U.S. Will Have To Remove Nogales Tunnel Barrier

U.S. will have to remove Nogales tunnel barrier

The Associated Press
August 9, 2008

A barrier and gate the U.S. Border Patrol built in a flood tunnel in Nogales will have to be torn down after officials determined it was located on the Mexican side of the border.

The Border Patrol also faces claims from officials in Nogales, Mexico that the 5-foot-tall concrete barrier impeded flood waters and led to an estimated $8 million in damage following a July 12 storm.

The Border Patrol cut 11/2 feet off the barrier after the floods.

A survey conducted by the international commission that oversees the border cities' shared infrastructure determined that about a third of the 20-foot long barrier is on the Mexican side of the border.

Sally Spener, the U.S. spokeswoman for the International Boundary and Water Commission, said U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials have agreed to remove the barrier and gate.

Border Patrol officials said it was an honest mistake.

“We believed we had built in the United States,'' said Gustavo Soto, spokesman in the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector. “If we built any portion of it in Mexico, then obviously we are going to remove it.''

The storm tunnels that allow floodwaters to flow from Mexico north into the U.S. are the site of frequent efforts by smugglers and migrants to enter the country. The Border Patrol has two gates inside the large tunnel designed to prevent access and uses a camera system to watch for intruders.

Officials with the Mexican section of the commission say technical data show the barrier reduced storm water flow through the tunnel by 40 percent, serving as a bottleneck and adding pressure to the aging drainage structure on the Mexican side, which broke.

Mexico has submitted a formal complaint against the U.S. for flood damage, asking for repairs or money.

The border runs diagonally through the tunnel and was marked by an unofficial painted yellow line on the floor. The commission plans to on install a permanent demarcation feature, Spener said.