MCALLEN—Construction of a private border wall in Texas can proceed, a federal judge ruled Thursday, over the objections of the U.S. government, which fears the project could shift the border itself and imperil a treaty with Mexico.
Fisher Industries, a North Dakota-based construction firm, is funding the estimated $42 million, 3-mile project on private property in South Texas’s Rio Grande Valley.
The project has been on hold since Dec. 5, when U.S. attorneys obtained a temporary restraining order, arguing the that the wall is being built too close to the Rio Grande and could violate a treaty with Mexico by eroding soil and potentially altering the course of the waterway when it floods. Neither the U.S. nor Mexico may alter the river’s course because it is an international border.
U.S. District Judge Randy Crane said the government had not proven the project would cause permanent damage, nor, he said, had the neighboring National Butterfly Center, which separately sued claiming the wall would flood its refuge. The judge declined to continue the restraining order.
Tommy Fisher, president of the company, said crews will begin installing the wall’s panels Sunday and may have the whole 3 miles up within weeks.
“We’re just happy we can move forward,” he said. “We wouldn’t have taken a $40 million gamble if we didn’t know it would work.”
Angela Dodge, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said the government is disappointed but respects the decision of the court.
Marianna Trevino Wright, director of the butterfly refuge, said, “Today we had a federal judge refuse to uphold an international treaty.”
Mr. Fisher said his private wall will show off his construction style and help him gain future federal contracts. Fisher Industries last month received a $400 million contract to build a government border wall in Arizona. That award is under investigation after reports that Fisher, the recipient of vocal support from President Trump, hadn’t previously met qualification criteria.
The property being used for the construction is owned by a family who support Mr. Fisher’s work. The riverbanks, however, belong to the government under the treaty with Mexico.