border security would work a lot better if the border was patrolled by the military with a shoot to kill order.No matter what anyone says,our borders are being overrun due to the fact that there is no real penalty if they are caught.It’s like a game for the illegals.We’re being invaded by alot more than just Mexicans.It’s only a matter of time we will have another 9/11 type attack due to the lax attidtude by the present administration who want as many  minorities as possible into the country just to get votes and the heck with security.


    • gordon smith
      August 10, 2011

       jpass  –   typical head up your ass republican response


    • gordon smith
      August 10, 2011

      typical head up your ass republican response


    • Jim Hannley
      August 11, 2011

      Wow, jpass was able to congregate at least a dozen GOP falsehoods into a short paragraph. I am imprressed.


  2. nohopeforyoufolks
    August 10, 2011

    Polititians against protecting the border are being paid by the cartels to keep it open. Right wing, left wing it doesn’t seem to matter who is in charge, nothing happens.

    Why else would anyone want to make it easier for illegals cross?
    Just think about that. 

    So why would anyone, journalist (so-called) defend their position?
    Perhaps they enjoy the extra money earned by selling the weed that gets across.

    Enough said


  3. coyote
    August 10, 2011

    The only hope we have are two options;
    1- she has a house invasion by Illegals and gets a wake up call.
    2- if the wall is taken down and scraped in a junkyard she also gets scraped


  4. Jim Hannley
    August 11, 2011

    I saw the article in the AZ Daily Star but there were whole sections here that I did not recall reading. I wonder if the editors cut a lot of it out. I very much liked the video and your assessment is spot on. We need a comprehensive immigration policy that includes a means for “unskilled” motivated workers to work and live in the US as labor demands but allow them to return to their homes in Mexico whenever they wish. We would save billions of dollars in border enforcement costs and rapidly invigorate our economy.


    • Pamela
      August 11, 2011

      I have noticed before that the online and print Star can be different.

      The border fence is a right-wing unifying issue for people who want to focus on enforcement and ignore the underlying economic problems on both sides of the border that created the lucrative drug trade and the flow of undocumented workers. As long as underlying causes are ignored, the fence is a worthless waste of money.


  5. J
    August 11, 2011

    Do you people pay taxes?  I sure do, I pay a lot of them.
    Sorry to break this news to you, but most mexicans could care less about the US and more about all the free stuff they can get while they’re here.  Ever asked one?  Try it sometime, you might be amazed at what they say.
    Why in the world would you want to support someone who has ZERO interest in paying into a system that 110% supports them?  We pay everything for them and what do they repay us with?  A bill at the end of the fiscal year.
    There are a select few that chose to become a US citizen, pay taxes, be a productive member of society; my hat is off to those people every day.  But most of those people would side with me with the argument of having to pay for people who take, and nothing more.  In fact I’ve never met a naturalized US citizen who doesn’t oppose illegal immigration, but that’s just the dozens of people I’ve talked to.
    “Waste” your money on the border fence now, save “yourself” several thousands of dollars in future years.  “Save” your money on the border fence now, “waste” your money on illegals in the: prison system, welfare system, unemployment system, food stamp system, etc..
    I really wish you people would think everything to the end instead of rallying to an immediate cause because you think it’s “right.”  But then again, I pay taxes.


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The Tucson Progressive: Pamela J. Powers

I stand on the side of Love. I believe in kindness to all creatures on Earth and the inherent self-worth of all individuals–not just people who agree with me or look like me.

Widespread economic and social injustice prompted me to become a candidate for the Arizona House, representing Legislative District 9 in the 2016 election.

My platform focused on economic reforms to grow Arizona’s economy, establish a state-based public bank, fix our infrastructure, fully fund public education, grow local small businesses and community banks, and put people back to work at good-paying jobs.

In the Arizona House, I was a strong voice for fiscal responsibility a moratorium on corporate tax breaks until the schools were fully funded, increased cash assistance to the poor, expansion of maternal healthcare benefits, equal rights, choice, unions, education at all levels and protecting our water supply.

After three terms, I retired from the Arizona Legislature in January 2023 but will continue to blog and produce my podcast “A View from the Left Side.”

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