Border Land

Land owned by the U.S. Department of Interior along the Colorado River west of Yuma has been turned over to the Department of Defense for a three-year period during planned border barrier construction.

The U.S. Department of Defense has taken temporary jurisdiction over 301 acres along the Yuma Sector’s border, which had been under the control of the Department of the Interior.

According to a statement from the DOI, the land transfer affects a total of 560 acres in Arizona, Texas and California, and gives the DOD jurisdiction for a total of three years for border security purposes. 

The affected Yuma stretches include: 

• Yuma 3 – 228 acres at the southern edge of the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, where existing vehicle barriers are to be replaced with a pedestrian barrier.

• Yuma 5 – 70.3 acres, including two pieces on the east side of the Colorado River where it forms the border between Arizona and Baja California, as well as another stretch in California, on Imperial County’s international border.

New primary and secondary pedestrian barriers will be constructed here.

These border barrier segments are among the 11 announced on Sept. 5 that are to be built with funding diverted from other DOD projects, under a state of emergency proclaimed by President Trump last February regarding security and humanitarian crises along the southwest border. 

The move gave his administration authority to divert funding from planned construction at military installations toward the border wall, which he made a central issue of his 2016 campaign. 

Casey Hammond, acting assistant secretary for land and minerals management, said the border wall will help protect the desert environment, too.

“We made it a priority to work closely with the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense, to protect the wildlife, natural, and cultural resources that occur on these federal lands along the border. This work will provide the necessary tools to enhance the safety of those that live, work and recreate in this region,” he said. 

But two additional sections of border wall in the Yuma area are now on hold, according to a a notice filed by the DOD in a court case earlier this week. 

The document says that after cost estimates came in lower than expected for the initial 11 border projects, the Army Corps of Engineers decided to build three more with the savings, including two referred to as Yuma 4 and Yuma 5.

However, costs had increased with updated numbers, and so the new sections, totaling 20 miles, were called off. 

The document did not include any information about the location or cost of the Yuma 4 and 5 projects. 

The court brief was filed in a lawsuit seeking to stop border wall construction back in February.

“Given that approximately 700 miles of the southern border already has some form of fencing on it, the cumulative and irreversible impact of additional border fencing on wildlife populations becomes ever more heightened with each additional mile of border wall constructed,” the lawsuit says.

“Indeed, the border wall construction funded by the emergency proclamation would likely result in the fencing of the final remaining gaps in at least two Border Patrol sectors,” it said.

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