- The United States Army Corps of Engineers this week issued Southwest Valley Constructors a contract modification worth $524 million for design-build services on a barrier wall replacement project in Tucson, Arizona, at the border between the U.S. and Mexico.
- The change brings Southwest's contract amount for the project to almost $1.2 billion when combined with the May 2019 initial contract's award of $646 million for the same project. The work awarded in May was scheduled for completion in January 2020, while the work under this latest modification should be finished by Sept. 7, 2021.
- The maximum value of the entire fixed-price, design-build contract was listed as almost $1.3 million.
Southwest, which is affiliated with Kiewit Infrastructure, was one of 12 contractors shortlisted by the Army Corps in May to bid on approximately $5 billion of border wall projects during the next five years. The work will include barriers, access roads, lighting, gates, drainage and levee wall infrastructure and other improvements along the border in the Department of Homeland Security's San Diego, El Centro, Yuma and Tucson Border Patrol sectors.
Other contractors eligible to bid on this particular package of projects include BFBC, located in Bozeman, Montana; Texas Sterling Construction Co. in Houston; Bristol Construction Services LLC in Anchorage, Alaska; and Fisher Sand & Gravel in Dickinson, North Dakota.
President Donald Trump and his administration have been successful in fighting legal challenges related to border wall construction and have also enacted rules that have made it more difficult for those trying to stop the installation of new and replacement barriers.
DHS has regularly exempted border wall projects from laws like the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Historic Preservation Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. It announced in February that it would also waive federal procurement regulations as well in order to hasten certain barrier projects. The waiver includes the usual requirements of the federal bidding process such as choosing the lowest-priced, technically correct proposal, but the directive covers the shortlisted contractors only.
And despite the global coronavirus pandemic, the administration is pushing through with border contract awards and planning.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in conjunction with the Army Corps, earlier this month awarded Randy Kinder Excavating Inc. a $175.6 million contract to build 15 miles of a steel-bollard border wall system in Starr County, Texas. That project is expected to begin this year pending the acquisition of land.
On March 16, Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf issued six waivers (published in the Federal Register here, here, here, here, here and here) that will allow the DOD to assist with border wall construction and will also exempt additional projects from environmental regulations. Wolf took these actions citing "an acute and immediate need" to build physical barriers and access roads at certain areas of the border.
The $2 trillion stimulus package passed today by Congressional lawmakers will not allow funds to be transferred to the border wall, however. "Notably, while the Pentagon will be allowed to transfer the money to other 'applicable; accounts, it prohibits transferring the money to the counter-drug account, an account which has been used to fund Trump's border wall," CNN's Ryan Browne reports.