Border Patrol Support Worsens Washout by Fixing It


January 23, 2014. We saw the big equipment working away at the Paloma Trail washout. “Border Patrol?” I asked. “Facilities Management and Engineering,” came the reply. The word Division was not mentioned, but the speaker added, “We support the Border Patrol.”

Cool. At this rate, those of us who live below the wash would have a bridge or at least a new concrete apron to help us cross the wash prior to the onset of the monsoon rains next summer. With FM&E getting after it, it wouldn’t take long–

–eh? What’s that?

Oh, foo. Why do I have to go and research these things to the nth degree before publishing? Sure, it keeps my rep as a writer clean, but…here’s the deal.

First, what is Facilities Management and Engineering? Some sources informed me that it was a federal support function for Customs and Border Protection (Border Patrol), comprised of both federal employees and civilian contractors, but not part of the Border Patrol. However, the official website tells a slightly different tale, agreeing about the mix of public and private sector employees but listing FM&E as a division of Customs and Border Protection.

Hey, gotta go with the written word; we’re going to view them in this post as part of BP, not strictly separate. Not that it matters to those of us who live in southern Cochise County and simply hope for a way across the wash.

According to the official website, FM&E is a division of Customs & Border Protection.

According to the official website, FM&E is a division of Customs & Border Protection.

The FM&E mission statement.

The FM&E mission statement.

Okay, so that’s who’s doing the digging. We watched the giant backhoe with the claw, moving concrete chunks around to deposit them where the bulldozer could get at them. The bulldozer shoved them into a huge pile. Most likely, they had trucks on the way to haul that pile somewhere else for disposal–which amounts to a terrible waste of resources; some of those concrete pieces could be put to use in any number of ways.

The Facilities and Management Engineering machinery clears the debris at the wash on Paloma Trail in short order.

The Facilities and Management Engineering machinery clears the debris at the wash on Paloma Trail in short order.

Things were looking good, but wait a minute. Follow-up research discovered the following:

    1. FM&E is only going to take out the busted concrete and fill the hole back in with dirt. They call it “repair”, but their definition of repair does not include replacement of the concrete apron that washed out last July.

    2. An entirely different organization is tasked with “construction” (i.e. pouring concrete or bridge building, etc.)–and that outfit has no money with which to finance a building project through or over the wash on Paloma Trail.

In other words, just like Obamacare, they just made things worse by trying to make things better. If we face another set of summer flash floods with nothing but dirt piled up in that wash (which at this points it looks like we will), the erosion will be worse than ever. Our friend and neighbor Robert Stoner, who’s been keeping a one lane trail functional across the wash for more than six months now, will have nothing to work with, no concrete chunks to use as rip-rap. The footbridge across the wash, which had survived the flash floods, has already been ripped into pieces and shoved aside by the FM&E workers and their machinery.

So, really, guys…thanks an effing lot. You just tripled the problem. Way to go. Yay you. We appreciate your efforts, but your bosses need a brain transplant or two.

Will the “construction” agency or division (or whatever it’s called) do anything to improve the situation? At this point, based on our observations, inquiries, and research, our guess is…no. At least, not until after the Border Patrol reports next summer that yes, things are indeed much worse now than they were before the “repair” was done.

All we’re left with is a pile of dirt through the wash. By the time we drove home this afternoon, the footbridge was gone. Every busted-up concrete chunk was shifted up and out of the wash on the south side, where the pieces huddled in a great pile. There was a freshly worked trail through the wash that was certainly passable but which will not stand up to a flash flood even as well as Robert Stoner’s work would do.

Ah, yes. We are left with one other thing. I did get a pile of photos of the machinery doing its well intentioned thing, as in the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Might as well enjoy a few of those pictures, so they’re posted below.

Overall, the “help” Paloma Trail is getting is sort of like needing a liver transplant and having a surgeon slice out your liver–without having a donor liver on hand to replace it. Good luck with that, and come next July, good luck to all of us who live below the wash.

We’re going to need it.

Curly BP Wash Repair 012

Curly BP Wash Repair 026

Curly BP Wash Repair 031

Curly BP Wash Repair 039

Curly BP Wash Repair 041

Curly BP Wash Repair 046

8:40 p.m. Hmm…. There’s something missing. Ah! Got it. If a picture’s worth a thousand words, how much is a moving picture worth? Time to head on up to the wash, narrate a few minutes of video. True, it’s pitch dark out there, and even the headlights from the Subaru won’t help a whole lot, but still…back in a bit.

10:00 p.m. And here we go. It’s possible my research is wrong, that the support divisions for the Border Patrol will actually be installing something durable (concrete apron, bridge, culverts, whatever) before the monsoons hit this year. That seems unlikely but would definitely be nice.

In the meantime, he-ere’s the video! It’s too dark to see much of anything unless you watch it in full screen mode, in which case you can see a little bit, but the audio portion (narration) came out okay.

