McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The Texas agency overseeing the construction of the state-funded border wall has secured dozens of land parcels in South Texas and could start building in December, the agency’s director said Thursday.
So far, “32 land tracts have either closed agreements reached and/or pending closing at title companies,” Texas Facilities Commission (TFC) Executive Director Mike Novak told commissioners during a Thursday morning meeting that was broadcast online from Austin.
The TFC is also in negotiations with land owners to procure 142 additional borderland parcels in Val Verde and Starr counties, he said.
“This program is an all-hands-on-deck priority for our agency, obviously, and we’re moving forward as quickly as possible,” Novak said.
TFC on Sept. 29 approved $307 million to build nearly 14 new miles of border wall along the South Texas-Mexico border. This will add to the 1.77 miles of state-funded border wall that has been built in outside the town of La Grulla in rural Starr County, as part of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star border security initiative.
TFC awarded a $167 million contract to Southwest Valley Constructors Company to build 6.77 miles of border wall in the Del Rio Sector, and $140 million to BFBC of Texas LLC, to build 6.95 miles of border barrier in the Rio Grande Valley.
However, little is known about the actual locations of the new segments.
On Thursday, Novak only said they are to be “in multiple locations in Starr and Val Verde counties.”
Val Verde County is part of the U.S. Border Patrol’s Del Rio Sector, which, since July, has been the busiest sector for migrant encounters along the entire 1,900-mile-long Southwest border, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials.
Novak said they are working rapidly to get the land.
Border Report has learned most of the areas of interest are privately owned or owned by municipalities, like school districts. The first 1.7-mile segment, which was completed this year, was built on state lands.
“We continue to gain what I call very significant momentum in securing the land agreements,” Novak said. “This has been our top priority and focus in the past couple months.”
He said that three TFC commissioners on the “Border Infrastructure and Wall Work Group” have been personally joining Novak in approaching land owners to give up parcels for the state-funded border wall.
This includes TFC Chairman Steven Alvis, Commissioner Brian Bailey, and Commissioner Eddy Betancourt, of Mission, Texas, which is in the Rio Grande Valley where the first segment is built.
“They have joined me where we are actually calling personally on land owners of key tracts and making that personal contact at our level so it’s not like we’re just turning this over to our program managers and saying ‘just call us when you got a piece of land,'” Novak said. “We are actively engaged and it’s time-consuming but we’ve found this to be very effective.”
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com