Austin, Texas – In a recent joint survey conducted by the United States International Boundary and Water Commission and the Mexican International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), it was revealed that 80% of the controversial floating marine buoy barrier spanning 995 feet, erected by the State of Texas under Governor Greg Abbott’s directive in the Rio Grande River at Eagle Pass, Texas, was inadvertently constructed on Mexican territory. The survey, carried out in late July 2023, disclosed that only 208 feet of the floating barrier falls within the jurisdiction of the United States, leaving the remaining 787 feet illegally situated within Mexico.
Led by Governor Abbott, the State of Texas hired private contractor to relocate the barrier
Responding to this revelation, the State of Texas, led by Governor Abbott, promptly commissioned a private contractor to relocate and reorient the floating buoy barrier to the United States side of the river. However, the political maneuver to construct the barrier has seemingly backfired on the Governor, as the structure was inadvertently placed on the wrong side of the international boundary. Texas taxpayers have thus far borne the cost of at least one million dollars for the buoys alone, with additional significant expenses incurred for transporting, constructing, and now realigning the barrier within the territorial bounds of the United States.
The misplacement of the buoy barrier has spurred diplomatic tensions with Mexico. At a meeting in Washington, D.C. on August 10, 2023, Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Relations, Alicia Barcena, lodged a formal complaint with United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. Secretary Barcena requested that Governor Abbott and the State of Texas promptly remove the buoy barrier from Mexican territory and the Rio Grande River.
Governor Abbott faces lawsuit by the United States Department of Justice
The United States Department of Justice has initiated legal proceedings against Governor Abbott and the State of Texas. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, seeks the removal of the floating buoy barrier from the Rio Grande and an injunction prohibiting the state from constructing any additional buoy barriers on the river. A court hearing for the U.S. Department of Justice’s preliminary injunction request is slated to take place on Tuesday, August 22, 2023, at 9 a.m. at the federal courthouse in Austin, Texas.
In a court document submitted on Friday, August 18, 2023, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) informed the court that defendants Governor Greg Abbott and the State of Texas had undertaken additional construction efforts on the floating buoys by relocating them to a different position within the Rio Grande, specifically nearer to the U.S. riverbank.
In a Declaration accompanying the court filing, United States International Boundary and Water Commission Engineer Evelio Siller indicated that he had received reports of in-water construction activities at the site of the Floating Buoy Barrier. Upon personally inspecting the site on August 18, 2023, Engineer Siller documented the presence of excavators and workers actively engaged in the Rio Grande River, and observed the repositioning of a concrete anchor within the Rio Grande on the U.S.-side of the river.
Gov. Abbott hasn’t informed anyone about the additional work to fix the initial error
Significantly, Abbott and the State of Texas neither informed the U.S. Department of Justice nor the International Water Boundary Commission and the U.S. District Court of their intentions to undertake further work to rectify the error in placing the floating buoys on the Mexican-side of the Rio Grande. When questioned by the DOJ about the additional in-water construction activities occurring on the floating buoys, the defendants, Abbott and the State of Texas, conceded that they were indeed realigning the floating buoy barrier to the U.S.-side of the Rio Grande River.
In the court filing, the U.S. Department of Justice asserted, “Texas’ recently resumed, unauthorized construction activities in the Rio Grande underscore why this Court should grant the United States’ Opposed Motion for Preliminary Injunction. The United States is harmed, not only by Texas’ ongoing and egregious violations of Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act, but also by the persistent repercussions of these violations on U.S.-Mexico relations and other pressing federal interests.”
Despite these developments, Abbott and the State of Texas continue to argue that the state possesses the authority to construct the floating buoy barrier in the Rio Grande River.
The U.S. District Court is set to hear the Department of Justice’s Motion for a Preliminary Injunction against Governor Abbott and the State of Texas on Tuesday, August 22, 2023, at 9 a.m. in Austin, Texas.