Tempe firm wins contract for construction of border wall prototype

Contracts to build prototype sections of concrete wall are just one of many steps toward President Donald Trump’s pledge for a wall along 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. This medallion marks the border at San Ysidro, California. (Photo by Josh Denmark/U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

An artist’s sketch of how U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials envision the U.S.-Mexico border zone. Contracts awarded Thursday would be for prototypes of concrete walls that might be on either side of the zone. (Photo courtesy Customs and Border Protection)

The border “enforcement zone” between rural areas of the U.S. and Mexico would be similar to those in urban areas, according to an artist’s sketch released by border officials. The first contracts for wall prototypes were released this week. (Photo courtesy Customs and Border Protection)

WASHINGTON – A Tempe company was one of four firms named Thursday to build the first prototypes of President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico, Customs and Border Patrol officials announced.

The contracts awarded to Fisher Industries of Tempe and the other three firms call for them to complete sections of concrete wall 30 feet long and 18-30 feet high within 30 days after construction begins, possibly in the next few weeks. The prototypes will be built near San Diego.

Acting CBP Deputy Commissioner Ronald Vitiello, who announced the awards, said each contract is worth between $400,000 and $500,000.

Fisher Industries President Thomas Fisher said in a brief statement that the company was “extremely excited and grateful” to be selected.

“Fisher Sand & Gravel operations in the Southwest gives firsthand knowledge of the terrain and landscape of the territory and the challenges that come with them,” Fisher said in the emailed statement.

The prototypes are the first of many steps the Trump administration is taking to fulfill the president’s campaign promise to “build a wall” that he has promised Mexico will ultimately pay for – even though Mexican officials have repeatedly said they will not.

Vitiello said Congress included $20 million in the fiscal 2017 budget to fund the wall prototypes. Contracts for wall prototypes other than concrete are expected to be awarded within the next few weeks.

But long-term funding for a border wall – which could cost $21.6 billion in one Department of Homeland Security estimate, much more according to critics – is still up in the air. Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget request asks for $1.6 billion to begin construction for the wall and another $1 billion for border security technology.

Democrats have vowed to fight funding for the wall, even though House Republicans were able to add language to a defense bill to include $1.6 billion for wall projects in Texas and California.

Trump is adamant on getting funding, last week threatening a government shutdown if Congress does not find room in the budget.

“If we got to shut down our government, we are building that wall,” Trump said at a Phoenix rally last week. “The American people voted for immigration control. That’s one of the reasons I’m here, and that is what the American people deserve, and they’re going to get it.”

But environmental groups and some residents who live near the border are not so enthusiastic.

In a statement released after Thursday’s contract announcement, the Center for Biological Diversity repeated charges that waivers of environmental rules invoked by DHS for wall construction will hurt local communities and wildlife. A recent center study claimed that more than 90 endangered or threatened species would be put at risk by border wall construction.

“Trump’s border wall obsession is spinning out of control,” Brian Segee, a senior attorney with the center, said in an emailed statement. “These prototypes are the first step toward a wall that will endanger wildlife as well as increase human suffering, sow division and become a monument to Trump’s hate and ignorance.”

And in a 2016 Cronkite News-Univision News-Dallas Morning News poll of U.S. and Mexican residents living near the border, 72 percent of U.S. respondents and 86 percent of Mexican respondents were opposed to building a wall.

But the CBP planning on the wall is proceeding, with contracts for the other prototypes expected soon. Once construction of all the prototypes is done, CBP could choose up to eight prototypes to use for the wall.

The other three contract winners Thursday for concrete prototypes were Caddell Construction of Montgomery, Alabama, Texas Sterling Construction of Houston and W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Co. of Philadelphia, Mississippi.