The Department of Homeland Security has announced that the first new section of the proposed border wall at the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) in South Texas will be at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.

The proposed 2.9-mile section of wall at Santa Ana NWR would be constructed in a 10-mile gap in the existing barrier. The wall would be 30 feet tall with additional 18 feet of steel bollard fence atop it. Additionally, there would be a cleared 150-foot enforcement zone stripped of vegetation immediately to the south of the wall. This zone would include a road and surveillance towers with floodlighting. On either end of this imposing construction, there would be no wall. That’s right, no wall.

The Santa Ana segment is projected to cost $45 million – approximately $15 million per mile – and is slated to be completed by July 2019, according to Army Corps of Engineers records acquired by the Texas Observer and described in a highly revealing article (along with excellent maps and illustrations). It is still uncertain what the fate of the refuge and access to it would be after this construction. Construction would likely begin in 2018.

Santa Ana NWR has been long been referred to as “the jewel of the National Wildlife Refuge System.” The refuge was originally created in 1943 to protect migratory birds, and almost 95% of the property has been acquired through Stamp/MBCF dollars. The refuge is an important stopover site for many species on the Central Flyway. Some 400 bird species have been seen there, including “South Texas specialties,” as well as 450 species of plants, and it hosts both the rare Texas sabal palm and the endangered ocelot. Other wildlife species – from rare mammals to herps and butterflies – call the area home.

Elsewhere in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, the National Butterfly Center, a non-profit sanctuary and wildlife center, recently filed a lawsuit in Washington D.C. against the Department of Homeland Security demanding that the Trump administration conduct federally required environmental assessments, and follow the constitution and legal due process before attempting to build a border wall through their 100-acre nature and wildlife sanctuary.

According to those Army Corps of Engineers documents recently acquired, the wall also would cut through other valuable nearby habitats and properties, such as the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park.

Let your members of Congress know where you stand on this issue. You can find phone and e-mail information for your Representative and Senators through their websites for the House and Senate. Don’t put this off. The process is currently playing out, and action now is of the essence.

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