TUCSON, Ariz. — The high price tag and slow repairs to a part of the border fence that divides the U.S. and Mexico are of great concern, U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Arizona, said Thursday.
McSally wrote a letter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske on Thursday after an Associated Press report found the repairs to about 60 feet of fencing cost $730,000. "Given the limited availability of funding and the need for new, more effective technologies along our southern border, I find the cost of the repairs to be of great concern," McSally wrote.
Repairs on the 60 feet of rebar-reinforced fencing in Nogales, Arizona, were completed in December, and the federal agency released the cost of the repairs last month after a request by The Associated Press.
Agents discovered the downed fence in July after heavy rain in Nogales, Mexico, caused debris to build up against the fence, toppling it. The fence stood between 18 and 26 feet high and extended at least 7 feet underground. It was built in 2011.
The debris, which included tree trunks, was so heavy that it crossed into Nogales, Arizona, damaging businesses and mobile homes near the border. City officials last year said they planned on suing U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the parent agency of the Border Patrol, accusing the agency of failing to open floodgates that would have prevented such strong runoff. But city attorney Julia Holman said Nogales is no longer pursuing that effort.
Nicole Ballistrea, a spokeswoman for Customs and Border Protection, said the repairs took so long to complete because workers had to wait for the ground to dry after several days of rainfall. The Border Patrol monitored the area at all times while the fence was down, Customs and Border Protection said.
In her letter, McSally questions whether the agency could have taken steps to minimize the damage. Floodgates near the fence weren't opened on time because the rains were too heavy to risk getting near the water, Customs and Border Protection said.
McSally is not the first official to criticize the repairs.
Arizona Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, said the cost was too high. "It sounds like our federal government is not as assiduous as it should be," said Smith, a proponent of tighter border security.