TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Construction crews in southern Arizona have started blasting hills at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to clear space for a new border wall system.
Crews are bulldozing through Monument Hill to construct a 30-foot (9-meter) steel wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the Arizona Daily Star reported.
The wall is part of a 43-mile (69-kilometer) project on national monument land about 115 miles (185 kilometers) west of Tucson, officials said.
Organ Pipe was designated as an International Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations and is part of the national parks system, officials said.
“The construction contractor has begun controlled blasting, in preparation for new border wall system construction, within the Roosevelt Reservation at Monument Mountain,” Customs and Border Protection said. “The controlled blasting is targeted and will continue intermittently for the rest of the month.”
Environmental advocates, elected officials and Tohono O’odham Nation leaders have raised concerns about the project, including the destruction of saguaros, the use of water from an underground aquifer, the potential impact on migrating animals and the destruction of land consider scared by some Native Americans.
Tribal elders told Democratic U.S. Rep Raul Grijalva that bodies were buried on the hill after Apache raids.
“DHS has consistently failed in its legal obligation to consult with the tribes, and this is only the latest example,” Grijalva said.
The Army Corps of Engineers reported that the Department of Defense awarded $891 million in contracts to Southwest Valley Constructors in May to build the border wall on Organ Pipe and Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge.