Phase two of President Donald Trump’s so-called “border wall” construction project will begin in June and stretch 11 miles, taking the build through the heart of Calexico along First Street, a federal official announced.
The official news came in a May 7 presentation to the Imperial County Board of Supervisors by U.S. Border Patrol El Centro Sector Assistant Chief Patrol Agent David S. Kim.
However, Trump mentioned the plans during an April 5 visit to Calexico.
The wall is actually 30-foot-high steel posts anchored closely enough to prevent a person from passing between them but far enough apart to allow Border Patrol agents to see through them and assess potential threats.
The 2.25-mile section of phase one on Calexico’s west side was completed last fall. It cost $18 million but was originally authorized during the Obama Administration, though Trump initiated construction under his campaign promise to erect a border wall.
“Essentially, the 11 miles is broken down into three sections. The first section is quite small and is from the west side of the New River to the west side of the Calexico (downtown) Port of Entry,” Kim wrote May 7 in an emailed response to follow-up questions from this newspaper.
“The second section begins a short distance west of the Gran Plaza Outlets to the Westside Main Canal,” Kim said. “The third section will (go) from the east side of the POE (downtown port of entry) and run to Barbara Worth Road.”
Barbara Worth is several miles east of Calexico near the Calexico East Port of Entry.
Kim told the supervisors that there would be an impact to the city of Calexico as a small part of the construction project will be along First Street.
“First Street has limited space. Right from the border to where the houses are is around 24 feet wide,” Kim said.
He described the affects as being traffic-related but said that part of the construction isn’t slated to start until sometime in 2020. He added there will be plenty of time to address the issue with the city of Calexico.
Construction on Phase two is scheduled to begin June 10, with a projected completion date of Aug. 24, 2020. Galveston, Tex.-based, construction firm SLS Co. is building the project.
When asked how much phase two is costing the federal government, Kim told this newspaper that he has requested a cost breakdown for the 11 miles. He said the section is part of an approximately 20-mile building project that includes parts of the San Diego and Yuma Border Patrol sectors.
SLS Co. won an $88 million contract from U.S. Customs and Border Protection to build sections of the border wall at Calexico (El Centro Sector), Tecate (San Diego Sector) and Andrade (Yuma Sector), according to an article on the website ConstructionDive.com in February. SLS Co. was awarded a larger overall contract from the government in December 2018 for $287 million.
The El Centro Sector portion of the project will begin at the New River just outside Calexico, Kim told the supervisors, where there is no physical barrier.
Construction at the New River area looks to be the most complicated part of the project, according to Kim’s email description. A bridge will be built spanning the river.
“Currently, at the point where the New River enters the U.S. there is no infrastructure. One can simply get in the water on the Mexican side and walk unimpeded into the U.S. Currently at the border and the New River there is no way to get across from one side to the other side on foot or by vehicle. This also means there isn’t anything to erect a barrier from,” according to Kim.
“The bridge being contracted will allow for a base from which the border wall can be erected and will also allow Border Patrol agents to rapidly cross over the river from side to side. Once the bridge and wall portion is in place, this particular section of the 11 miles will continue east for a short distance and abut against the west side of the Calexico Port of Entry,” Kim wrote. “At this point there is no construction design that is going to physically impede people at the New River (about a 40-60-foot gap).”
What Kim referred to as the “legacy wall,” or the old sections of the fence, is no longer meeting the needs of the Border Patrol, “especially in Calexico,” he told the supervisors. Kim said the El Centro Sector is spending $385,000 a year to repair breaches in the border fence.
He pointed to the successes of the phase one section of new wall completed in October. Since then, Kim told the Board of Supervisors, there have been fewer entries, apprehensions and agent assaults.
“It did everything we said it was going to do,” Kim added.
Border Patrol officials delivered the same message of success about that segment of the barrier when Trump participated in a law enforcement roundtable at the Calexico Border Patrol office in April.
As for the actual construction of the wall, Kim said the design and method hasn’t changed much from phase one. He said the prefabricated, eight-foot-wide and 30-foot-high panels will be trucked in and set in reinforced concrete.
In a related issue, after Kim explained how construction would go at the New River, Calexico-area District 1 Supervisor Jesus Eduardo Escobar asked about the Border Patrol’s protocol for apprehending undocumented immigrants who enter the New River’s highly polluted water.
“Actually, in the water, that poses a very serious enforcement challenge for us,” Kim said.
He added because of the exposure to agents and crossing immigrants, “as a rule, we really don’t go into the water for those reasons.”
Escobar conceded it was a “loaded question,” adding that he and other county officials had made a trip to Washington, D.C., about a month ago during which they were able to express their concerns to Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s staff about local issues, including health and safety concerns at the polluted New River.
“We’re well aware of our problem at the New River,” Kim told Escobar. “Anytime we get a chance to beat the drums (about the pollution issue), we do.”
Kim said he will make the same presentation to the Calexico City Council on May 15.