Ask Senator Feinstein to insist on an environmentally and fiscally sound border fence alternative sign now

May 9, 2005

Dear Senator Feinstein,

We are writing to you to ask you to endorse an environmentally sound proposal brought forth by local legislators and their constituents for a phased approach to protect homeland interest along the San Diego-Tijuana border. This proposal would secure our U.S.- Mexico border without devastating the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve (TRNERR), an internationally important and recognized wetland under the United Nations and Ramsar.

While we support protecting homeland security, we feel that the U.S. Customs and Border Protections Triple Border Fence approach is not the answer. Not only is the Triple Border Fence fiscally irresponsible, it would set dangerous precedence with regard to environmental law, violate the NAFTA Environmental Accord and would destroy one of the most biologically productive systems on Earth. We strongly recommend the phased approach offered by local legislators and their constituents as a viable, more cost effective and environmentally responsible means to secure homeland interests.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

________________________________________________________________

Background information:

Fiscally Responsible Alternative to the Proposed 3.5-mile Triple Border Fence

Introduction
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) propose to build a triple border fence that would extend 3.5 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean at an estimated cost of $58 million. A similar fence has been constructed over Nine-plus miles of relatively flat terrain on either side of the official border crossing at San Ysidro, California. By contrast, the remaining 3.5-mile border region to the west (where a damaged fence now runs through valuable natural resources) encompasses steep canyons and gullies. If constructed as delineated in the CBP Environmental Impact Statement, the Triple Border Fence would eradicate hillsides, cap mesa tops, plug canyons and may ultimately bury with sediment, the Tijuana River estuary. On Earth Day 2005, the United Nations designated this estuary as a RAMSAR wetland of international importance (http://california.sierraclub.org/wetlands/index.html).

An Alternative Vision of National Security
Since sections of fence were built in 1994 and Operation Gatekeeper was instituted, Border Patrol apprehensions in the Imperial Beach Station sector have dropped by 94 percent and only an average of 2.5 to 5 people per day evade apprehension (Imperial Beach Station Apprehensions FY-92 through FY-04 supplied by the US Border Patrol Feb. 22, 2005). By improving U.S.-Mexico border security in phases (i.e., adaptive management), the Federal Government would further reduce, if not eliminate, the number of people that avoid apprehension at a fraction of the estimated cost of the Triple Border Fence.

Phase I Complete Primary Fence
Install a Contiguous Primary Fence ($9 million Preliminary Estimate). The existing Department of Defense airfield landing mat fence does not prevent foot traffic due to significant gaps and fence structure deterioration. When CBP filled a fence gap at Yogurt Canyon, CBP was able to eliminate a permanent staff position from that location. Hence, installing a contiguous, curved-top steel fence will reduce undocumented migrants entering the United States. The new metal primary fence will incorporate state of the art design. This fence will provide an unhindered view for improved border vigilance; will incorporate segmented sections (for quick and effective repairs and maintenance); and will utilize high tech sensing devices.
Improve and Share Roads. Trash deposits, flooding and sedimentation significantly damage Border Patrol roads on the U.S. side of the border. Border region access would be greatly improved by repairing roads, along with joint use of California State Park roads.
Control erosion, trash flows and flooding: Continue to fund binational efforts such as native plant restoration, low impact development and trash reduction upstream in Tijuana. These efforts will reduce sedimentation, trash deposits and flooding in the border-crossing zone that would threaten the integrity of any fence as well as public safety.
Expand use of technology (Smart Border Accord)
Increase presence of Border Patrol and public in Tijuana River Valley and Estuary.

Phase II Monitor Effectiveness of Security
Data and methods utilized to document apprehensions for the 3.5-mile stretch are unknown. To measure effectiveness of implementation measures listed in Phase II, geo-referenced monitoring methods, analyses and goals must be defined. Assistance may be provided by local academics from the UCSD Center for US-Mexican studies, University of San Diego, San Diego State University and NOAA.
Phase III Add Improvements, if Needed - If effectiveness criteria or goals are not met, then the primary fence may be augmented with improvements such as a secondary fence.
________________________________________________________________________

