A woman wades across the Rio Grande into Chihuahua. She’s a US citizen on her way to see family in Mexico living a few hundred yards from the shore. It’s not illegal to exit the US here, only to return the same way. The nearest legal crossing is close to two hours away. (Lorne Matalon)
A version of this story also aired on the Texas Standard, a statewide reporting collaboration led by KUT in Austin Texas and KPBS, San Diego.
CANDELARIA, Texas — The United States and Mexico are pouring money into a showcase experiment to rescue damaged economies on the Texas-Mexico border.
But that experiment only involves two towns, Boquillas in Mexico and the community of visitors and National Park Service personnel at Big Bend National Park, a epic mosaic of desert, rock and sky that already draws hundreds of thousands of adventure travelers every year.
There are dozens of other towns along this section of the border, forgotten, struggling, where residents claim they’re forced in some cases to break the law to survive.
Congressional Representative Will Hurd (R-Texas) on the left with the Mayor of Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Miguel Carreón in Mexico. Hurd sits on the House Committee on Homeland Security. He says he’ll ask the State Dept for data on how it determined that Ojinaga be listed on a travel advisory. The State Dept has told the Fronteras Desk that organized crime poses a threat here. (Lorne Matalon)
The BJ Bishop Wetland in Presidio, Texas, lies between a water treatment plant and the Rio Grande. The man-made wetland is filled with treated waste water from the plant. Construction is funded by Congress. A bipartisan bill before Congress proposes to extend funding for wetland construction. (Lorne Matalon)
PRESIDIO, Texas — A man-made wetland is now under construction on the Rio Grande, the first on the Texas-Mexico border.
Terry Bishop stands beside the wetland named for his father, BJ Bishop. The younger Bishop plans to replicate this man-made wetland on a nearby ancient floodplain where the Rio Grande joins the Rio Conchos at Ojinaga, Chihuahua. (Lorne Matalon)
And this new wetland will be the first on the Rio Grande to use treated wastewater to restore habitat. This comes as Congress is considering a bipartisan bill to extend funding for the construction of wetlands.
The Rio Grande has lost huge swaths of bird and wildlife habitat because water has been diverted for farming and human consumption and the population of the Southwest has grown exponentially.
The new man-made wetland leverages geography and a blend of private and federal funding.