U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sued over Valley border wall levee records

The Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Thursday for failing to release public records regarding construction of new border walls on levees in the Rio Grande Valley.

Despite a pause in wall construction early in 2021, a subsequent Army Corps assessment found sections of the wall were in need of remediation and U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s plans for new wall construction are chugging along.

A news release from the Center for Biological Diversity said that in October it requested public records under the Freedom of Information Act, including the analysis for the current construction plan — records it says should show whether the Biden administration did its own analysis or relied on Trump’s border wall plan.

According to the center, the Army Corps failed to produce any records.

“The Biden administration needs to come clean. Are they using Trump’s analysis as an excuse to build more walls or is all this construction truly necessary for public safety?” Paulo Lopes, an attorney at the center, wrote. “It looks like they’re moving full steam ahead to finish Trump’s border wall at the expense of borderland communities, wildlife and wild places. This lack of transparency is troubling.”

The suit follows the center’s filing of a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection for failing to protect endangered ocelots during construction of border levees in the Valley.

According to Thursday’s release, the notice said the Biden administration was building the levees without environmental review or attempts to avoid harming ocelots and other wildlife, a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act.

“The borderlands were plundered under Trump and now the Biden administration refuses to release important public documents that could show if the levees were damaged,” Lopes wrote. “It’s deeply disappointing to see the Biden administration following in Trump’s footsteps. These so-called repairs look a lot like Trump’s border wall.”