Feds, environmental groups take more legal action against Ducey's shipping container wall

Published: Wednesday, December 14, 2022 - 5:16pm
Updated: Thursday, December 15, 2022 - 8:37am
Audio icon Download mp3 (1.11 MB)

The Center for Biological Diversity says it intends to file a new suit against Gov. Doug Ducey’s shipping container wall on federal land in Cochise County. 

The group filed notice of its intent to sue Arizona and AshBritt Inc. — the contractor hired to do the job.

The notice says the project violates the Clean Water Act by blocking streams along the border that feed vital regional aquifers. 

"The shipping containers are blocking dozens and dozens of ephemeral springs in this area," said Russ McSpadden, southwest conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. "State contractors have dumped dirt and other materials into these stream beds and these all feed the San Pedro River." 

This is the second legal action the environmental group has taken against the project — the first, filed in October, focuses on violations of federal wildlife protections.

The new filing comes the same day as the federal government filed its own suit. In it, federal prosecutors say the containers are a threat to public and environmental safety and interfere with the government functions on federal property. It says the makeshift wall has been illegally placed on federal land, including U.S. Forest Service land and Bureau of Reclamation land, and calls for the work to stop, containers removed and environmental remediation to begin. 

In a letter responding to the suit, Ducey's office argues placing shipping containers along the border in Yuma and Cochise counties was meant to be a temporary solution to close gaps in the existing border wall that the federal government had not addressed — and because the projects are already the subject of litigation, further legal action would be redundant.

The project in Cochise County is slated to cost up to $95 million in state funds and has come under intense scrutiny. Over the last few weeks, protesters from around the area have brought construction to a standstill with round-the-clock demonstrations.