Pentagon awards first military-funded contracts for border fence in New Mexico and Arizona

Arizona border fence military-funded contracts New Mexico Pentagon

Pentagon awards first military-funded contracts for border fence in New Mexico and Arizona

Construction of a new $73.3 million border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border in Santa Teresa, N.M., began Monday after an official groundbreaking of what officials called the “president’s border wall.” RUBEN R. RAMIREZ/EL PASO TIMES

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded the first two contracts that will use military funds to pay for the construction of additional fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border as part of President Donald Trump's emergency declaration.

The two contracts awarded Tuesday are worth an estimated $976 million and cover three separate projects totaling 57 miles of border fencing in New Mexico and Arizona.

In New Mexico, the fencing will replace vehicle barriers with 18- to 30-foot-tall pedestrian fencing west of Santa Teresa running through the Columbus port of entry. 

The area falls under the Border Patrol's El Paso Sector, which covers all of New Mexico and parts of far West Texas.

The money comes from funds the Department of Defense reprogrammed under a law that allows it to build roads and fences to stem the flow of drugs in smuggling corridors along the border. It's a part of the estimated $8 billion Trump made available for border-wall construction with his Feb. 15 emergency declaration.

Nearly $240 million in military construction funds for projects at Fort Bliss and in New Mexico will be diverted for border security construction.

The Army Corps of Engineers awarded the bulk of funds, $789 million, to SLSCO Ltd. of Galveston, Texas. That company will replace 46 miles of vehicle barriers along the New Mexico border with bollard fencing.

The upgraded fencing construction is slated for completion in October 2020, according to the Pentagon.

Santa Teresa-area construction of what U.S. Border Patrol officials called the "president's border wall" began in April 2018.

Border Patrol officials said the fencing will reduce illegal entries, but environmental activists have raised concerns about the structure's impact on wildlife.

SLSCO Ltd. already is under contract to build 14 miles of border levee walls in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. In February, crews began to clear the land to erect the new barriers. As of early April, construction had yet to start, although U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it was imminent.

The company also is replacing 14 miles of secondary fencing in San Diego, Calif., including at the site where Trump's border-wall prototypes were demolished in late February.

The second Pentagon contract awarded Tuesday by the Army Corps of Engineers was to Barnard Construction Co. of Bozeman, Mont. The company received a $187 million contract to build 11 miles of fencing in three separate segments along the Yuma County border in southwestern Arizona. 

The first stretch will replace 5 miles of vehicle barriers along the Colorado River with the 18-foot-tall fencing.

The second stretch will replace 2 miles of wire-mesh fencing farther south along the Colorado River.

The third stretch will be 4 miles along the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range in the eastern portion of the county.

All three portions are scheduled to be completed by September 2020.

Barnard Construction previously had received a $172 million contract to replace 14 miles of outdated landing-mat fencing along the San Luis port of entry with newer, 30-foot bollards. Construction is slated to begin this month.

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