Triple Border Fence: Questions and Answers

Why is TRNERR important? As many Californians are aware, the TRNERR has preserved over 2,500 acres of coastal wetland habitat for endangered plant, fish, and animal species. In addition, this unique area represents one of only two intact estuaries in Southern California. Biologists and community groups have documented over 370 bird species in the Reserve. Moreover, this system is an excellent example of the wetlands habitat that, in the past, was a prominent feature in Southern Californias coastal zone; today, more than 95\% of those wetlands have been converted for coastal development or several degraded due to urban encroachment. With this in mind, it is even more important to provide protection for those areas that have been restored and/or are preserved in their natural state. Furthermore, TRNERR contains over eight Native American archaeological sites. Archaeologists consider the sites as the best example of prehistoric lagoon occupation for this time period with two of sites dated to be over 7,000 years old.

What is an effective yet fiscally responsible alternative for homeland security? The phased approach involves the erection of a contiguous primary fence to replace the current fence that has failed to prevent unregulated border crossings. The primary fence incorporates state of the art design; be more difficult to climb; provides an unhindered view for improved border vigilance; and utilizes high tech sensing devices. Furthermore, the phased plan incorporates the use of identified measurable goals (something that the CBPs proposal lacks) necessary to evaluate the primary fences effectiveness. This adaptive management approach allows for modifications during each phase; thus significantly reducing overall costs as well as reducing the total area that would be impacted by the triple fence. The phased plan offered by legislators and their constituents would save the federal government an estimated $50 million dollars. Congress could then redirect the saved dollars to other homeland security needs along the border, such as hiring more Border Patrol agents to find more clandestine tunnels that are potential and more realistic access points to be used by terrorists, illegal immigrants and drug cartels.

Do apprehension rates in the project area justify the $58 million investment in a triple border fence? The proposed project lacks the data needed to justify the $58 million cost to build a triple fence structure that would require the filling of a 3.5-mile stretch of canyons and gullies. Since the implementation of Operation Gatekeeper in 1994, apprehension rates have dropped 94\% in the Imperial Beach sector. However, the daily apprehension rates in the 3.5-mile region are unknown. If there are no baseline data and established measurable goals to evaluate border fence effectiveness, then should the United States move forward so quickly on this costly investment?

Does the $58 million estimate really reflect the true cost of the CBPs proposed project? Original estimates for the triple fence could become significantly higher due to difficult terrain (e.g. canyons) present in the project area. $58 million also does not include quantifiable environmental damage (e.g. the loss of $553,718,087.00 that has been invested in TRNERR since 1985) in the CBP estimate. The triple fence will fragment nearby habitat comprised of 53 rare and endangered species. This project will require the movement of millions of yards of sediment to fill canyons, ultimately creating a 3.5-mile source of highly erosive sediment. San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board and the California Coastal Commission both denied permits for the CBPs project citing sedimentation and impending destruction of TRNERR. CBP has refused all attempts at mediation from concerned stakeholders, including the aforementioned agencies. In addition, CBP offered no mitigation funds to pay for the environmental damage, thus making sediment removal the legal and fiscal responsibility of the State of California and local management entities. From 2003 to 2005 the State Department of Parks and Recreation built basins to control sediment from a localized source significantly smaller than 3.5 miles at a cost of $8 million and spent $1.1 million to empty the basins. Since the State could not afford to empty the basins more than once in 2005, 15 acres of salt marsh were buried up to 2 feet in sediment and will cost a minimum of $3million to recover. The phased plan would be minimize these external costs.

What will happen to binational relations with Mexico? The current fence design proposed by the CBP would jeopardize current binational relations between Mexico and the U.S. for border security, environmental efforts, as well as cultural, economic and social interaction. In the last twenty years, binational cooperation between the United States and Mexico has improved dramatically in the San Diego/Tijuana region. This cooperation is evidenced by combined efforts to protect our border, and improving environmental conditions through participation in international projects such as Ramsar. Binational cooperation improves social and economic conditions on both sides of the border through various outreach programs and the year round use of Border Field State Parks by families from both San Diego and Tijuana. Much, if not all of this progress to improve binational relations would be lost due the erection of an imposing triple fence structure that would create a Berlin Wall that includes a no mans zone that would restrict use of Border State Field Park.

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Juliana SnyderBy:
LGTBIn:
Petition target:
Senator Dianne Feinstein

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