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Texas/Mexican Border Fence Threatens Water War

By James Donahue

Anyone that lives or just knows anything about life in the arid high desert of the American Southwest knows that a good potable water supply is vital to ranchers, towns and the mere survival of life.

Political and sometimes shooting wars have been waged over water rights. It is an unwritten law in that region that nobody builds a dam on a flowing stream, or blocks open access to water without going through government red tape and selling the idea to the property owners who either gain or lose because of the proposed change.

In most cases, folks who live in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and the adjoining states think it is best to just leave things as they are.

This is why a project launched by the Bush Administration to build a 2,000-mile-long wire fence straight across the United States-Mexican border to control illegal immigration and drug trafficking could spark more trouble than it would be worth.

Not only is such a fence a wasted effort in controlling illegal trafficking, it is sure to create barriers to natural water access, mostly on the Rio Grande River, long shared by ranchers on both sides of the border.

The outgoing Congress late in 2003 started this mess when it approved a Bush Administration plan to construct 370 miles of new fence, with 153 of those miles of fence located in Texas, erected piecemal along a 600-mile stretch from Presidio to Brownsville. This is a border region where people live on a binational basis.

Mike Allen, head of the Economic Development Corporation for the town of McAllen, said such a fence will create pure bedlam when local farmers lose their access to the water.

Environmentalists are expressing concern that the fence will block Rio Grande water access to endangered animals and ruin key feeding and resting areas for migratory birds.

Other community leaders worry that the fence will damage the regional economy which thrives on cross-border commerce. While they may be living in different countries, people living at the border are neighbors and they have been used to doing business with one another. A massive wire mesh government built fence erected between them threatens to generate bad feelings, even if water wasn't an issue.

That the United States is building fences, not only on the Mexican border, but politically throughout the world, is a very sad truth. This is a time when the world needs desperately to be uniting to work against a common threat . . . our own survival on a dying planet.

Fences of any kind, either wire or political, are not the answer.