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Wide Stance BORDER FENCING On September 24, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers published the first map in the Federal Register that details the course of a proposed fence along the Texas-Mexico border. Roughly following the Rio Grande, the proposed fence cuts off swaths of U.S. territory between the wall and the river. Construction is set to begin in the spring. Now, even those who believed “they’ll never do it” are joining residents of the Lower Rio Grande Valley who are fighting the fence [see, “Habitat for Inanity,” September 7]. Given only 21 days to submit public comments for the Customs and Border Protection draft environmental impact statement, including to a government Web site that has been sporadically inaccessible, locals scrambled to detail harm to communities, tourism, wildlife, the local economy, and border culture. No Border Wall, a grassroots group that mobilized peaceful protests for months with rallies, a procession, and even a flotilla of kayaks, pleaded in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security for more time for comments and “dialogue” with locals, to no avail. Border Protection spokesman Brad Benson said comments received after October 15 will be folded into a final environmental impact statement, which won’t be completed for six to nine months. Meanwhile, town mayors are refusing permission to federal workers to work on municipal property, and so are growers, although DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff has said he will not allow communities to “veto” the fence, and may use eminent domain on pri vate landowners. Mayor Pat Ahumada of Brownsville, the Valley’s largest city, where 22 miles of wall are slated to cut through property, hurriedly called for a public meeting to collect comments for submission. Chest pains that hospitalized Ahumada temporarily on October 4, he told the Rio Grande Guardian, were caused by stress from trying to protect his city from the wall. The notice in the Federal Register said the structure will be 16 feet high and “aesthetically pleasing.” Expect a run on 17-foot ladders, folks in the Valley say, and residents don’t care how the thing looks. The announcement also confirmed what many feared: the wall, sunk three to six feet into the ground, is set for construction along crumbling government levees. “We’re already facing OCTOBER 19, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5