SIERRA VISTA — The U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), initiated the filing for injunctive relief to prevent We Build the Wall, Fisher Industries and Neuhaus and Sons, LLC, from any further clearing of land around the Rio Grande River in Hidalgo County, Texas.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is handling the civil action against defendants We Build the Wall (WBTW), Fisher Industries, Fisher Sand and Gravel Co. and Neuhaus & Sons, LLC, to stop the construction of a border wall on land owned by the IBWC without the IBWC’s approval.
We Build the Wall, Inc., (WBTW) is a nonprofit, tax-exempt advocacy organization which solicited funding through a GoFundMe effort to build a wall at the border with Mexico. Land was cleared along the Rio Grande River by Fisher Industries, a subsidiary of Fisher Sand and Gravel Co., to construct the wall “in the floodplain along the Rio Grande River in an area south of Mission, Texas,” according to the suit.
WBTW acquired a legal interest in an 807.73-acre stretch of land along the bank and within the floodplain of the Rio Grande River from Neuhaus & Sons, LLC, and began clearing. It has raised $25 million from a half-million donors to cover 35 miles of border wall construction, according to the website.
However, “In 1961, the State of Texas deeded to the IBWC the bed and banks of the Rio Grande River in Hidalgo County,” based on a treaty agreement with Mexico, the suit noted. The treaty set the international boundary along “the middle of the channel occupied by normal river flows and that this boundary determines sovereignty over the lands on either side of it. To stabilize the river channel and preserve the location of the international boundary, the U.S. and Mexico agreed to various obligations and other treaty provisions in order to reduce the shifting of the channels of the Rio Grande, in their limitrophe (frontier) sections and to protect the Rio Grande against erosion.”
The filing of U.S. Attorneys Ryan Patrick and Daniel Hu continued, “The United States and Mexico entered into a treaty in 1970 which requires, in part, that the United States prohibit any works that will, in the judgment of the Commission, cause deflection or obstruction of the normal flow of the Rio Grande River or its flood flows.”
The IBWC “shall have, to the extent necessary to give effect to the provisions of the treaty, jurisdiction over the works constructed exclusively in the territory of its country ... whenever such works shall be connected with or shall directly affect the execution of the provisions of this Treaty,” the filing states.
The treaty requires any project along the Rio Grande River to submit hydraulic modeling for the project, which was done. However, IBWC noted there was “very little substance” to the modeling and it “failed to show the extent of any hydraulic testing that may have been conducted by WBTW or Fisher Industries.”
Nov. 15, the IBWC requested “a completed hydraulic analysis and packet of additional materials for analysis pursuant to the 1970 treaty.” It also wanted construction to cease until an analysis of the model could be completed, to confer with Mexico, and “issue a letter as to whether there is a deflection or obstruction as a result of the construction.” It also requested vehicular traffic be stopped from utilizing the IBWC’s levee.
However, on the same day, WBTW and Fisher Industries “began clear-cutting a swath beginning at the bank of the Rio Grande River and clearing inland approximately 120 feet wide.” To date, WBTW has “completely cleared almost the entirety of the riverbank and continued to clear cut the remaining land” on which the wall is to be constructed.
A few weeks later, WBTW posted on its website a video and message which stated in part, “The wall is going up this week no matter what, we will not stop until it’s finished.”
The suit said, “Defendants continued to work on the Neuhaus Property trenching and moving metal rebar pieces into location along the trench.”
It continued construction could “cause a shift of the Rio Grande River channel and, therefore, a shift of the international boundary” and cause a breach of the treaty.
Further, the suit states, “Defendants may significantly and irreparably alter the character of the banks of the Rio Grande River before this Court can enter a final judgment. Granting the requested preliminary relief will serve the public interest.”