Border wall contracts awarded; More than $800 million to be spent

A gate stands open leading to the other side of the border wall built into the IBWC levee just inland of the Rio Grande, in Hidalgo.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded three contracts to build 65 miles of new border wall through Cameron, Hidalgo and Starr counties at a cost of $812 million.

The border projects will include an 18-30 foot tall steel bollard wall, roads, lighting, cameras and other surveillance equipment. CBP says construction of the walls is expected to begin early next year and will be built on land where there are no existing structures.

According to a CBP news release, the new sections will not be built at the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, La Lomita Historical Park, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, within or east of the Vista del Mar Ranch tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, or the National Butterfly Center.

All of the environmentally sensitive locations have opposed construction of the wall.

Nearly 21 miles of the new wall will be built in Starr County at a cost of $257,808,800. Southern Border Constructors was awarded the contract to build five sections beginning west of the Falcon Dam Port of Entry and connect to other new border wall segments.

The company also received a second contract to build 22 miles of new border wall in Starr and Hidalgo counties for $258,085,400. The two sections will begin east of the Rio Grande City Port of Entry and connect to other segments.

In all, Southern Border Constructors contracts total nearly $516 million.

The U.S. government awarded the final contract to Gibraltar-Caddell Joint Venture to build 22 miles of steel bollard wall within Cameron and Hidalgo counties at a price of $296,709,805. This contract calls for building 12 sections of wall beginning east of the Pharr Port of Entry and will also connect to new sections.

CBP says the 65 miles of new border wall construction are not part of the national emergency declaration made by President Donald Trump.

“CBP continues to implement President Trump’s Executive Order 13767 – also known as Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements – taking steps to expeditiously plan, design, and construct a physical wall using appropriate materials and technology to most effectively achieve operational control of the southern border,” the CBP release states.

The federal agency says the Rio Grande Valley is the busiest sector in the nation and accounts for nearly 40% of all the arrests of immigrants on the border. CBP also says more cocaine and marijuana are confiscated in South Texas then anywhere else along the U.S. Mexico border.

dmaldonado@brownsvilleherald.com