Court to decide if private border wall can go next to river

FILE - In this Jan. 30, 2019 photo provided by Sen. Kevin Cramer's office, Tommy Fisher, right, talks with Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., at the lawmaker's office in Washington, D.C. For Fisher, a supporter of President Donald Trump, a federal court hearing set for Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020, next to the U.S.-Mexico border could result in his company getting a chance to prove it can build the president's signature border wall faster and better than the government. (Sen. Kevin Cramer's office via AP, File) (Sen. Kevin Cramer's office)

HOUSTON, TX – For Tommy Fisher, a federal court hearing set for Thursday next to the U.S.-Mexico border could result in his company getting a chance to prove it can build President Donald Trump's signature border wall faster and better than the government.

For environmentalists and some landowners in South Texas, the hearing could clear the way for a project that they say could cause flooding and destroy their property.

A federal judge in the South Texas city of McAllen is expected to decide whether to lift a temporary restraining order against a project to build a privately funded border wall next to the Rio Grande.

Fisher's construction company, which has already won a $400 million border wall contract in Arizona, wants to install 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) of steel posts roughly 35 feet (10 meters) from the U.S. bank of the river. The posts would go on private land, with a concrete road behind them intended for law enforcement.

Dating back to the Secure Fence Act of 2006, the U.S. has largely avoided building right next to the Rio Grande.

The meandering river separating the U.S. and Mexico in Texas sustains wildlife and provides fresh water to both countries through a series of dams and canals, defined by international treaty obligations. To avoid violating those obligations by causing erosion or re-routing water from the river, the U.S. has built much of the border wall in South Texas a mile or more away from its riverbank.

There's been relatively little border wall construction in Texas under Trump, though government attorneys have started going to courtto seize private land for the project.

The U.S. sued to stop Fisher's project, leading to U.S. District Judge Randy Crane issuing a restraining order. Also opposing the project is the National Butterfly Center, a nonprofit located next to the private site.