Update: January 24, 2014. On our way to town today, we met up with our neighbor, Robert Stoner, and stopped for a moment to chat. Robert always keeps himself as updated as possible on local political issues; we knew that he’d likely have information regarding the wash that we’d missed, and he did.

“Yes,” he confirmed, “it’s only going to be dirt for now. But I attended a meeting on it in Bisbee, and….”

Turns out the federal Border Patrol support divisions have standing orders to fix the wash crossing on Paloma Trail right the next time it washes out. Since it’s not only the civilian residents below the wash who have an interest in this, but also the BP agents who need fast access to the border itself when they’re called to help apprehend illegals crossing the border from Mexico, it makes sense that the agency would want to see a reliable crossing. Our local agents from the Naco Station definitely want to help us as they can, and helping us helps them do their jobs as well.

As it happens, that next washout is not likely to occur before the monsoon rains hit in earnest in July. Unfortunately, once the rainy season begins, it won’t be practical for anyone (federal agency, support company, or private organization) to do any construction across the wash until the monsoons trail off for the year, usually sometime in September (give or take). Which means that we civilians and the area Border Patrol agents will most likely have one more summer of go-the-long-way-around-or-forget-it…but probably no more than that.

Without the footbridge, though, the summer of 2014 could be even a bit trickier than the summer of 2013, depending on how hard the monsoons hit this year.

We’ll keep you posted.

6 thoughts on “Border Patrol Support Worsens Washout by Fixing It

  1. It is a pity that they have to make it worse, and strand so many families when the rains come. Don;t they realize that that is just going to wash away in the first rain? I was afraid they were going to do something stupid like this. They have been getting their budgets cut right and left and don’t have any left for necessary repairs.

  2. It appears to be a case of the left and right hands not being able to coordinate with each other AND not having enough sense to say NO when the total picture doesn’t work out well. My overall impression of FM&E’s attitude is, “Well, I’m doing my part; I can’t help it about those other guys.” And as far as that goes, they’re actually correct.

    In the private sector, you’d not normally find–except in a few ultra-unionized cases, maybe–such a narrow specialization as this. That is, there are certainly situations (and many of them) where excavation and concrete are handled by two different companies, yes, but there is always a general contractor, even when said contractor is the customer or homeowner himself, overseeing the overall project and keeping things on track. The general contractor will say, “Okay, excavation, we’re not going to be able to have you move ahead with your part of the deal until we have concrete ready to follow up instantly after your part is handled.” That sort of common sense control is what’s lacking here.

    Of course, I could be mistaken–and truly hope that I am. Having the construction folks suddenly find a bag of money and miraculously get some real improvement done, yeah, that would be ultra cool. But I’m not holding my breath.

  3. Ghost, that makes no sense. Fix it AFTER the next washout?! That’s asinine. If they’ll have money to fix it then, they have money to fix it now. Not only that, it’ll cost less to do the construction now, rather than later when they’ll have to re-work the dirt before they can construct. If I recall correctly, the washout of Paloma Trail last summer was the worst you’d seen. So, it only makes sense that even a hard rain is going to erode the work that is being done now. Geez, do it right the first time or don’t do it at all.

  4. You’d think. It’s possible they figure the new fiscal year will give them more coin to work with after July, but yeah. It’s certainly a strange way to go about it. Welcome to the federal government.

  5. Hello – I’m looking to move to the area very soon onto the 20 acre parcel down at Javelina & Paloma (to the west of the folks with the strawbale home). I’m going into the purchase knowing about the issue but I was wondering if you or anyone had any sense of real progress this road will be ‘truly’ fixed at some point? Army Corp of Engineers, BPD or County for example? There’s only so much Mr. Stoner can do as a stop gap measure but any insights on real permanent progress that can be shared would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much! ~Rob

  6. Hi, Rob. First things first: Welcome to the neighborhood!

    Best progress I can provide to date goes as follows:

    1. County, no. That does not seem likely.

    2. Border Patrol support agency, maybe…and maybe not. There’s nothing that’s been “cast in concrete” on the federal side at this point, at least that I know about.

    3. However, though Robert Stoner is no longer active in keeping the wash passable, we do presently have a citizen Road Committee comprised of (a) leadership plus (b) any other locals who show up for the meetings. We’re apprised of the meeting times and dates via email. I missed the last one in November due to a sudden need to make a high speed run to North Dakota and back right at that time, but from earlier meetings I can say this much:

    The Committee has contracted with a local road maintenance contractor who knows his stuff. He has fixed the road back up after the 2014 monsoons were done and is “on tap” for further work as needed…but that won’t help much during the actual rainy season. There are several options that have been discussed (if We the People decide to go for a permanent fix on our own), but none of them are cheap. Do feel free to drop me an email (the “Contact” page on this site will tell you how) and I’ll be more than willing to forward to you any road meeting notifications I get.

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