U.S. Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego, today urged Janet Napolitano, the Homeland Security secretary, to immediately fix the barren hillsides left behind by border fence construction near the Tijuana Estuary.

As we reported last week, the federal agencies responsible for building the $59 million section of fence — the Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Homeland Security — left barren hillsides behind. Their contractors sprayed seeds on newly cut hills that support a new, second layer of fence, but didn’t irrigate them, leaving bare, vegetation-free earth 600 feet away from the southern edge of the Tijuana Estuary. Officials who oversee the estuary worry that rain will erode the hillsides into the 2,500-acre salt marsh, which could turn wetlands into dry land.

In a letter to Napolitano, Davis said that Homeland Security officials had assured her as recently as August that the hills would be stable before the looming rainy season hit.

“That is clearly not the case,” Davis wrote. “I urge you to maintain the fence project with DHS’s previously stated commitment to irrigation, maintenance and habitat restoration in mind.”

Davis notes that the Army Corps will install more erosion control matting. She also requested numerous documents about the planned mitigation efforts and Homeland Security’s monitoring plans.

Others are also pressuring the feds to fix the problem. County Supervisor Greg Cox is asking his colleagues to authorize the county’s top executive to lobby the federal government to develop plans to not only mitigate the fence’s impacts but also the deluge of garbage that washes into the Tijuana Estuary each winter.

“Unfortunately, current conditions are of such grave magnitude and complexity, that temporary fixes and small-scale efforts are not enough,” Cox wrote in a memo. “This is a complex issue of national and international scope that requires prompt and effective federal action using federal resources.”

ROB DAVIS

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