The U.S. Border Patrol plans to poison the plant life along a 1.1-mile stretch of the Rio Grande riverbank as soon as Wednesday to get rid of the hiding places used by smugglers, robbers and illegal immigrants.
If successful, the $2.1 million pilot project could later be duplicated along as many as 130 miles of river in the patrol’s Laredo Sector, as well as other parts of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Although Border Patrol and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials say the chemical is safe for animals, detractors say the experiment is reminiscent of the Vietnam War-era Agent Orange chemical program and raises questions about long-term effects.
“We don’t believe that is even moral,” said Jay Johnson-Castro Sr., executive director of the Rio Grande International Study Center, located at Laredo Community College, adjacent to the planned test area.
“It is unprecedented that they’d do it in a populated area,” he said of spraying the edge of the Rio Grande as it weaves between the cities of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.
Seriously. How are you going to guarantee that no spray will get in the water? Do you know what the effects on soil or future plant growth will be? Can you guarantee that the poison won't be spread via wind, water, or erosion to places where people's livelihoods depend on growing plants?
All this over fucking weed? (pun intended)
I guess it could be worse:
A U.S. government outline of the project indicates the Border Patrol is going to test three methods to rid the 1.1-mile bank of river of carrizo cane, which has thick stalks that form tight, isolated trails that can be dark and all but invisible from higher up on the bank.
One method calls for the cane to be cut by hand and the stumps painted with the herbicide, Imazapyr.
Another involves using mechanical equipment to dig the cane out by the roots. It is unclear if herbicides would be necessary in this scenario.
The third and most controversial removal method calls for helicopters spraying Imazapyr directly on the cane — repeatedly — until all plant life in the area is poisoned.
The Border Patrol said that after using the herbicide, it plans to make the river’s edges green again by planting native plants.
Johnson-Castro said he has no issue with removing the cane, a non-native plant brought by the Spaniards centuries ago. The challenge, he said, is how it is done.
“We are saying it is one hell of a big deal,” he said.
No freaking kidding.