McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The Texas General Land Office has given the Department of Public Safety access to 3,100 acres of farmland to build temporary border fencing in Rio Grande City, and state officials are actively asking area ranchers within rural Starr County to lease additional lands as part of the governor’s plan to beef up border security measures in South Texas, Border Report learned Monday.
The GLO on Monday announced that it has granted a limited right of entry agreement with DPS for nearly five square miles of a farm tract near the Rio Grande to erect chain-link fencing intended to continue the border barrier begun under the Trump administration that the Biden administration halted.
The agency told Border Report in an email that “DPS will begin construction soon.”
This is the first temporary border barrier to go up in deep South Texas since Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the state would fund its own border wall after the Biden administration stopped construction of the Trump-era wall along the Southwest border with Mexico.
In late September, the Texas Military Department, which includes National Guard units, announced that it had built miles of temporary border fencing in the Del Rio, Texas. Region officials told Border Report that the agency, in collaboration with DPS, was planning to expand to other parts of the state by building the nine to 10-foot-tall chain-link fences to help keep out human traffickers and those bringing illegal drugs from Mexico.
“Washington continues to ignore the Biden Administration’s border crisis, leaving Texans no choice but to take matters into our own hands,” Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush said in a statement Monday.
“Lease revenue from this land directly benefits the most important asset in Texas — our schoolchildren. As the border crisis continues to escalate, the lives of Texans are being endangered and we are at serious risk of losing revenue generated from leased lands along the Texas-Mexico border. I thank DPS for their partnership on this critical issue—working together, we will secure our border,” Bush said.
In July, Bush’s office sued President Joe Biden for stopping the construction of the border wall.
Abbott has instructed DPS to recruit landowners to offer their property, which they have been actively doing in South Texas, landowners told Border Report.
Rancher Richard Guerra, 83, who owns an 8,000-acre cattle ranch in Roma in western Starr County, Texas, said DPS officials went to his home last week to evaluate whether they could put up the temporary chain link fence on his property.
However, he said his lands are a mile set back from the Rio Grande, and DPS officials told him they wanted the fence right along the river.
“I’m in favor of that fence but I’m too far from the river for what they want,” Guerra said.
“However, they did tell me, ‘We may still want to have something on your property.’ And I said I welcome anything like that for obvious reasons due to the migration issues,” he said Monday as he oversaw ranch operations.
His main concern, he said, is Mexican cattle and horses that come across the Rio Grande bringing fever tick disease, which he says Mexico does not control.
Guerra said earlier this month he and three or four other ranchers met with DPS officials in Roma, where they tried to solicit ranchers to grant land access.
“They’re trying to find property owners along and closer to the river,” Guerra said.
“I’m all in favor. I think the governor is trying real hard to do something right since the federal government won’t do it,” Guerra said.
Scott Nicol, a McAllen environmentalist who used to head the Sierra Club’s Borderlands campaign, vehemently opposes any new border barrier construction.
He says the area where they are planning to fence — near the flatlands of La Grulla, Texas — is in a flood plain. He is concerned the structure will block water flow and cause harm to wildlife and area lands.
“This location is deep in the Rio Grande floodplain. A wall in the floodplain will dam water, worsening flooding in the U.S. and in Mexico before it is uprooted and swept downstream,” Nicol told Border Report on Monday.
He added that he believes building directly on the Rio Grande violates the International Boundary and Water Commission’s 1944 water treaty with Mexico.
A privately built border wall south of Mission, Texas, in neighboring Hidalgo County, is the subject of a lawsuit by local landowners and the federal government who claim it violates the international water treaty.
“Bush and Abbott are once again abusing border communities, putting lives and property at risk when a flood comes, in the hope that building a wall will improve their chances on Election Day,” Nicol said.
Starr County Judge Eloy Vera told Border Report on Monday that he was unaware of the agreement between the GLO and DPS on property within his county and he didn’t know where or when the fence would be built.
“Certainly there’s areas that I think warrant some type of barrier but I don’t think that barrier would be needed all the way through Starr County,” Vera said. “A more cost-effective way would be to use technology and boots on the ground. That would create more jobs and certainly would be cheaper.”
Guerra said DPS was not offering payment for land rights but agreed to erect the fence on the property free of charge, and then the landowner gets to keep the fence.
“You give them permission. They install it and it’s yours. They don’t have to buy any land or pay you anything. What you get in return is a free fence,” he said.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.