Here’s Another Staggering Expense Of Trump’s Border Wall

Much has been made of the monetary expense of PresidentDonald Trumps proposed perimeter wall. Trump himself has cited wildly differingestimates. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell( R-Ky .) recently said that the wall would cost $12 billion to $15 billion. Some experts have quoted numbers far higher.

But the walls true expense outstrips even the biggest numbers being discussed. Theres upkeep, of course hundreds of millions of dollars per year will be needed to maintain the 1,000 -mile barrier. There are other expenses, too, some of them intangible and difficult to quantify.

The political blowback could be significant. Mexican President Enrique Pea Nieto has already canceled a session with Trump over the wall, calling it a sign of disrespect.( Mexico is Americas third-largest trading partner and a close ally .) And the impacts on native tribes, border communities and migrant populations are projected to be immense.

Then, theres the potential damage caused to the environment, both locally and beyond. Environmentalists say the wall is beneficial to climate change, disrupt natural water flows and profoundly affect native species and habitats.

Let me be blunt there are no the advantage of a border wall, and many risks, Dan Millis, a coordinator of the Sierra Clubs borderlands program, told HuffPost in an email this month.

We dont simply have concerns about the border wall, we have impacts, Millis said. Thats because there are already walls and roadblocks along more than 650 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border . Existing fences have not served their intended purpose, he said, but have already expense taxpayers billions of dollars, and have resulted in a wide array of unintended and damaging outcomes.

Research suggests the existing barriers have not been effectiveat restricting the movement of people. Areportreleased this week by the Government Accountability Office found that border fencing was violated more than 9,200 times from 2010 to 2015. The hurdles, however, have proven to be a formidable foe to migrating animals.

A 2014 study found that security roadblocks on the Arizona-Mexico border were doing little to prevent crossings by humans, but were limiting the movements of native species like puma and coatis, a raccoon-like being, thus limiting their access to food, water and habitat.

There was no significant difference in the number of migrants present in areas where there was a wall, compared to areas where there was no wall, Jamie McCallum, the lead author of the study, told HuffPost in interview last year. In other words, the wall did not seem to be doing the job it was intended for.

The hurdles, however, could be driving some native species to a possible collapse in population, the study said.

Mike Blake/ Reuters Buildings in Nogales, Mexico( right) are separated by a border fencing from Nogales, Arizona, United States, October 9, 2016

Leonardo Prest Mercon Ro/ Getty Images The ocelot is one imperiled animal that would be threatened by Trump’s wall.

Migration hallways are critical for the health and survival of wildlife along the border. Imperiled animals like jaguars and ocelots only live in the U.S. because of motions out of Mexico. Other species, including bighorn sheep, pygmy owl, gray wolves and black bears, travel back and forth across the border to access vital resources and to maintain genetic diversity.

Clinton Epps, a wildlife biologist at Oregon State University, told the BBC last year that some species have been crossing the border for millions of years. A physical hurdle, he said, could fundamentally alter the health and behaviour of these populations.

A wall also will stifle the ability of species to adapt to a changing climate. Imagine, for example, if a herd of deer or an endangered species like the jaguar needed to move north or to a higher altitude in order to adapt to higher temperatures and lower rainfall. If a wall impedes their movement, that particular herd or even an entire species is put at risk, said Millis.

Getty Images Big Horn sheep move back and forth across the U.S.-Mexico border.

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/ Getty Images The bald eagle’s habitat would be threatened by the border wall.

Beyond the disruption to migratory movements, perimeter infrastructure could also fragment and destroy habitats. Sergio Avila-Villegas, a preservation research scientist from Tucsons Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, told the BBC that a wall would have effects for the ecosystem as a whole.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has estimated that 111 endangered species and 108 migratory bird species would be affected by an unbroken obstacle along the entire land perimeter between the U.S. and Mexico, reported Outside magazine. The bald eagle, California condor, several sea turtles and the West Indian manatee are among the species that would be potentially threatened by the wall.

John Moore/ Getty Images A U.S. Border Patrol agent stands at the U.S.-Mexico border fence on November 17, 2016 at San Luis, Arizona. Border protection officials, as well immigration experts, have said repeatedly that a border wall is an ineffective style to curb illegal immigration. Benjamin Webb, a former executive director of the policy and planning office for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said earlier this year that the “whole idea of constructing this big wall is preposterous.”

Natural water flows across the Mexican border also would be affected. Existing hurdles have already led to problems like erosion, flooding and sedimentation in perimeter communities. In Arizona, for example, perimeter fencings have been the cause of increased flooding.

The border wall could additionally be a significant contributor of global warming. The production of the cement for a wall such as the one Trump has suggested would produce a lot of greenhouse gases, since cement production is a coal-fired, carbon-intensive process, said Millis.

According to the MIT Technology Review , Trumps wall would contain some 9. 7 million cubic meters of concrete and 2.3 billion kilograms of steel the production of which would make more than 7.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

For some context, thats the same as the emissions from 823,654 homes over the course of a year, wrote the publication. And thats on the low end: ongoing maintenance, re-routing of traffic, and other unforeseen outcomes could all push the figure far higher.

Daniel Becerril/ Reuters A demonstrator holds a placard read: “No wall. Respect to immigrants and human rights” during a protest at President Trump’s proposed perimeter wall and to call for unity, in Monterrey, Mexico, February 12, 2017.

Environmentalists say they are particularly concerned that Trump, thanks to a legal loophole, may be able to push through his plans for the wall with little or no environmental oversight.

In 2005, during George W. Bushs presidency, Congress passed a bill that allows the secretary of Department of Homeland Security to waive local, country and federal laws deemed to hinder the building of walls and roads along U.S. perimeters. The Sierra Club said on its website that the law has already been used multiple times by DHS to waive in their totality 37 federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, National Historic Preservation Act and the National Forest Management Act.

In 2008, then-Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff invoked the waiverto bypass environmental laws to build fences along more than 450 miles of the south perimeter. With the stroke of a pen one individual has the ability to dismiss decades of protective statutes passed by Congress and signed by chairmen, all to circumvent local, state, and federal laws when constructing border walls, the Sierra Club said.

Melinda Taylor, an environmental statute prof at the University of Texas, said Trump could exploit this loophole to devastating effect.

The new administration has a wild card they can pulling and its in this law, Taylor told CNN last month.The speech in this law allows them to waive all federal laws that would be an impediment to building any type of physical hurdle along the border, including a wall.

If Trump does use this wild card to duck environmental protections, it will be particularly tragic, said Taylor. If they truly try to build a wall, without taking into consideration environmental laws and without environmental impact statements, the effect of a border wall would be more catastrophic than a border fence.


Dominique Mosbergen is a reporter at The Huffington Post covering climate change, extreme weather and extinction. Send tips or feedback to dominique.mosbergen or follow her on Twitter.

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