See what's in store for the border, for all the good it won't do.
For the first time, U.S. Border Patrol officials have released precise locations, a construction schedule and photos of the type of fencing proposed for some areas along the Texas-Mexico border.
The details, posted on the Federal Register Web site by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Monday, triggered anger and disappointment from South Texas business, agriculture and wildlife interests.
Documents posted on the Web site identified 21 segments of fencing along 70 miles of river frontage in the lower Rio Grande Valley, including state parks and federal wildlife refugees. Most of the segments would be around ports of entry, including Brownsville, Rio Grande City, Harlingen and McAllen, according to the documents.
''It's a waste of money -- it's not going to stop anything," said Steve Ahlenius, president of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. ''There are more effective ways to stop illegal immigration, and this isn't one of them."
Fence specifications outlined Monday for the Rio Grande Valley call for a 16-foot-high structure that is ''aesthetically pleasing," yet stout enough to withstand a crash by a 10,000-pound vehicle traveling 40 mph. Individual segments of the fence could range from one to more than 13 miles.
The fencing would include a single-lane, unpaved patrol road, according to documents on the Web site. In the Valley, 508 acres of land will be ''temporarily impacted" by clearing to embed the fence 3 to 6 feet below the ground. The structure must have minimal impact on the movement of small animals and not stop water flow, according to the documents. If approved, construction will begin next spring and continue through December 2008, the government said.
The new plans have underscored ongoing criticism from some along the border who have said the government hasn't consulted locals on the project.
''It's a mistake, and clearly they have not listened to anything anybody who lives on the border has to say," said David Benn, a Brownsville birding guide who volunteers at a private wildlife refuge that would be fenced. ''But I'm not surprised because I think the federal government knew what they were going to do, and all this public input is nothing but window dressing."
The government plans to erect much of the fence along river levees maintained by the International Boundary and Water Commission, which has determined much of the levee system has eroded and needs to be repaired.
Fred Schuster, owner of the 3,000-acre Schuster Farms south of Alamo, said it didn't make sense to install an expensive fence on levees needing repair. ''They need to upgrade the levees first and then think about where they want to build the fence," said Schuster, whose family has farmed on the Rio Grande for 85 years.
Jim Chapman, who chairs the Sierra Club in the Rio Grande Valley, expressed dismay at plans to build on habitat the U.S. Department of Interior has spent nearly three decades preserving.
''The fence, even though it's not continuous, is an unmitigated disaster for wildlife along the river," Chapman said. ''It's a mighty sorry way to treat the national wildlife refuge on the river that protects more species of plants and animals than any other refuge in North America."