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Failing grade for border wall

It’s a strange time to be alive. We lobby aggressively for a federal germ lab that the Feds themselves say would pose less risk if it were kept on the other side of the country. We practically build ourselves out of our own economy by threatening the military with encroaching suburbs that gas prices will make unlivable in a few years. And we grant Homeland Security the powers to ignore all controls regarding the safe construction of a wall that will cede untold acreage to a No Man’s Land between the Rio Grande and us: another move the Feds are sadly shaking their heads over.

What a species we make.

And despite Congress’s granting Homeland Security Czar Michael Chertoff these supra-Constitutional powers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency still has to review the über-agency’s environmental assessments of proposed sections from the Valley to El Paso.

Unsurprisingly, they gave it an "Incomplete" — with a laundry lists of concerns tacked on. [The bureaucratese rating is “EC-2, Environmental Concerns–Insufficient Information.”]

In three undated documents, the EPA chief of planning and coordination for Region 6, Cathy Gilmore, wrote* that Homeland had not done its homework in explaining the potential impacts the wall/fence/wire/roads/lights etc. would have on land, air, water, wildlife, and cultural and historic sites, including Native American remains.

Gilmore writes: “It is unclear why an EIS was prepared for 21 miles of segmented fence in the Lower Rio Grande Valley Sector, but not for 56 miles of unbroken fence in the El Paso Sector.”

It’s a wonder they did the EIS thing at all for the Lower Grand Valley considering they had the Congressionally granted Real ID Act provisions to fall back on exempting them from virtually every other federal law. I mean, would you rumble-and-jerk through a 20-hour jam-up during hurricane season if you had clear skies and your own private HOV lane?

A Sierra Club release today illuminates a number of the findings that the EPA raised.

They include:

•    Failure to state purpose and need for the wall.

•    Failure to equally analyze alternatives. There is also text that implies that the "No Action Alternative" is not a viable alternative.

•    No mention of how the wall would impact water quality.

•    Use of terms like “minor, major, perceptible, short-term, and long-term.” There are qualitative descriptions of these terms, but there is no quantitative description or attempt to quantify these impacts.

•    No mention of US-Mexico treaties and whether they will be impacted.

•    No discussion of the fence's potential impact on migratory species or impact to their home range, in particular, large mammal species (e.g., deer or carnivores) or birds.

•    No discussion of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) initiative to purchase land to connect units of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge (LRGVNWR) (p. 3-30 line 4-10) or the potential impacts of the fence to this large scale effort to increase connectivity and reduce habitat fragmentation.

•    Related to the location of the fence and property of individuals, the maps created by DHS show that the fence could run straight through houses and backyards. Many families have lived at these locations for decades, some even centuries, and have strong emotional ties to the family land and homes. The fence could also cut farmers off from prime farmland close to the water.

It is unclear that these findings have any relevance in the down-to-the-wire effort to stop the wall other than providing opponents with increasing ammunition to damn Homeland plans with.

Still, even wtih theSupreme Courts refusal to hear the appeal on the unconstitutionality of the Real ID Act, there may be a wild card out there yet coming from El Paso County or the Valley. If not, prepare for some ugly scenes on la linea as bodies prepare themselves to battle the bulldozers.

Why is securing justice alway such an inequitable physical challenge?

* (Ack. She wrote 2 of the 3 letters.)

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LATE ADDITION:
If you are a latecomer to this debate, or just curious to see a right-of-center  analysis on  the wall, check out "Six Reasons"  the border fence is bad policy from The New Republic.

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DON'T MISS
A reminder from the Redford Blogspot:

The Ballad of Esequiel Hernandez is showing on PBS July 8, 2008 at 10 pm ET

This is an extremely important movie showing the tragedy that occurred in Redford, TX when US marines were dispatched on a clandestine, military mission in our small community.  Militarization of the US/Mexico Borders is not safe for the people living in border communities.

Schedules for the movie in your local area can be found here.

Posted by Greg Harman on 7/2/2008
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