Border securityEroding Private Border Wall to Get an Engineering Inspection Just Months after Completion

By Jeremy Schwartz and Perla Trevizo

Published 10 July 2020

Months after the “Lamborghini” of border walls was built along the Rio Grande, the builder agreed to an engineering inspection of his controversial structure. Experts say the wall is showing signs of erosion that threatens its stability.

The builder of a privately funded border wall along the shores of the Rio Grande agreed to an engineering inspection of his controversial structure, which experts say is showing signs of erosion that threatens its stability just months after the $42 million project was finished.

Tommy Fisher, president of North Dakota-based Fisher Industries, had bragged he could build faster and smarter than the federal government, calling his wall design method a “Lamborghini,” compared with the government’s “horse and buggy.”

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane instructed attorneys to work out details of the inspection and to come to an agreement about fixes for a part of the 3-mile fence that violates a treaty with Mexico by deflecting too much water during floods. Crane is overseeing a lawsuit brought by the federal government and the neighboring National Butterfly Center over the construction of the fence and its potential threat to the Rio Grande.

Fisher Industries’ attorney, Mark Courtois, said Wednesday that the firm plans to send out a crew to remediate the erosion, which was detailed last week in a ProPublica/Texas Tribune investigation. “What we anticipate is some sort of agreement where we continue to maintain it going forward,” Courtois told the court. “If there are issues that come up, we’ll address it.”

The 18-foot-tall fence, the first piece of border wall built directly on the shores of the river in the Rio Grande Valley, has become a flashpoint in the race to meet President Donald Trump’s campaign promise of about 450 miles of new wall, and was hailed by some as a new model for private industry’s contribution to that goal.

Fisher, a frequent guest on Fox News, has seen his company become Trump’s preferred border wall contractor. After embarking on his privately funded ventures, which include a half-mile fence outside El Paso, Fisher has been awarded about $1.7 billion in federal contracts for border wall work in Arizona.

Fisher’s private fence projects have gone up with financial and political help from We Build the Wall, an influential conservative nonprofit that counts former Trump political strategist Steve Bannon as a board member. The group says it has raised $25 million toward private wall efforts and claims to have agreements with landowners on 250 miles of riverfront property in Texas. The group has testified it contributed $1.5 million toward the Rio Grande Valley fence.