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CentralTexas Gardener KLRU-TV, Austin PBS, creates innovative television that inspires and educates. KLRU-produced programs that air statewide on klru Texas PBS stations include Central Texas Gardener, Texas tv and beyond Monthly Talks and The Biscuit Brothers. Check your local listings. PREVIOUS SPREAD: PHOTO BY EUGENIO DEL BOSQUE “I feel like we live in an occupied zone now.” PHOTO BY EUGENIO DEL BOSQUE largest construction companies, is busy draining resacas \(lakes created by the shifting tides of the Rio last seven miles of wall through Cameron County. To date, 199 county residents have had land seized, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection figures. Every day, the Brownsville Herald publishes government notices of the properties to be condemned by the Department of Homeland Security. The agency is already one year late and several million dollars over budget in fulfilling Congress’ 2006 mandateand counting. The Secure Fence Act was cobbled together so poorly that legislators failed to take several important factors into consideration. For one, thousands of private landowners would have to forfeit their landand not all would go willingly. For another, a 1944 treaty forbade construction of anything in the Rio Grande floodplain that would push floodwaters into either Mexico or the United States. Because of the treaty, DHS was forced to build its wall north of the river’s leveesometimes as far as two miles upland. In Brownsville, the 8-foot-tall earthen levee follows the twists and turns of the Rio Grande for several miles. The mayor had seen the river shared with Mexico not as a security threat, but as a selling point for his city. Before the wall, Brownsville had plans to build a river walk like San Antonio’san anchor for downtown revitalization and a transit loop that would spur more commerce. “We had a private investor group from California looking to invest $150 million in the downtown revitalization with the river walk as the anchor,” Ahumada says, “but they backed out because of the wall.” Making matters worse, DHS ran the wall close to the planned transit loop. “To build the loop now, we would have to move the border wall and put it somewhere else to the DHS’s specifications,” he says. “We estimate it would cost the city $13 million a mile.” JANUARY 22, 2010 In June 2009, Brownsville council members finally voted to surrender 15 acres of city land to the federal government despite many residents’ persistent opposition. Ahumada never resigned himself to it. The two-year-long debate over ceding land to the DHS bitterly divided the city governmentespecially after the council’s majority agreed to perhaps the worst deal struck by any border community. They forfeited the $123,100 DHS had offered to buy the land and allowed, without compensation, a “floating fence” with 15-foot steel posts stuck into a concrete base to be built downtown. What does Brownsville get in return? According to its contract with DHS, the city agreed to eventually build a combination levee-border wall, a permanent structure to replace the floating fence. Brownsville READ BORDER PATROL documents regarding the border wall at http://tinyurl. com/yz2qiue