- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded BFBC LLC, a subsidiary of Bozeman, Montana-based Barnard Construction, a $569 million contract modification for the construction of approximately 17.2 miles of barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border in California. This adds to the $141.7 million contract awarded to the company in May for work in California and Arizona.
- BFBC will perform the additional design-build work in San Diego and El Centro, California, and should be complete by June 30, 2021. The original contract includes work in El Centro and Yuma, Arizona, and will see the completion of vehicle and pedestrian barriers. That work is scheduled to wrap up by Jan. 31.
- The Army Corps said in a press release that these projects are being delivered in response to the Department of Homeland Security's request that the Defense Department assist in securing the southern border and block drug-smuggling corridors through the construction of roads, fences and lighting systems.
The continuation of border wall construction and the awarding of contracts during the COVID-19 pandemic has drawn the ire of Democratic lawmakers, four of whom penned a letter asking the President Donald Trump administration to halt the wall initiative just days before this latest contract announcement.
"All federal resources being spent on the wall are desperately needed to fight the pandemic," four members of Congress said in the letter. "Of the billions this Administration diverted from the Department of Defense, hundreds of millions were meant for emergency and disaster responses for National Guard units across the country."
In addition, the authors of the letter admonished the administration for waiving laws that would protect the public health and safety of those living and working around the border wall construction sites, as well as construction crews.
The Trump administration has regularly waived clean air, water, cultural and other environmental regulations in order to expedite wall construction. In fact, according to a Defenders of Wildlife article published on YubaNet.com, the DHS has issued 28 such waivers since the Trump administration started construction on wall projects. The latest waiver covers work in the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Texas,
"We urge you to stop wasting critical federal resources and putting the lives of the millions who call the border region home at grave risk during this unprecedented health crisis and immediately cease all construction efforts," the lawmakers wrote.
Responding to reports that Barnard has political connections to the Trump administration and that the $33.1 million per mile that BFBC is getting under this most recent contract award is well above the $20 million-per-mile other contractors have received, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee, said, "The contracting process should be merit-based and free from political influence and corruption. Equally important is the fact that, at a time when the Trump Administration should be mobilizing resources, including the Army Corps of Engineers, to help effectively combat coronavirus and save lives, the Trump administration is instead directing half a billion dollars to a no-bid contract to build an ineffective wall."