From AP, a federal judge ruled today to permit the completion of the last four miles of the triple fence in San Diego County along the US-Mexico border. Earlier in the year, Congress gave DHS the power to waive environmental laws that had blocked construction of the fence, and the court upheld the Department’s ability to exercise this power.
If DHS thinks that this is a good investment versus other border funding priorities, then I’m in favor of their ability to move forward with this, if only because it sets a bad precedent for localities to have a veto on projects with national security implications. But I have concerns about the cost:
The 2006 Homeland Security budget includes $35 million to cover most of the work.
The project would require crews to move 2.1 million cubic yards of dirt in Smuggler’s Gulch alone, or enough to fill about 300,000 dump trucks.
At $35 million for 4 miles, we’re talking around $8-$9 million per mile for this upgrade, and more if as this article indicates, that amount won’t be enough to finish it. But this site indicates that the first ten miles cost only $3 million per mile. And the very high-tech Israeli fence, which traverses some rough terrain, is approx. $2.5 million per mile by comparison, acc. to the IDF.
What explains this large price difference? Is the geography of the built and unbuilt portions of the wall completely different? Do they really need to fill in “Smuggler’s Gulch”? Below is a satellite image of the gulch via Google Earth, and there are real pictures of it here and here.
Without knowing more about the geography, the cost estimate seems high. If I’m off-base, post and let me know. But at first impression, this sounds like a project for the GAO or DHS Inspector General.