Highway 90 and Big Bend

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Fixed towers could be constructed near highway 90 between Del Rio and its junction with Interstate 10 near Van Horn

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by Roger Siglin

As most of us know, there is a great deal of opposition to President Trump’s physical border wall in Texas for a variety of reasons. I, too, am opposed to the wall, but also deeply concerned that other alternatives being considered, such as high surveillance towers, will have a terrible impact on Big Bend National Park and the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River. A physical wall will not work and even our local law enforcement agencies oppose it.

It is particularly difficult to build a physical wall in much of the desert terrain between Ft. Hancock and Del Rio and for much of that distance it is physically impossible unless it is built many miles north of the river. A much cheaper solution to illegal traffic is what some have labeled a virtual wall which uses high tech surveillance towers.

These towers are already being proposed in the lower Rio Grande Valley in conjunction with steel or concrete walls. In relatively open desert country the surveillance towers, combined with more law enforcement patrols and the existing checkpoints, would be attractive because they would cost much less and could still be effective. Building such towers adjacent to the river through Big Bend NP and the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River, however, and along the paved river road between Terlingua and Presidio would require much road construction to access each tower and destroy the natural and cultural values which support the tourism industry in the Big Bend area.

As an alternative, I suggest, these fixed towers could be constructed near highway 90 between Del Rio and its junction with Interstate 10 near Van Horn, then west along the Interstate 10 towards El Paso. Portable surveillance equipment could be added where needed to catch foot or vehicle traffic around the Border Patrol checkpoints. This alternative would satisfy most of the concerns about illegal immigration and drug smuggling and at the same time preserve the natural and cultural values of the Big Bend.
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