Judge issues amended orders in private border-wall lawsuit

Border Report

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A federal judge on Wednesday afternoon issued new orders prohibiting further “shaving, grading or cutting of the bank of the Rio Grande River” on the South Texas property whose owner wants a private border wall built.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane signed a new temporary restraining order on what can and cannot be done “… until such time as USIBWC fulfills its analysis and other requirements pursuant to the 1970 Treaty between the United States and Mexico.” The signed and amended orders were filed Wednesday with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

These new terms were agreed upon by the U.S. Department of Justice, which has brought the federal lawsuit, and defendants Fisher Industries and the landowner. The terms took several days to clear, and had been expected to have been issued last Friday, according to testimony during a status hearing last Thursday.

The new restrictions expire on Jan. 3, when the next hearing in the case is scheduled. A previous hearing that had been set for Thursday, Dec. 19, has been canceled, according to the court docket.

The new orders make clear that aggressive cutting of the banks cannot continue until the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission has completed its study of the proposed construction plans. The IBWC is charged with ensuring the 1970 U.S. water treaty with Mexico is fully complied.

Crane’s new orders continue to restrict the “constructing of a bollard structure, wall or similar structure, pouring concrete or any other permanent structure within the floodplain,” as this case is pending. But the new orders do allow Fisher Industries “to clear and grub, construct the trench in which defendants propose to construct the bollard wall, place rebar and conduit in the trench and seed and plant those portions of the bank which have been graded.”

During court testimony on Thursday, Assistant U.S. District Attorney E. Paxton Warner had expressed concern that the land has been stripped and this could cause flooding if severe rains strike.

Fisher Industries said in court they have submitted extensive additional plans — as requested — to IBWC.

From state court to federal court

Another case, brought by the North American Butterfly Association on behalf of the National Butterfly Center against the landowner, Neuhaus & Sons LLC, which is also requesting to halt construction of the private border wall, is scheduled to be heard tomorrow in federal court. The case had originally been filed in state district court but court documents earlier this week indicate the case is set to be heard in Crane’s courtroom in McAllen for a status hearing on Thursday, Dec. 19.

Read a previous Border Report story on the Butterfly Center case.

Border Report plans to cover the hearing and will update with information.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com.

Visit the BorderReport.com homepage for the latest exclusive stories and breaking news about issues along the United States-Mexico border.

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