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Tempe firm among 4 finalists for concrete border wall prototypes

Federal officials have picked four companies, including one from Tempe, Arizona, to build concrete prototypes of President Trump's promised wall along the Southwestern border.

Tempe-based Fisher Sand & Gravel/DBA Fisher Industries was selected, along with Caddell Construction in Montgomery, Ala., Texas Sterling Construction in Houston, Texas, and W.G. Yates & Sons Construction in Philadelphia, Miss.

The prototypes are expected to cost between $400,000 to $500,000 each, said Ronald Vitiello, acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, who announced the four companies during a press conference in Washington D.C.

The four companies will meet with CBP officials to discuss timing and access issues, and then will have 30 days to complete their prototypes at a CBP location near San Diego, Calif.. Construction may begin in a few weeks, Vitiello said.

Trump threatens gov't shutdown over wall funding

Last week in Phoenix, Trump announced that he would consider hamstringing the federal budget if congressional Democrats did not pass funding for the construction of a border wall.

"And we are building a wall on the southern border which is absolutely necessary," Trump said. The crowd cheered and chanted, "Build that wall."

"Now the obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it. But believe me, if we have to close down our government, we're building that wall," he said.

Vitiello said the choices were a "significant milestone," while environmental groups in Arizona criticized the announcement.

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"Trump’s border wall obsession is spinning out of control," said Brian Segee, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "These prototypes are the first step toward a wall that will endanger wildlife and habitat, increase human suffering, sow division and become a monument to Trump’s hate and ignorance." 

"While people across the country are uniting to help each other following Hurricane Harvey, the Trump administration is pushing ahead its divisive plan for a wall along the U.S.- Mexico border," said Dan Millis, the Sierra Club's borderlands organizer. "The wall prototypes will be literal concrete reminders of this administration’s harsh plot to target immigrant families for deportations that would shatter lives and shred the fabric of tight knit border communities," he said.

Details of the prototype designs were not immediately available, a CBP spokesman said Thursday. 

The process had been delayed, said the spokesman, because of protests from two companies that were not selected. However, several days ago the Government Accountability dismissed the protest, he said.

"Other plans on the way for other segments," Vitello said, "This is the first new initiative that ads to our bigger plans." 

"Prototyping is an industry-tested approach to identify the best solution when considering a new product or methodology," said Rob Daniels, a CBP spokesman. "Through the construction of prototypes, CBP will partner with industry to identify additional means and methods to construct a border wall." 

Vitiello told reporters that construction will likely begin within "a couple of weeks." Each company is required to build a 30-foot long prototype, and while the companies will not be required to place sensors and other infrastructure in their wall design, the agency has a "general sense" of the sensors and other equipment that could be placed in the wall. "Then we can decide where they will go," Vitiello said.

'Beautiful wall'

During his political campaign, President Donald Trump made the construction of a border wall one of primary campaign promises, including last September when he told a crowd of thousands in Phoenix that he would seek the construction of an "impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, and beautiful southern border wall." 

The wall would use "the best technology" along with sensors, towers, and surveillance to protect the new wall, and he insisted, despite Mexico's refusal, that Mexican authorities would "work with" the United States and pay for the wall, Trump promised. 

The construction of a concrete wall was one of two requests for proposals submitted by CBP in March to design and build prototypes for two kinds of walls along the U.S.-Mexico border, including a "physically imposing" wall of reinforced concrete. 

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The proposal said the wall should be about 30 feet high, but added that it could be as low as 18 feet in some places. The current bollard-style fencing in Arizona rises to about 18 feet in many areas. 

"Offerers should consider this height, but designs with heights of at least 18 feet may be acceptable,” the proposal documents said. "Designs with heights of less than 18 feet are not acceptable."

"The government's nominal concept is a 30-foot high wall," the agency said. 

The wall should be  impossible for a person to climb to the top of the wall from either side without assistance, and the wall should include "anti-climb topping features that prevent scaling using common and more sophisticated climbing aids (e.g. grappling hooks, handholds, etc.)," the agency said. 

The wall should also prevent digging or tunneling beneath it for a minimum of 6 feet below the wall's lowest grade, and should be able to withstand an attack from hand-held tools, jackhammers, battery-operated cutting tools, and acetylene torches for at least an hour. 

The only nods to environmental concerns were a requirement that wall's north side be "aesthetically pleasing" in color and texture to blend in with the surrounding environment, and that the wall should be able to allow surface drainage. 

The wall must be able to climb slopes up to 45 degree grades, and should be "cost effective to construct, maintain and repair," the agency said. 

Vitiello said that the agency would consider costs and feasibility issues, and ultimately, the agency would "Select the product that gives us the best value for our requirements," he said. 

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Construction workers use a crane to place a new segment of border wall near Naco, Arizona.