CREW: U.S. Department of Homeland Security: U.S. Customs and Border Protection: Regarding Border Fence: 6/29/10 - Salinas_ DHS is Reconsidering Levee-fence Plan Redacted) 2

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CREW: U.S. Department of Homeland Security: U.S. Customs and Border Protection: Regarding Border Fence; FOIA Request: CREW: U.S. Department of Homeland Security: U.S. Customs and Border Protection: Regarding Border Fence; Holder of Document: CREW; Producing Agency: Department of Homeland Security (DHS); Date Received: 6/29/10;
  Hidalgo County JudgeJ.D. Salinas discussedthe levee-fence plan withU.S. Sen. John Cornynduring a tour of theValley's levees inOctober. (File photo:RGG/Joey Gomez) From: PAGAN, DAVID To: FLOSSMAN, LOREN;SELF, JEFFREY ; VITIELLO, RONALD; SELF, JEFFREY  Subject: Salinas: DHS is reconsidering levee-fence plan Date: Thursday, January 10, 2008 9:28:18 AM FYI -- I have asked Judge Cascos' staff for a copy of his letter.Salinas: DHS is reconsidering levee-fence plan8 January 2008Joey Gomez and Steve Taylor WESLACO, January 8, 2008 - Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinassays the Department of Homeland Security is now looking at analternative to a border fence that has the backing of elected officialsin the Rio Grande Valley.Encouraged by the prospect of the federal government showing moreflexibility in its approach to ideas from Valley leaders, Salinas issending county engineers to El Paso to meet with Commissioner Carlos Marin, of the International Boundary and Water Commission.“I think you can say the Department of Homeland Security hasnotified us that they're reconsidering, and they're studying the issueright now,” Salinas told the Guardian , in reference to the so-calledlevee-fence plan.“They're reconsidering the money being used for a wall and they'relooking at bettering our levees. Hopefully, within the next two weeks,there will be a decision.”The levee-fence plan was first proposed by Salinas and CameronCounty Judge Carlos Cascos as natural barrier replacement to theborder wall last October. Soon afterwards, Marin asked his engineersto conduct a feasibility study. Marin did not return a call at presstime.Under the border-fence plan, the Valley’s structurally suspect leveeswould be rebuilt as 18-feet-high reinforced earthen barriers. Aconcrete retaining wall would be incorporated, with a fence built ontop. The new-look levees would include a gravel road on top to allowBorder Patrol agents a direct line of sight down to the Rio Grande.Salinas said if the discussions in El Paso go well, DHS could send high ranking officials to the Valleyto take a serious look at the levee-fence plan.Cascos agreed with Salinas that DHS appeared to be listening to Valley leaders. “It’s good news,”Cascos said. “I think it's good to wait and see how this thing plays out. But I think we have given DHSa viable alternative to the border wall.”In the draft Environmental Impact Statement issued by DHS last November, the levee-fence planreceived hardly a mention. In a paragraph headed ‘Raising Levees in Lieu of Tactical Infrastructure,’DHS said Border Patrol did not deem the levee-fence plan a viable alternative.“There are numerous legal obstacles to this alternative, such as concerns over levee ownership andmaintenance, which were identified by the U.S. Section of the IBWC during coordination,” the draft EISstated. ( (b) (6)( (b) (6)( ( (b)(6)   (   “The U.S. Section of IBWC also informed USBP (Border Patrol) that it would not support anyconstruction near the international boundary that increases, concentrates, or relocates overlanddrainage flows into Mexico or the United States.”The DHS press office in Washington, D.C., did not return a call by press time.Cascos said no matter what the draft EIS says, he and Salinas were “not going to give up,” on their alternative to the wall.“We’re not telling them 'don't build a wall don't do this, don't do that.’ We are telling them in place of awall you can do this and kill several birds with one stone,” Cascos said.“A lot more than building a wall is to renovate, restore, and rehabilitate our levees system that is goingto be foremost on everyone's mind.”Cascos reiterated the point in a Jan. 3, 2008, letter he sent to President Bush. In it, Cascos said theborder fence project had “placed in serious jeopardy the long overdue plan to rehabilitate the leveesalong the Rio Grande.”Cascos told Bush that while there had been a number of “promising” meetings with federal agenciesover the fence-levee plan, “we still do not have a definitive commitment from DHS officials on theconcept of the levee system acting as a natural barrier for border security along the South Texasborder.”Cascos urged Bush to back the House version of the fiscal year 2008 Foreign OperationsAppropriations bill because it included $15 million for levee improvements. He pointed out thathistorically, the IBWC only receives about $2 million for its programs.“I believe that the restoration and heightening of our levee system will eliminate the need for a border wall,” Cascos wrote. “The retaining wall concept, as I refer to it, will not only eliminate the need for aborder fence, but will assist in flood control along the Rio Grande River in South Texas.”Cascos concluded by asking for a meeting with Bush or his staff.© Copyright of the Rio Grande Guardian,,Melinda Barrera, Publisher. Allrights reserved.
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