FLOOD GATE OF PROBLEMS: Border ranchers say gates on the border fence are a security risk
We all know about the President's promise to build a new wall along the United States-Mexico Border. That plan, however, will have to take into account the flooding we see during the monsoon.
Each year, over two feet of rain that falls on the Mexican side of the border will flows north into Arizona, due to area topography. Arizona ranchers depend on that water, but allowing that water to flow through means opening a big hole in the current border fence.
Some long-time ranchers in the area see that as an open invitation for some to enter the United States illegally.
"We've been here 121 years," said John Ladd of the San Jose Ranch. "We're still raising beef cows, and I'm forth generation. We're still doing good by. We are right on the border."
Illegal immigration and drug smuggling is nothing new to the Ladd family.
"In the early 90s to the early 2000, they are catching 200 or 300 people a day on the ranch," said Ladd.
Ladd said the mesh fence that was put up in 2008 hasn't helped at all, especially when it comes to drug smuggling.
"We've always had some marijuana issues coming back and forth," said Ladd. "In the last five years, predominately, we have more dope than people coming now."
Ladd took our crews to a port on the fence that he calls a "lift gate". During the monsoon, several like it are raised, to allow water to flow into Arizona from Mexico.
"The big watershed is off in the San Jose Mountains, and we depend on that water to irrigate the native grasses," said Ladd. "We're not farmers, but we use flood waters to grow the grass."
The problem is, these lift gates are not easy to open, or close.
"They have to bring a forklift out," said Ladd. "They are pretty crude design. They lift them up with a forklift, pin them up, and lock them open."
For the summer rains that last about three months, the gates stay open, the whole time. Ladd said the Army Corps of Engineers were afraid the fence could fail completely when it floods, so the lift gates were added to avoid embarrassment.
"We are sacrificing national security not to embarrass the Corps of Engineers and their wall failing," said Ladd. "I don't agree with that."
The only things stopping illegal border crossings is a couple of strands of barbed wire, and a vehicle barrier cable beneath the raised gate..
FOX 10 Phoenix reached out to the Border Patrol about the fence, and they responded with a written statement which reads, in part:
"The infrastructure, such as the pedestrian fence or vehicle barriers, are constructed to deter or slow individuals down who are entering the U.S. Illegally...during monsoon season in certain flood prone areas, the pedestrian fence is lifted, in order to mitigate debris buildup and damage to the fence...Although infrastructure is an important tool in border security, agents are also equipped with technology to monitor the border and respond to such incursions accordingly."
Ladd said a new fence completed this year, closer to Naco, works better. He took a photo of the new swing gates that allow flood waters to pass, and can be easily closed by Border Patrol once the water recedes.
"They are hinged like a door, so they can anticipate a flood event and have agents come out and open them up," said Ladd.
Ladd, however, said any wall or fence is vulnerable unless the Border Patrol puts more people on the border.
"We've got a bunch of them in Washington, and agents in Tucson, but we need them down here on the International Boundary, especially during the summer," said Ladd.