Arizona's outgoing governor agrees to take down his shipping container border wall after federal lawsuit

Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images
Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images Shipping containers along Arizona-Mexico border

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) agreed in court documents Wednesday to dismantle a barrier made of double-high shipping containers and razor wire he had ordered constructed along parts of his state's border with Mexico. The Biden administration had sued Ducey on Dec. 14, arguing that the barrier was illegally built on federal land and was causing damage to vegetation and seasonal streams in the Coronado National Forest.

Ducey ordered the construction of the barrier in August. In October, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation sent him a letter warning that the project was effectively trespassing on federal land. Ducey refused to remove the containers, Arizona sued the Biden administration, and the Justice Department filed its lawsuit last week.

By agreeing to stop building the barrier and removing "all previously installed shipping containers and associated equipment, materials, vehicles, and other objects" by Jan. 4, Ducey avoids a federal restraining order or other court action on behalf of the federal government. Ducey is leaving office on Jan. 5. Incoming Governor-elect Katie Hobbs (D) has called the container barrier a waste of taxpayer money.

Building the border barrier has cost at least $82 million, Ducey's office says, using funds approved by the GOP-controlled state Legislature. It's not clear "how much it would cost to remove the 9,000-pound boxes and repair environmental damage done after bulldozers cut roads, blocked streams, and uprooted oaks and junipers," The New York Times reports.

A Ducey spokesman said the governor agreed to remove the roughly 125 old shipping containers because he believes the Biden administration will build a permanent barrier in gaps near Yuma, as the Homeland Security Department announced in July.

Russ McSpadden, a critic of the barrier at the Center for Biological Diversity, said "Ducey has wasted countless millions of taxpayer dollars building his damaging and illegal shipping container wall," but "nevertheless, we're very pleased to see him agree to remove his political stunt."

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