SAN DIEGO — The Trump administration on Friday waived environmental reviews to replace a 14-mile stretch of border barrier in San Diego, shielding itself from potentially crippling delays.
The Department of Homeland Security said it would issue the sixth waiver of Donald Trump’s presidency under a 2005 law that empowers the secretary to waive reviews required under environmental laws if the border barrier is deemed to be in national security interests. Those laws include the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act and Endangered Species Act.
The waiver, which was announced Thursday and published Friday in the Federal Register, helps clear the way for work to begin this month on replacing a second layer of barrier in San Diego, a steel-mesh wall that worked like a fortress when it was built about a decade ago but is now often breached with powerful battery-operated saws sold in home improvement stores.
The waivers avoid time-consuming reviews and lawsuits challenging violation of environmental laws.
The government awarded a $101 million contract to SLSCO Ltd. of Galveston, Texas, to build a barrier of 30-feet-high steel bollards, with options for an additional $30 million. Work is scheduled to begin this month.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a public notice that the Border Patrol’s San Diego sector is “an area of high illegal entry,” with more than 38,000 arrests and seizures of more than four tons of marijuana and 1,800 pounds of cocaine in the 2018 fiscal year. San Diego was the third busiest corridor for illegal crossings among the Border Patrol’s nine sectors along the Mexican border in 2018 after Texas’ Rio Grande Valley and Tucson, Arizona.