CBP seeking access to survey properties in Cameron County

The Cameron County Commissioners Court tabled an item Monday that would allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection to enter county property by the Gateway and Los Indios international bridges for surveying purposes.

CBP also wants to conduct environmental assessments and appraisals at the locations.

But the federal government hasn’t told the county why it wants entry for those three purposes.

“We don’t know exactly what they are looking at doing so we are hoping to get some more information before we make a decision,” County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. said Wednesday. “We want to work with out federal agencies as much as we can but we do have concerns with the political climate and rhetoric coming and demands from the administration for a wall.”

President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border on Feb. 15 in order to secure more money for a border wall. The emergency declaration followed a funding bill signed by Trump that allotted nearly $1.4 billion for pedestrian fencing, including levee pedestrian fencing, in the Rio Grande Valley.

CBP is seeking access to three tracts of land owned by the county.

In Brownsville, at the Gateway International Bridge, CBP has a proposed a project area of 0.004 acres of land in the northbound lanes of the international bridge. The parent tract for surveying purposes for that area extends north to Elizabeth Street and is also adjacent to the southbound lane into Mexico on land that includes the county’s bridge office.

Treviño said he is not sure if CBP is seeking access to the county’s bridge offices or to the area behind the bridge offices.

“You can’t tell,” Treviño said.

The Cameron County Appraisal District values that tract at $322,530.

CBP is also seeking access to two tracts of land owned by the county totaling 101.53 acres, which is directly east of the Los Indios International Bridge and follows bends in the Rio Grande.

These two tracts, which the Cameron County Appraisal District values at $334,328, are open fields with brush.

CBP wants access to the three tracts for a period of 18 months “for the purpose of conducting environmental assessments and property surveys, including the right to temporarily store, move and remove necessary equipment and supplies; survey, stake out, appraise, bore and take soil and/or water samples, and perform any other such work which may be necessary and incidental to the Government’s assessment of the Property for Border Infrastructure Projects in the Rio Grande Valley Sector area of responsibility.”

Treviño directed county attorneys on Monday to go back to the government and ask for the time of the right-of-entry be limited to 12 months and also to try to get more information about why CBP wants to survey the areas.

“We’re probably more concerned with a limited period of time. I like 10 days. Get some more information. I think 18 months is a bit of a stretch,” Treviño said during the meeting.

The other concern for the county is whether CBP is intending to construct new border barriers and what it has planned for that small spot of land on the Gateway International Bridge.

“We wanted to find out what they want to do, not where,” Treviño said during the meeting. “We understand they want to survey, but what’s their end game?”