For Immediate Release: July 2, 2008
Contact: Donna Hoffman, Lone Star Chapter, Sierra Club, 512-477-1729 or
EPA Also Concerned about Border Wall Impacts
Newly disclosed comments from federal agency echo public's concerns
(Austin) -- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expressed
serious concerns about the impacts of the border wall
that were ignored, according to newly disclosed public
comments from late 2007, early 2008.
The EPA's environmental and economic concerns echoed those raised by hundreds of residents, environmental organizations, and local institutions and public officials, all of which were negated by the Bush Administration's April 1 waiver of 36 federal laws to expedite construction of the border wall.
The ignored comments were submitted by EPA to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as part of the draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS) on the planned border fences in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, as well as similar plans in the Presidio and El Paso areas of the Texas-Mexico border.
"These comments show that the EPA felt that the border wall represents a major threat to the habitat and endangered species found along the Texas-Mexico border," said Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. "Rather than trying to rewrite or reconsider the hastily drawn plans of a massive border wall, the Bush Administration felt it was above the law and chose to waive dozens of environmental and other federal laws."
The EPA comments characterized the proposed border walls and fences to be environmentally and economically disruptive due to their size and location, often slated for construction in natural wildlife areas or cutting through agriculturally productive land.
For example, in its comments submitted on the proposed fences in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, John Blevins, Director of Compliance Assurance and Enforcement Definitions rates the project as "EC-2, Environmental Concerns-Insufficient Information," and explains:
"The DEIS contains insufficient information for an adequate review. Of particular concern to EPA is the potential for long-term adverse environmental and ecological habitat impacts in the study area."
Among the chief concerns and insufficiencies highlighted by the agency are:
. There is no text, studies, etc. that provide support for the purpose and need.
. It does not appear that the alternatives are equally analyzed. There is also text that implies that the "No Action Alternative" is not a viable alternative.
. There is no mention of how the wall would impact water quality
. The majority of this section uses relative 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.
. There is also no mention of US-Mexico treaties and whether they will be impacted.
. There is 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.
. There is 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 off farmers from prime farmland close to the water.
"These comments show the DHS never conducted a proper assessment of the sites, and also show that they would have a hard time convincing EPA to give a thumbs up to the proposed border wall," Reed stated. "Rather than getting a black eye from their fellow agency, they chose to waive environmental laws and ignore the comments of EPA and the public."
Several civil lawsuits that could impact the construction of the border wall are ongoing.