Tommy Fisher billed his new privately funded border wall as the future of deterrence, a quick-to-build steel fortress that spans 3 miles in one of the busiest Border Patrol sectors.
Unlike a generation of wall builders before him, he said he figured out how to build a structure directly on the banks of the Rio Grande, a risky but potentially game-changing step when it came to the nation’s border wall system.
Fisher has leveraged his self-described “Lamborghini” of walls to win more than $1.7 billion worth of federal contracts in Arizona.
But his showcase piece is showing signs of runoff erosion and, if it’s not fixed, could be in danger of falling into the Rio Grande, according to engineers and hydrologists who reviewed photos of the wall for ProPublica and The Texas Tribune. It never should have been built so close to the river, they say.
Fisher’s New Mexico and South Texas private fence projects have gone up with financial and political help from We Build the Wall, an influential conservative nonprofit that counts former Trump political strategist Steve Bannon as a board member. The group says it has raised $25 million toward the private wall effort and claims to have agreements with landowners on 250 miles of riverfront property in Texas.
Fisher’s success and the $1.3 billion contract in Arizona he won in May — the largest border wall contract ever awarded — came despite repeated questions about his qualifications and work. Army Corps of Engineers officials have said the firm won because it submitted the lowest bid.
Last December, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., called for the Pentagon’s inspector general to review Fisher’s first $400 million fence contract, awarded in December over concerns of “inappropriate influence.” The audit is ongoing.