Several New Towers Will Watch Over Border
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is planning to put up 45 surveillance towers to spot illegal immigrants and upgrade 12 existing ones to create a virtual fence targeting 81 miles of Arizona’s U.S.-Mexican border.
Plans revealed in a draft environmental assessment for the “Tucson West” project — the next phase of the Boeing Co.-led SBInet — shows 57 proposed tower sites throughout Southern Arizona with most, 47, in the border region between Sasabe and Sierra Vista.
The 10 other proposed locations are scattered farther north near Ajo, Phoenix, Casa Grande and Tucson. The map shows one existing tower in Tucson and another in the Catalina Mountains that would be upgraded.
According to the Arizona Daily Star, the towers will stand 80 to 200 feet high. The largest cluster of towers totals 27 proposed sites along 40 miles of border from Sasabe to Nogales within about 12 miles north of the border.
At a community meeting in Arivaca recently, Border Patrol officials said they are expecting work to begin in the fall, said Peter Ragan, an Arivaca construction worker and writer who attended.
Officials in the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector deferred questions about the project’s timeline to headquarters in Washington, D.C., and officials there did not respond immediately.
Supporters applauded the plan as another tool to help Border Patrol agents slow illegal immigration and drug smuggling in the Southwest border’s busiest stretch.
“Anytime you can deter traffic and make it easier for the Border Patrol to do their jobs, I encourage that kind of project,” Al Garza, executive director of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, told the Arizona Daily Star. “This is what the fight is all about.”
Critics of the plan, however, are skeptical about Boeing’s competence, doubt the towers will have a tangible impact and decry the accumulating damage on habitat and wildlife from an array of border-security projects in the past several years.
“At this point it looks exactly the same as P-28,” said Ragan, referring to a $20.6 million Boeing Co. test project known as Project 28 that consisted of nine camera and radar towers flanking Sasabe. “They are rolling out a project before they have tested or confirmed any of the technology. It’s hard to be anything but skeptical about what they are going to accomplish with this.”
Plans call for a mixture of camera and radar towers, and communication-relay towers. Radar and remote video-system towers will be equipped with multiple cameras (electro-optical/infrared sensors and video cameras), radio-frequency radar and data-receiving antennas.
Communication-relay towers will be equipped with one or more parabolic dishes, microwave relays and receiving antennas. Some towers will be a combination sensor and communication tower, the document says.
The towers will be erected inside a fenced-in area no larger than 80 by 80 feet. Access roads will be created near the 45 new towers as well. They will typically be 12 feet wide with parallel drainage and surfaced with on-site materials, the document says.
The information gathered by the sensors, radar and cameras will be transmitted to Border Patrol stations and help agents more efficiently track and catch illegal immigrants and drug smugglers, the agency says.