The Texas Facilities Commission continues negotiating with private landowners for the rights to build segments of a state-funded border wall. Without these agreements, the state can’t move forward with building more segments of the wall.
The first 1.77-mile stretch of a state-funded wall was built on state-owned property in Starr county near the town of La Grulla.
On Sept. 29, the Commission awarded more than $300,000,000 in contracts to build nearly 14 more miles of wall in Starr and Val Verde counties.
Southwest Valley Constructors Co. was awarded a $167-million contract to build 6.77 miles of wall in the Del Rio sector and BFBC of Texas was awarded a $140-million contract to build 6.95 miles of wall in the Rio Grande Valley.
During this meeting TFC dep. executive director, John Raff said they had closed or were in the process of closing a little over 2 and-a-half miles of easements for the Del Rio project.
Raff also explained the difference in pricing for the various contracts was due to the market value of materials, the topography of the area where construction is taking place, access to the area, the number of gates needed, drainage crossings, and integration with existing roads and levees.
Last year, the TFC awarded Posillico Civil, Inc. a $162,000,000 contract to build a total of 8 miles of wall. Posillico is the company that built the first 1.77-mile segment.
According to the TFC, the Texas Department of Public Safety has identified 40 miles where it believes a border wall is needed.
To move forward with building other sections of the wall, the TFC needs to secure right-of-way easements to build on private land. During an Aug. 18 meeting, TFC executive director Mike Novak explained securing easements is a tedious 14-step process.
“Each of these are complicated, they take time, sometimes months to get through just one step,” Novak said during the Aug. meeting.
During an Oct. 20 meeting, Novak informed commissioners the TFC had reached agreements for 36 tracts of land with another 142 still being negotiated. Novak was optimistic about the TFC’s chances of securing more right-of-way easements.
“There’s not one easy thing about this but we’ve really loaded that pipeline now, and we’re making great progress and when I say momentum, I mean momentum,” said Novak.
TFC Commissioner Brian Bailey was equally optimistic, saying the project was a top priority.
“There’s a lot of work ahead of us. We’ve made some good progress, but we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Bailey said during Thursday’s meeting.
KPRC 2 Investigates filed a Texas Public Information Act request for a list of all land owners the TFC is negotiating with, and where in the process they are with the negations.
The TFC declined to release the information, arguing it is confidential, and asked the Texas Attorney General’s Office to make a ruling on the issue. On Oct. 21 KPRC 2 received a letter from the AG’s office reading the TFC may withhold the requested information because “release of this information would damage the commission’s planning and negotiating position with respect to the acquisition of the easements needed for the project at issue.”
The wall is part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s $4-billion border security initiative. Abbott announced his border wall initiative in June 2021 and began soliciting public donations. The governor’s office reports receiving $55,367,009 in donations as of Sept. 28.
A KPRC 2 analysis of those donations shows 96% came from Wyoming billionaire Timothy Mellon, the grandson of former US Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon.