Friday, January 4, 2008

California Border Wall Public Comment Period Open Until January 24

The Department of Homeland Security has announced that 44.6 miles of new border wall (or border fence, or tactical infrastructure) will be built near Calexico, California beginning in the Spring of 2008. A Draft Environmental Assessment has been released, and public comments will be accepted through January 24th, 2008.

The Draft Environmental Assessment for the El Centro Sector is available for download at . A paper copy may be requested as well.

You can submit a public comment on the California border wall in one of the following ways:

(a) Attendance and submission of comments at the Pubic Open House to be held on January 9 2008 at the Imperial Valley Expo, 200 East Second Street, in Imperial, California.
(b) Electronically through the web site at:
(c) By email to:
(d) By mail to: El Centro Sector Tactical Infrastructure EA, c/o e²M, 2751 Prosperity Avenue, Suite 200, Fairfax, Virginia 22031
(e) By fax to: (757) 299-5585

When submitting comments, please include name and address, and identify comments as intended for the El Centro Sector Draft EA.

All submitted comments are supposed to become a part of the public record. To comply with the National Environmental Policy Act the Final Environmental Assessment should include responses to the public comments that are received.

It is especially important that the public comment on the El Centro Draft EA because it is a fundamentally flawed document that in no way meets the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. The most glaring deficiency is its description of the purpose for carrying out the proposed action. Rather than establishing national security or the reduction of illegal activity as the purpose, the Draft EA states,

“The purpose of the Proposed Action is to increase border security within USBP El Centro Sector through the construction, operation, and maintenance of tactical infrastructure in the form of fences, roads, and supporting technological and tactical assets.” (ES-1)

The “proposed action” is described as follows:

“CBP proposes to construct, operate, and maintain tactical infrastructure consisting of four discrete sections of primary pedestrian fence, lighting, and roads; one section of lighting; and access roads along the U.S. / Mexico International Border in the USBP El Centro Sector, California.” (1.3 – 3)

If the purpose and the proposed action are one and the same - the construction, operation, and maintenance of “tactical infrastructure” - then by definition no other alternatives will be able to achieve the stated purpose. “Additional USBP Agents in Lieu of Tactical Infrastructure” (2.3.1 – 6) may in fact be highly effective at preventing unauthorized entries into the United States, but because it is “in Lieu of Tactical Infrastructure” it will never bring about the stated goal of “the construction, operation, and maintenance of tactical infrastructure.” The same holds true for all of the other “Alternatives Considered but Eliminated from Further Detailed Analysis.” In each case, the phrase “in Lieu of Tactical Infrastructure” is attached, so by definition none will align with the stated purpose. This is a clear violation of the Council on Environmental Quality’s regulations.

The private contractor hired by the Department of Homeland Security is apparently more interested in pleasing their employer than complying with NEPA. Instead of producing misleading document with a predetermined outcome, they should go back to the drawing board and produce an unbiased assessment of the environmental and cultural impacts that the border wall will have. A project of this magnitude requires a full Environmental Impact Statement rather than a far less rigorous Environmental Assessment. In either case, the final document should provide objective information rather than a sales pitch.

It is crucial that everyone with these and other concerns about the border wall submit them in writing. The Department of Homeland Security will interpret silence as a lack of interest.


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