EL PASO, Texas -- Efforts currently underway by the Trump administration to erect a new border barrier in El Paso are putting the city's water supply and flood protection at risk, according to local water district officials.
In a statement issued Friday, El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1 takes issue with U.S. Customs and Border Protection apparently building an added barrier along the north side of the American Canal extension.
The canal supplies the majority of the raw water to El Paso’s Johnathan-Roger Water Treatment Plant and the barrier would cut off needed access for plant operations and maintenance, the district said.
Water officials noted that access to the canal's south side is already cut off by an existing barrier built two years ago. They expressed concern that CBP made this latest construction decision unilaterally without consulting the water district.
"When questioned by the District, CBP would not say why two fences were needed so close together," water officials said in their statement. "Currently, the USA-Mexico border in this area is already protected by the new 34’ tall bollard fence on the south side, then a deep canal, and then a chain link security fence. This area is located in one of the most secure and actively patrolled areas of the entire border with Mexico."
The district contends that cutting off its access to the canal area threatens the water supply provided to city residents and the region's farmers, plus breaches flood protection for downtown El Paso.
"In the 2006 flood, this canal was critical in preventing serious flooding in the City of El Paso and the breaching of the Rio Grande levee system," the district said.
Water officials indicated that construction of the new canal barrier abruptly started on Thanksgiving and began without CBP obtaining the required approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Roger Maier, a CBP spokesman based in El Paso, had no immediate comment on the water district's claims. He told ABC-7 that the agency's public affairs office may offer a statement on Monday.