Private border wall construction workers going on holiday, lawyer says

The Border Wall

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Seventy construction workers building a private border wall on the banks of the Rio Grande in South Texas are taking a holiday break and won’t be on-site for a few weeks, a lawyer for Fisher Industries said.

Following a 50-minute hearing Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in McAllen, lawyer Mark Courtois of Houston told Border Report that construction restrictions recently issued by a federal judge are moot because the crew won’t be there anyway.

Courtois added that workers are starting to re-seed the banks of the Rio Grande to put back some vegetation that Fisher Industries and its parent company, Fisher Sand and Gravel Co. stripped this past month.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane amended temporary restraining orders in the federal lawsuit against Fisher Industries brought by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission. The lawsuit alleges that building a structure on the riverbanks without proper IBWC approval could violate the terms of an international water treaty with Mexico by causing water to deflect or flood.

The new orders make it clear that the aggressive cutting of the banks cannot continue until the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission completes its study of the proposed construction plans. The IBWC is charged with ensuring the 1970 U.S. water treaty with Mexico is fully complied with.

Read a Border Report story on Wednesday’s restrictions issued by Judge Crane.

On Thursday, Crane held a hearing in his courtroom for a new federal lawsuit brought by the North American Butterfly Association on behalf of the National Butterfly Center and its executive director, Marianna Trevino Wright. The lawsuit is against Fisher Industries, Fisher Sand and Gravel, landowner Neuhaus & Sons LLC, and the private nonprofit advocacy group We Build The Wall, which has repeatedly said on social media that it has raised millions of dollars in donations for private wall building in South Texas.

Initially filed in state district court in Hidalgo County, the Butterfly Center lawsuit was bumped up to federal court where the other case by the Department of Justice is being heard.

Lawyer Javier Pena is representing the North American Butterfly Association in its federal lawsuit against a private border wall in South Texas. He is pictured at his Edinburg, Texas, offices earlier this month. (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez).

The Butterfly Center’s lawyer, Javier Pena, argued in court that the stripping of the riverbank just a half-mile from the National Butterfly Center, south of Mission, Texas, will destroy and adversely affect the Butterfly Center’s property because it could cause flooding and water to be redirected from the Rio Grande.

“We don’t believe the treaty covers damage to neighboring properties,” Pena said. “We believe the wall will cause erosion and destruction of neighboring properties.”

Crane put up a map of the area on a large screen showing the peninsula-shaped strip of 3 miles of private property where wall construction had begun. This section of the Rio Grande curves drastically and Pena said changes to the embankment can cause blockage and change the water’s flow.

“There’s absolutely no harm to this plaintiff. It’s all speculative at best,” defense lawyer Courtois responded.

Pena’s lawsuit also charges defamation against Wright by We Build The Wall officials.

This Google map, which was displayed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in McAllen, on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, shows where the Rio Grande loops near the National Butterfly Center. The National Butterfly Center’s entrance and welcome center, shown in red, is about one mile from its riverfront property, which is due south of the welcome center. The private border wall construction is about half a mile east on a neighboring property.

Crane has scheduled a Jan. 3, 2020, hearing on both cases in his courtroom. Border Report plans to be at the hearing and will update with information.

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

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