Builder pitched to Trump wins new border wall contract

August 3, 2020 GMT

HOUSTON (AP) — A construction company whose CEO has made direct appeals on Fox News to build President Donald Trump’s border wall won another major contract Monday, this time for nearly $300 million of new barriers in South Texas.

Fisher Industries was awarded a $289 million contract for 17 miles (27 kilometres) in Laredo, Texas, a border city of 250,000 people next to the Rio Grande, the river separating Texas and Mexico.

The North Dakota-based company had already received $1.7 billion in two contracts elsewhere on the border. U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota Republican who received donations in the 2018 election cycle from company CEO Tommy Fisher and his wife, has said he championed Fisher Industries to Trump.

The announcement by U.S. Customs and Border Protection came the same day as a court-ordered inspection of a 3-mile (4.83-kilometre) section of private border wall further down the Rio Grande. Fisher Industries installed fencing just 35 feet (10 meters) from the river, much closer than the government normally builds walls near the Rio Grande due to concerns about erosion and re-routing water in potential violation of treaties with Mexico.

Fisher built the fence — originally promoted by a fundraiser created by Trump supporters — as a showcase of his company’s wall technology for roughly $40 million.

After initial reports of erosion this summer, Trump disavowed the project in a tweet and claimed it was done “to make me look bad.”

A tropical storm in July tore open new gashes in the land in front of the fence. Opponents of the project, including the nonprofit National Butterfly Center adjacent to the land, say the erosion shows the fence shouldn’t have been built.

Javier Peña, a lawyer for the butterfly center, said one of the holes was measured to be 8 feet (2.44 meters) long.

“From what we saw today, I’m not sure taking the fence down will solve all the problems,” he said.

Tommy Fisher said his crews were patching any holes and his company was working to show a bi-national commission that their project would not violate treaty obligations.

“We want to make sure it’s right by everyone,” he said.