$324 million contract awarded to replace border fencing near Yuma and Lukeville
TUCSON — Customs and Border Protection officials announced Thursday they awarded a contract to replace 14 miles of pedestrian fencing along the border near Yuma, with construction expected to begin in April 2019.
That project is part of a wider plan to replace 32 miles of border fencing along southwestern Arizona, which has become a busy crossing point for migrant families and minors seeking asylum in the United States.
In a statement, CBP said the agency, in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, awarded a $324 million contract to Barnard Construction Company of Bozeman, Montana.
The contract includes $172 million to install 14 miles of primary pedestrian fencing near Yuma.
Funding for this project will come from the $1.6 billion that Congress allocated in the fiscal year 2018 appropriations bill for the construction of new and replacement border fencing at the U.S.-Mexico border.
"The primary pedestrian replacement wall in Arizona will improve each sector’s ability to impede and deny illegal border crossings and the drug and human smuggling activities of transnational criminal organizations," CBP said in a statement.
In addition to the replacement of 14 miles of pedestrian fencing in Yuma, the federal agency said it plans on replacing an additional 13 miles in other parts of the Yuma border, as well as five miles near Lukeville.
In the past year, Border Patrol agents have encountered large numbers of migrant families crossing the border illegally at these two sites. They and other border officials in Arizona have long voiced their complaints about the inadequacy of current infrastructure at those parts of the border.
The exact location of the replacement projects is unclear. CBP has not responded to requests for comment.
But large sections of the Yuma area, especially near the border city of San Luis, have outdated, corrugated metal fences built from Vietnam War-era landing mats.
Border Patrol officials say the solid metal fences are disadvantageous to agents because they're unable to see what's across the border.
Near Lukeville, the modern, 18-feet-tall bollard fences near the port of entry give way to primary vehicle barriers out in the remote, and highly transited, area known as the West Desert.
Standing at about 6 feet in height, those metal barriers are successful in stopping cars from driving across the border, but do very little to stop people.
Barnard Construction has some experience with border infrastructure projects. Last month, the company finished installing 20 miles of bollard fencing in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, just west of El Paso.
It's likely they will use bollard-style fencing, although CBP has not said for sure. When Congress allocated the money for construction projects along the border, lawmakers stipulated that CBP had to use existing designs.
CBP so far has completed two replacement projects this year along the U.S.-Mexico border, while two others are on-going. Crews are currently replacing 14 miles of pedestrian fencing in San Diego, and four miles in downtown El Paso.
In addition to completing the project in Santa Teresa last month, work crews also finished installing 2.5 miles of 30-foot bollard fencing in Calexico.
When Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen visited the completed section in Calexico in late October, border officials there welded a plaque to one of the bollards that read: “This plaque was installed on October 26, 2018 to commemorate the completion of the first section of President Trump’s border wall.”
However, all of these projects, including the just-announced plan to replace 32 miles at the Arizona border, are replacements of aging, existing infrastructure with newer designs.
But Customs and Border Protection also is moving forward with plans to build new barriers in parts of the border that didn't have them before.
This week, the agency announced the construction of eight miles of concrete levee walls, with 18-foot-tall bollard built on top, along the border in the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas. The week before, they announced the construction of six other miles in the same area.
In all, CBP said they plan to build 25 miles of levee walls, and up to 12 miles of bollard fencing, in the Rio Grande Valley, which is the busiest illegal entry point along the U.S.-Mexico border.