Court to rule on private Texas company’s planned border wall along Rio Grande

USA

Tommy Fisher, founder of Fisher Sand & Gravel, is waiting for the chance to prove he can build President Trump’s signature border wall faster and better than the government.

But first, the courts have to decide.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane in McAllen, a southern Texas city, is expected on Thursday to decide whether to lift a temporary restraining order against the project to build a privately funded border wall next to the Rio Grande.

Dating back to the Secure Fence Act of 2006, the U.S. has largely avoided building right next to the Rio Grande.

The meandering river separating the U.S. and Mexico sustains wildlife in Texas and provides fresh water to both countries through a series of dams and canals, defined by international treaty obligations. To avoid violating those obligations by causing erosion or rerouting water from the river, the U.S. has built much of the border wall in South Texas a mile or more away from its riverbank.

The U.S. sued to stop Fisher’s project, leading to Crane issuing a restraining order.

After hearing testimony last week, Crane will hear from more witnesses Thursday.

FILE - In this Jan. 30, 2019 photo, Tommy Fisher, right, talks with Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., at the lawmaker's office in Washington, D.C. (Sen. Kevin Cramer's office via AP, File)

FILE – In this Jan. 30, 2019 photo, Tommy Fisher, right, talks with Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., at the lawmaker’s office in Washington, D.C. (Sen. Kevin Cramer’s office via AP, File)

If Crane lifts his restraining order, Fisher says his crews could start work as soon as Sunday and finish in eight days.

Fisher’s construction company, which has already won a $400 million border wall contract in Arizona, wants to install three miles of steel posts roughly 35 feet from the U.S. bank of the river. The posts would go on private land, with a concrete road behind them intended for law enforcement.

The project was originally announced by We Build the Wall, a Florida-based nonprofit founded in December 2018, when Trump demanded $5 billion in wall funding from Democrats in Congress. When Democrats refused, the resulting standoff led to the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

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Telling supporters that it would build new barriers on its own, We Build the Wall launched an online fundraising campaign and has raised $25 million.

The group’s founder, Brian Kolfage, has promoted the South Texas project heavily on social media, exhorting donors to give more and attacking project opponents.

But the project has instead become a potential showcase for Fisher.

He previously told Fox News that his border wall will be “100 percent American-made.”

Fisher said Wednesday, as The Associated Press reported, that he’s prepared to invest $40 million or more to build the private barrier. We Build the Wall has only contributed $1.5 million.

The U.S. government sued Fisher’s company and We Build the Wall on behalf of the International Boundary and Water Commission, which oversees the river under treaty obligations. A commission spokeswoman told The Associated Press Wednesday that its engineers were still reviewing the study of Fisher’s company and offering feedback.

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Fisher argues that the government is being overly cautious by building walls far away from the river. His crews plan to grade the riverbank and clear brush from the properties, which he says will improve water flow and reduce erosion.

“We’ve proved you can build right where the agents need it,” Fisher said. “It’s not border security when you’re a mile, two miles, three miles off the border.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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