El Pason_Homeland Security officials on Thursday presented details of plans to build about 57 miles of border fencing and add other border enforcement technology in the El Paso area.
Barry Morrisey, a Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman, said federal officials presented the plans at a city ballroom Thursday to get reaction on an environmental assessment drafted in advance of construction.
The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2008.
Officials explained proposed locations for five sections of double-layer steel fencing that will stretch from just east of downtown El Paso to just east of the port of entry at Fort Hancock.
All told, 56.7 miles of fencing is expected to be built across largely rural areas in El Paso and Hudspeth counties, Morrisey said.
The Department of Homeland Security was most interested in comments focusing on environmental issues that may have been overlooked during the review, but planned to take complaints about the fence project too, Morrisey said.
About 35 people protested outside. Saul Soto of the Border Network for Human Rights, which organized the protest, said the fence is a waste of "resources and a waste of taxpayer money."
"Human smugglers are going to find a way," Soto said.
Residents and property owners along the U.S.-Mexico border have complained about the construction of fencing. In South Texas, where opposition has been widespread, land owners refused to give the government access to property that may be used for fencing.
The government has since sued more than 50 property owners, including the city of Eagle Pass, to gain access to the land.
Morrisey said he didn't expect such opposition in El Paso, where residents have seen about 14 miles of fencing and flood lights affixed to towering poles for more than a decade.
Construction plans also don't call for the use of private land, he said.