[IN-DEPTH] Water woes rise with border wall in Cochise County

By Rocky Baier and Curt Prendergast | Arizona Daily Star  

As picnickers barbecued and chatted next to an idyllic pond on the Slaughter Ranch in the southeastern corner of Cochise County, a crane operator on a hilltop a few miles away added panels to the new 30-foot-tall border wall.

The roughly 200 feet of wall that stood along the border on the afternoon of Oct. 30 marked the start of the third border wall project in Southern Arizona, after Yuma and Lukeville. In the coming months, the wall will replace 19 miles of chest-high vehicle barriers that run through rolling hills, mesquite-covered ranch land, and a wildlife refuge east of Douglas.

Slaughter Ranch is “a fun place for birders,” says biologist Jennie MacFarland, being home to varieties rarely seen north of the border.
/Photo by Josh Galemore / Arizona Daily Star

As contractors add to the wall, they will pump thousands of gallons of well water every day to mix concrete for the wall’s foundation and to spray down dusty roads.

Despite construction already being underway, ranchers and federal officials are still unclear how much water will be used and how that will impact nearby properties and the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge.

Vickie Dunn, co-manager of the Slaughter Ranch, a small property that houses cattle, sheep, several dogs, and a historical museum next to the border, said she is worried that wall construction could ruin the pond and the nearby wildlife refuge that attract local residents, schoolchildren and birders from all over.

“We had a drilling expert out here, and he said that it’s possible that our pond will actually toilet-bowl, like when you flush a toilet, because all the water could be suctioned out all at one time, within hours. The entire pond,” Dunn said.

“It’s possible we could lose the water all in one shot, with no warning at all, and it’s possible that we won’t lose it at all,” Dunn said. “We won’t know until it happens.”

The Slaughter Ranch’s pond is home to endangered species and attracts birds rarely seen north of the border, as well as the bird enthusiasts who follow them.


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November 2019