EAGLE PASS, Texas (Border Report) — When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced last week that he was “immediately” putting a string of buoys in the middle of the Rio Grande in this South Texas town, there were few details and a lot of questions from local and federal officials alike.
Border Report went to Eagle Pass on Monday and learned that the buoys aren’t yet deployed in the water, but Texas Department of Public Safety Lt. Chris Olivarez said that they hope to have the 1,000-foot string of buoys anchored in the international river by early July.
However, U.S. officials with the International Boundary and Water Commission say they were “surprised” by Abbott’s plans and currently are “studying” the issue, and have asked the state to send their plans for further investigation.
“This announcement by the governor caught us by surprise. Our door is always open to discussions with Texas and we have recently shared information with them about our permitting process and federal law. We are studying what Texas is publicly proposing to determine whether and how this impacts our mission to carry out treaties between the US and Mexico regarding border delineation, flood control, and water distribution, which includes the Rio Grande,” the IBWC said in a statement.
The 4-foot-wide rotating buoys are produced by Cochrane Global and cost $1 million for 1,000 feet, Olivarez said.
“These buoys are part of a layering effect when combined with concertina wire laid on the bank of the river and the ability to quickly mobilize law enforcement to hot spots of illegal immigration,” Olivarez told Border Report.
Abbott wants to add the marine floating barriers to his arsenal of border technology as part of Operation Lone Star, his border security initiative.
“Texas continues to take unprecedented action to secure the border,” Olivarez said.
The buoys will have galvanized steel fixtures and rotating “radial passive blades” affixed between the buoys, he said.
They are designed to prevent human smugglers from crossing under the blades and rotating buoys and coming over from Mexico.
“It is a substantial barrier on a body of moving water that is already dangerous to cross, making it much more difficult for an individual to cross illegally and impossible for human smugglers to use rafts,” Olivarez said.
On Monday, Border Report went on a ride along with Maverick County Sheriff’s Deputy Jesus Sanchez, who said he welcomes the devices and hopes they will deter illegal immigration in this border town, which is located across from Piedras Negras, Mexico.
Sanchez had a lot of questions about how the devices would be deployed and also worried that migrants would just go around the 1,000-foot device and cross through another section of the river.
“I’ve never seen them in play before. Hopefully, this is going to be a good thing if it deters them from coming into, obviously, into the United States,” he said.
Miles of high carrizo cane and other river growth in this part of South Texas makes it difficult for law enforcement to keep an eye on all parts of the river.
On Monday, one man got in a raft right in front of Sanchez and paddled out past the midway international point from Mexico. He was fingertips away from the U.S. shore, and attracted the attention of Texas National Guard and Border Patrol marine boats before he backpeddled back to Mexico.
Sanchez said smugglers in transnational organizations often deploy “decoys” to do what he calls “stunts like this” on the Rio Grande. “While we are busy watching him and waiting for him, a group could be crossing somewhere else that we don’t see,” he said.
Since Title 42 was lifted on May 11, he said most asylum-seekers who cross try to evade law enforcement and not turn themselves in.
“Plenty of times they come through here and they cross into the brush area and they go where they got to go to,” Sanchez said.