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For Immediate Release, August 15, 2008

Contact: Robin Silver, (602) 799-3275

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Damaged by
Border Wall Flood Obstruction  
New Park Service Report Details Environmental, Infrastructure Damage
Caused by Predictable Border Wall Flood Problems

PHOENIX— A newly obtained National Park Service report details ecological and infrastructure damage in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument caused by flood obstruction and debris accumulation along recently constructed portions of the border wall. Damage includes severe erosion, infrastructure damage, and movement of floodwaters and drainages behind debris obstructions into adjacent deserts and, in one case, through a border-crossing station.

An environmental analysis conducted by the Department of Homeland Security in 2007 concluded that the fence would “…not impede the natural flow of water.” It would be “…designed and constructed to ensure proper conveyance of floodwaters and to eliminate the potential to cause backwater flooding on either side of the U.S.-Mexico border.” Further, Customs and Border Protection would “…remove debris from the fence within washes/arroyos immediately after rain events to ensure that no backwater flooding occurs.” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has since exempted the border wall from all environmental laws.

“The callousness displayed by Homeland Security in ignoring warnings to damage a national treasure is mind-boggling,” said Robin Silver of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The border wall does not stop humans, but it will stop jaguars and other wildlife. It is already wreaking havoc on the southern part of Organ Pipe National Monument.”

“The contrast between the report findings and the environmental assessment displays the Bush administration’s wholly meaningless approach to environmental analysis,” said Silver. “The administration essentially did no analysis at all.”

The Park Service report shows several instances in which debris collected in flash floods in south-flowing drainages caused natural resource and infrastructure damage and states that National Monument resources and infrastructure will continue to be impacted, as well as resources and infrastructure on neighboring lands in the United States and Mexico. The report anticipates the following short- and long-term impacts:

  • Accelerated scour below the pedestrian fence will damage the structural integrity of the vehicle barrier along the U.S./Mexico boundary unless continued maintenance occurs.
  • Floodwaters will flow laterally along the pedestrian fence and on the patrol road. These flows will result in erosion and scour above and below the foundation wall of the fence, including areas hundreds of feet outside existing drainage channels. As a consequence, the need for routine maintenance and repairs of the patrol road and vehicle barrier will increase.
  • The patrol road associated with the pedestrian fence will change vegetation in Organ Pipe by changing rainfall retention or runoff along the northern road edge.
  • Riparian vegetation will change in response to increased sedimentation.
  • Channel morphology and floodplain function will change over time.
  • Channelized waters will begin a gullying process that has the potential to transform land surfaces in the affected watersheds.

“While the Bush administration may claim it’s taking environmental impacts of the border wall into consideration, building wire mesh fences across washes prone to debris-laden floods is fundamentally flawed,” said Silver. “It’s time for Homeland Security to lift its embargo on environmental laws. The border fence does not stop humans. Now we have more proof of the wall’s destruction of our national treasures."


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