As the Trump border wall government shutdown drags on into its third week, it’s worth considering an important but rarely reported fact that stands in the way of the very idea of a wall along the U.S. Mexico border: a little thing called the Rio Grande River.
Environmental policy expert, Dr. Joe Romm of Think Progress explained earlier today:
…the overwhelming majority of the border, where there isn’t some form of barrier, runs straight down the middle of 1,254 snaking miles of the enormous Rio Grande River.
But the Rio Grande routinely floods. In fact, as ThinkProgress previously reported, flooding has gotten more frequent and more severe in recent years thanks to climate change.
The Trump administration’s own National Climate Assessment concluded in November that “record-breaking flooding events increased over the past 30 years” in the Southern Great Plains (Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas) — and that extreme flooding events are only going to get worse.
That’s why, Romm points out, an almost-50 year old treaty bans such construction along the border:
But putting barriers in the Rio Grande floodplain was actually banned long before countries started worrying about climate change.
The 1970 “Treaty to Resolve Pending Boundary Differences and Maintain the Rio Grande and Colorado River as the International Boundary” states that the joint U.S.-Mexico International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) “must approve construction of works proposed in either country” along those rivers. It explicitly prohibits the construction of projects “which, in the judgment of the commission, may cause deflection or obstruction of the normal flow of the river or of its flood flows.”
…If Trump flagrantly violates the treaty to build his wall, not only will it lead to court challenges, but it will worsen relations with the very country we need to work with if the United States is to improve the border situation….
The bottom line is that building a concrete or steel wall or barrier along the Rio Grande River is a terrible and illegal idea. And yet, the president is shutting down much of the federal government simply because Congress won’t fund it.”