Federal government turns over data in lawsuit against private border wall in South Texas

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State district lawsuit hearing scheduled for Tuesday postponed

McALLEN Texas (Border Report) — The federal government has given hydrology data to the defendants in a lawsuit against a construction firm building a border barrier on private land in South Texas.

But as of Monday, both sides still had not agreed upon amended digging and land-clearing restrictions along the Rio Grande.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane on Thursday ordered the hydrology information be sent to the defendants in the case brought by the Justice Department against the construction contractors.

The nonprofit advocacy organization We Build The Wall Inc., has posted on social media that they are raising millions of dollars online via private donations for a 3 mile-long private border wall to be built on the banks of the Rio Grande south of Mission, Texas.

On Thursday, Houston defense lawyer Ernest Fielder told Border Report he would not comment on ongoing litigation.

However, court documents filed Friday in U.S. District Court Southern District of Texas in McAllen indicate that the river mapping data was given that day to the defendants — Fisher Industries; Fisher Sand and Gravel Co.; and Neuhaus and Sons LLC.

The hydrology data, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency possesses and defendants had requested last week, could help to determine if the plans for a private border wall would alter the course of the international waterway. If the private border wall causes water to deflect or redirect then it would violate the United States’ 1970 international water treaty with Mexico.

FEMA has already mapped the river banks utilizing light detection and ranging equipment, also known as LIDAR. This technology is similar to radar and produces high-resolution digital elevation models and can determine if private border wall plans would cause flooding, or change the water’s course by any means.

The lawsuit, which was brought by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), seeks to halt construction on the international waterway until the IBWC fully reviews the construction plans to ensure there is no flooding or water deflection.

Earthmovers are seen on Dec. 10, 2019, working on a private border wall south of Mission, Texas, on private land on the Rio Grande. (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez).

A large swath of the shoreline has been cleared, and lawyers for Fisher Industries in court on Thursday said over 70 construction workers are employed on this job site. Assistant U.S. Attorney E. Paxton Warner told Crane that the land clearing — which began in November — is irreversible and could have already caused unknown damage to the shoreline.

Warner argued in court for Crane to impose stricter digging restrictions while the case is pending.

Crane said he would sign an amended temporary restraining order once both sides agreed to updated language, but court documents indicated they have not come to terms.

“At this time, the United States and the Fisher Defendants are unable to agree to the wording in an amended temporary restraining order,” according to an opposed motion for entry of temporary restraining order filed Friday.

A status hearing on the case is set for Thursday afternoon in McAllen, in Crane’s courtroom, Warner told Border Report.

Another hearing was postponed for a second civil lawsuit trying to stop the private border wall construction. The second case hearing was scheduled for Tuesday morning in state district court in Edinburg, Texas.

This is after a defense lawyer filed a late motion in the case on Monday, Javier Pena, a lawyer for the North American Butterfly Association said.

The Butterfly Association last month sued We Build The Wall Inc., its founder and president, Brian Kolfage, and Neuhaus & Sons LLC., on behalf of the National Butterfly Center and its executive director. The National Butterfly Center is located a half-mile from the private border wall construction, which is occurring on land owned by Lance Neuhaus. This lawsuit also contends that the construction will damage the shoreline and could cause water to be redirected toward the Butterfly Center and cause it harm.

Border Report will continue to report on these two active cases as information becomes available.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.

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