By: Lucas Laforte
Summary: American support for the construction of a wall at our southern border is unenthusiastic to say the least. New York Times reported that over 60% of Americans oppose the wall, but they aren’t the only ones. Mother nature always seems to have a destructive way of telling us when it’s in opposition to our infrastructure. In September of this year, monsoon related weather has taken a toll on newly build parts of the border wall. Earlier in the year, erosion from Hurricane Hanna left “gaping holes” and “waist deep cracks” on the bank of the Rio Grande. Just recently on another three mile stretch along the Rio Grande, heavy rains have cause extreme erosion surrounding the wall, putting it at major risk of collapsing. Scientists and engineers warned of such problems beforehand, citing pervious erosion events caused by hurricanes and mass flooding, but the hard-headedness of the Trump Administration ultimately led to its construction anyways. Historically, politicians and scientists were in agreement that building a wall along this river bank would cause the exact problems we are seeing now. The company responsible for the construction has touted the durability of their wall, promising to keep maintenance on the integrity of it with quarterly inspections with more thorough inspections after major storm events. Even after all this, engineers insist that worsening weather patterns from climate change, such as more intense hurricanes and longer monsoon seasons, will perpetuate the severity of the erosion along the river, leading to the eventual collapse of the wall.
Why we should care? This is a topic worth caring about because of the catastrophic damage that can be done by erosion. Not only that, but also the acceleration of erosion due to the infrastructure decisions we make in this country.
I find this topic to be particularly interesting because of my analysis of the interaction between science, nature, and the government. Throughout history, those three elements have seemed to be at odds with one another. The interests of the government often don’t coincide with science and academic consensus, and this topic is a perfect example of that. Most scientific analysis argued against a border wall along the Rio Grande river with the reasoning that it would accelerate erosion. Even with that being the case, construction of the wall continued and we are now seeing the exact issues arising that scientists warned us about.
Science in Action.
Dr. Alex Mayer is a Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Texas at El Paso.
Throughout his career, Dr. Alex Mayor has spent much of his time researching solutions for water resource problems. Much of his research has been done on the basin of the Rio Grande river, the one at risk of extreme erosion due to the construction of the border wall. After viewing overhead photos of the damage, his on-the-ground analysis concluded that erosion damage is “far worse than what we saw from the photos.” He later concluded that two or three more storms similar in intensity to Hurricane Hanna would erode the soil on the bank so much that the wall is likely to collapse.