SAN DIEGO (AP) – The Biden administration said on Friday it would start tackling risks of flooding and soil erosion from unfinished sections of the wall on the US border with Mexico and roll back the contracts funded by the military by shutting down one of President Donald Trump’s iconic national projects.
Construction under the Trump administration “cut big holes” in the flood barrier system in low-lying areas of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, the Department of Homeland Security said. He said he will “quickly fix” the flood barrier system without extending the wall.
Officials in Hidalgo County, Texas, expressed alarm at the risk of flooding during the hurricane season starting in June due to breaches of a dike system after Biden halted construction of the border wall immediately after his taking office in January.
The department said it would also correct “improper compaction of soil and construction materials” along portions of a 22.4-mile barrier in San Diego and would soon unveil plans to address the additional damage caused by the construction of the border wall during Trump’s presidency. Much of the San Diego Wall is in unpopulated expanses in areas reserved for border patrol officers.
Biden ordered a break from all construction of the walls on his first day of office, leaving billions of dollars of work unfinished – but still under contract – after Trump worked feverishly last year to build more than 720 kilometers ( 450 miles), a goal he said he achieved. eight days before leaving office.
Biden gave assistants until the end of March to determine how much it would cost to cancel contracts and whether the money could be spent elsewhere. The answers began to emerge on Friday.
The Defense Department said in a statement that it was canceling contracts and will use uncommitted money for military construction projects for its original purpose. It examines which of the billions of dollars in delayed projects would have priority.
As of Jan. 15, the government had spent $ 6.1 billion of the $ 10.8 billion of work it had signed contracts for, according to a Democratic Senate aide familiar with the contracts who spoke out under the guise of anonymity as details have not been made public. The total amount under contract would have extended Trump’s wall to 1,069 kilometers.
Publicly, the Trump administration has said it got $ 15 billion for the wall. The Senate aide said it was actually $ 16.45 billion, of which $ 5.8 billion was earmarked by Congress and the rest diverted from the Defense and Treasury departments.
Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez recently told Border Report that there were at least four breaches in the levee system protecting the low-lying region of Hidalgo County from flooding during a major storm.
The earth dam was built under 2006 legislation to protect the delta region from flooding, but it also served as the basis for Trump’s border wall. Cortez said areas became vulnerable when Biden halted work.
Conservationists welcomed Friday’s announcement.
“This long-awaited reprieve is a big step forward towards justice for people and wildlife in border regions,” said Laiken Jordahl of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We are grateful that the Biden administration has put an end to this senseless destruction.”
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