Construction on Arizona Replacement Border Barrier Begins

The project concentrates on a 2-mile portion of replacement fencing, funded thanks to President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration.

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PHOENIX (AP) — Construction on a 2-mile portion of replacement fencing funded thanks to President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration has begun in southern Arizona, one of several projects that will build hundreds of miles of mostly replacement barriers.

Crews broke ground on the project Thursday and plan on installing 30-foot (9-meter) steel fencing to replace older barriers next to the official border crossing this week.

The project is funded through the Defense Department. Use of the department’s money was previously frozen by lower courts while a lawsuit proceeded. But the U.S. Supreme Court last month cleared the way for the use of about $2.5 billion.

Environmentalists have sued over some of the construction contracts, saying they would damage wildlife habitat.

A border wall was a major milestone of the president’s election campaign. Congress this year allocated $1.4 billion, but the president wanted much more.

Thursday’s groundbreaking was on a portion of fencing that stretches east from the Lukeville Port of Entry, an official border crossing that many Arizona residents pass on their way to the Mexican beach destination commonly known as Rocky Point.

Construction is expected to take about 45 days, according to court documents filed last week. U.S. Customs and Border Protection plans to then tackle two other projects in Arizona, including nearly 40 miles (64.4 kilometers) of fencing in other parts of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and a smaller project at the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. The two other projects are slated for early October.

The administration has awarded $2.8 billion in contracts for barriers covering 247 miles (390 kilometers), with all but 17 miles (27 kilometers) of that to replace existing barriers instead of expanding coverage.

There are already various forms of barriers along 654 miles (1,046 kilometers) of the southern border, or about one-third.