U.S. border fencing project may harm sensitive ecological area

A half-mile-wide canyon and estuary situated on the U.S.-Mexico border just 12 miles from San Diego, Calif., is the locus of a conflict between environmentalists and the feds. The ecologically sensitive marshland is part of a 3.5-mile gap in secondary fencing at the border, making it a sweet spot for illegal immigrants and, speculate Homeland Security officials, al Qaeda operatives. Federal officials plan to speed up efforts to add fencing by leveling mesas in the area to backfill the canyon, a move that conservation activists — who have fought the project for years — say could cause flooding, erosion, and habitat destruction. Pending immigration legislation, which includes provisions for finishing the project, would allow the feds to largely ignore environmental and labor laws to do so. It could also pave the way for other projects that circumvent environmental regulations in the name of national security, according to J. Robert Shull of the nonprofit OMB Watch. “It’s completely unnecessary,” he said. “It’s mind-boggling.”