MISSION, Texas – Rey Anzaldua, whose family has owned its land for generations since the Spaniards first settled in what is now the Rio Grande Valley, said, “When I first saw what they were doing, I was angry.” The retired U.S. Customs agent said he was also worried about what could happen as he saw the riverbank being cleared and grated, exposing the land so that a 3.5-mile-long privately funded wall could be built.
Anzaldua said he predicts that if the Rio Grande has major floods, what’s left of the adjacent riverbank, possibly the wall itself, and even part of his property, will be swept downriver.
“It’s going to be washed away,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time.”
Brian Kolfage, who raised $25 million in GoFundMe donations for the We Build the Wall project, said he’s “100% confident” that won’t happen.
“It’s really just a fence. The water flows through it, and we’re going to prove that,” Kolfage said.
He said the riverbank has been grated at a gradual downward slope that will have special sod planted to help prevent erosion.
Kolfage said “modern construction techniques” will help anchor the structure to withstand any hurricane-force winds, given the Valley’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. He said that’s also why the new wall won’t have a metal plate at the top as an “anti-climb feature," because it could act as a sail in the wind, knocking down the structure.
Javier Pena, the attorney representing the National Butterfly Center in its fight against the project, said, “The way you’re building it on the riverbank, in a flood zone on the wrong side of the levee, you’re going to cause damage to someone else.”
“We have our own experts. They’ll do the studies that will be reviewing the models,” Pena said, referring to his client’s lawsuit.
He said the National Butterfly Center on the opposite side of the site from the Anzaldua property is trying to protect the habitat on its property.
Pena said if the center is negatively impacted, it will blow the Valley’s eco-tourism economy.
He said the lawsuit is now in federal court, along with legal action brought by the International Boundary and Water Commission over the possible impact the project could have on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande.
But as for the Anzaldua family’s concerns, Anzaldua said, “We don’t have the money to fight these people until they do the damage.”