The newly built, privately funded segment of the wall along the United States-Mexico border is going to fail, according to a court-mandated engineering report. As ProPublica revealed, the question isn’t whether it will fall into the Rio Grande, but “a matter of when.”
The 3-mile segment of the wall is the focus of litigation involving Steve Bannon — President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist and adviser — and Brian Kolfage. Bannon and Kolfage are accused of taking crowdsourced money to build the wall for their non-profit “We Build the Wall” initiative, but instead used some of the funds to support their lavish lifestyles.
Built by North Dakota-based Fisher Sand and Gravel, reports in May suggested that the wall — which company president Tommy Fisher has touted as the “Lamborghini” of walls — was not constructed to withstand the local environment.
As part of a separate lawsuit against Fisher’s company, engineers further examined the wall and found that parts of the structure would topple over if further work wasn’t done to shore it up.
While Fisher has said that any issues facing the construction were normal for a new project, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Texas at El Paso said that the project was shoddily built.
“It seems like they are cutting corners everywhere,” said Alex Mayer. “It’s not a Lamborghini, it’s a $500 used car.”
One engineer noted that the wall is already facing the impact of erosion from heavy rains, but it hasn’t been hit by flooding in the river, which will occur.
“Fisher Industries’ private bollard fence will fail during extreme high flow events,” Mark Tompkins, an engineering expert said.
Once flooding occurs, further damage is inevitable, he added.
“When extreme flow events, laden with sediment and debris, completely undermine the foundation of the fence and create a flow path under the fence or cause a segment of the fence to topple into the river, unpredictable and damaging hydraulics will occur.”
Occasional flooding isn’t the only challenge ahead for the structure, however. Because it was constructed close to the Rio Grande on the silty bank, it will require constant maintenance to fight erosion. For this reason, the federal government usually builds its wall segments miles inland from the river.
Another study concluded that in addition to other issues, there were wide gaps and large cracks in the concrete, likely due to substandard construction practices.
Fisher Sand and Gravel has issued a maintenance plan, but Tompkins said that it is inadequate and won’t stop the issues that the project faces.