Recent river cleanup will be temporarily paused

Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 5:55 PM CDT
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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - It has been almost a week since contractors cut down trees and grass along the riverbank. A local environmental group says contractors swept away vegetation they were not supposed to.

More than 15 acres of greenery were cleared up. The contractors hired for this were supposed to take out invasive trees. However, they did otherwise.

Last week, Border Patrol hired contractors to clean up right next to the riverbanks and below the railroad.

Tricia Cortez, the executive director of the Rio Grande International Study Center (RGISC), said “this is going to lead to major erosion. You don’t have habitat for wildlife anymore.” She says this work was a part of a big miscommunication between all parties. For now, the cleanup is temporarily paused so they can investigate further into this issue.

Cortez said, “they took out a drastic amount of native trees. They took a good amount of trees and left a lot of the invasive species, so we’re trying to tag all the invasive species and make sure they don’t touch the few natives that are left.”

Cortez and other environmentalists say the affected vegetation will take approximately five years to grow back, but it would not be native species but invasive species that will harm the land and the river.

Dr. Tom Vaughan, an environmental expert, explained what those invasive species are. “The principal one, in addition to the cane, is salt cedars. There’s a couple of other species like the mimosa tree and the china berry,” said Vaughan.

He hopes these contractors reverse the damage they did to the riverbank. Vaughan, “if you give a kid a hammer, everything he sees is a nail. Well, you give a contractor a big machine of destruction, then go ahead and he destroys everything on his path.”

Now Cortez, alongside her group, tagged the invasive vegetation so next time when the contractors continue to clean up the area, which will be sometime this week, know that trees with orange and pink tags should be the only ones taken out.

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