An engineering report set to be filed in federal court this week indicates that 3 miles of a privately built border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border are shoddily constructed and likely to collapse during flooding.
Alex Mayer, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Texas at El Paso, took a look at reports from the National Butterfly Center and the International Boundary and Water Commission and said that he thinks that the contractors building the wall section appear to be “cutting corners everywhere.”
Mayer took specific issue with Tommy Fisher, president of Fisher Sand and Gravel, calling the Rio Grande barrier a “Lamborghini.”
“It seems like they are cutting corners everywhere,” said Mayer, who reviewed the two reports on behalf of ProPublica and The Texas Tribune. “It’s not a Lamborghini, it’s a $500 used car.”
Environmental engineer Mark Tompkins said heavy rains in the area have already caused erosion at the section of border wall.
“Fisher Industries’ private bollard fence will fail during extreme high flow events,” said Tompkins, who has been hired by the butterfly refuge. He also said the fence has not yet had to withstand a flood of the river.
“When extreme flow events, laden with sediment and debris, completely undermine the foundation of the fence and create a flow path under the fence or cause a segment of the fence to topple into the river, unpredictable and damaging hydraulics will occur,” he said in an affidavit to be filed in court, according to ProPublica.
The barrier was paid for in part by donations to the We Build the Wall nonprofit. Former White House strategist Stephen Bannon and We Build the Wall founder Brian Kolfage have been indicted on charges of defrauding donors with the project. Both have pleaded not guilty, as have two other defendants in the case.
A second report from Millennium Engineers Group, based in Pharr, Texas, said the embankment where the segment is built needs a clay covering to withstand erosion.
“The geography at the wall’s construction location in comparison to the river bend is not at a favorable location for long-term performance,” the report stated.
In July, Fisher appeared on a podcast with Bannon and called the engineering concerns “absolute nonsense,” according to the ProPublica report.