Big Bend Conservancy
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80R13038 CLE-F By: Gallego H.C.R. No. 164 Substitute the following for H.C.R. No. 164: By: Krusee C.S.H.C.R. No. 164 HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION WHEREAS, In 1962, Pub. L. No. 87-525 authorized the construction of an international bridge across the Rio Grande to join Heath Canyon in Texas with the village of La Linda, Coahuila, Mexico, for the purpose of transporting refined ore into the United States from nearby mills in Mexico and to one day facilitate the movement of tourists interested in visiting the Sierra del Carmen mountain areas across from Big Bend National Park; and WHEREAS, Since the bridge was constructed, the Texas Department of Transportation has, without interruption, maintained Farm-to-Market Road 2627 as a paved two-lane highway for a 28-mile stretch connecting the bridge to United States Highway 385, which leads from that junction southward to Big Bend National Park and northward 40 miles to Marathon and United States Highway 90; and WHEREAS, La Linda Bridge, also known as the Hallie Stillwell Memorial Bridge, is still in place and is in good repair but cannot be crossed by vehicles or pedestrians because of barriers and the placement of "no trespassing" signs at the bridge since 1997 pursuant to orders issued by the governments of the United States of America and the United Mexican States; and WHEREAS, The La Linda international crossing is the only bridge structure in place and the only point of entry authorized by public law between the United States ports of entry at Presidio and Del Rio, a distance of 385 miles; and WHEREAS, The owners of the United States section of the international bridge at La Linda wish the bridge to be reopened and operated as a legal border crossing; and WHEREAS, Local residents, wildlife and conservation groups, outfitters, guides, and hospitality providers who recognize the unique attractions of the Big Bend-Maderas del Carmen mountain desert corridor wish to see the planned growth of a conservation-minded tourism economy but are unable to proceed if the La Linda crossing is not functioning; and WHEREAS, The safety of tourists wishing to enjoy the area, the binational scientific cooperation called for under existing international agreements, and the security and public safety of communities and citizens on both sides of the international border would be enhanced by a functioning border crossing at La Linda; and WHEREAS, Over the past six years the State of Coahuila and the Commissioners Court of Brewster County, represented by the Big Bend Border Council and joined by a coalition of local residents and the Big Bend National Park Superintendent, have repeatedly requested that the United States Department of State and the Mexican Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores take the necessary actions to have the bridge and border crossing at La Linda reopened by the United States and Mexican federal governments; and WHEREAS, The Binational Bridges and Border Crossings working group, composed of United States and Mexican federal authorities responsible for authorizing international ports of entry and required inspections along the international boundary, is convened semiannually by the United States Department of State and the Mexican Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores and will meet in the coming months to consider action on either reopening the bridge at La Linda or ordering its removal; and WHEREAS, In furtherance of meeting preconditions for reopening the bridge set forth by the United States Department of State, an agreement on consolidation of ownership into a single entity with the capacity to maintain and operate an international bridge has been reached between the owners of the United States section of the bridge; and WHEREAS, It is in the economic, cultural, and security interests of the State of Texas and the homeland security interest of the United States of America to have a functioning border-crossing station under the management and control of trained and equipped law enforcement and public safety officials in the extensive area known as the Big Bend; now, therefore, be it RESOLVED, That the 80th Legislature of the State of Texas hereby express its support and encouragement for the reopening of the bridge and border crossing at La Linda to accommodate trade and tourism between Texas and Coahuila, Mexico, and to better protect residents of both countries and secure the protection of our nation from threats that might be associated with the illegal crossing of individuals or materials with a lethal intent; and, be it further RESOLVED, That the legislature hereby urge the governor and the Texas Economic Development and Tourism Office, the Texas Department of Transportation, the Parks and Wildlife Department, the secretary of state, the Department of Public Safety, the General Land Office, the Texas Historical Commission, and other appropriate state agencies to render encouragement and assistance to Brewster County and the owners of the La Linda bridge in their efforts to reopen the bridge and to assume a role as a stakeholder in planning cooperative conservation and tourism initiatives across the Big Bend-Maderas del Carmen area; and, be it further RESOLVED, That the legislature hereby urge representatives of the Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Department of Transportation to meet at the earliest possible time with representatives of the owners of the United States section of the La Linda bridge, of Brewster County, and of Big Bend National Park to review the status of the bridge and, as they may deem appropriate, recommend formation of an ad hoc liaison committee to offer advice and facilitation to Brewster County and the owners of the La Linda bridge on the future of the bridge and plans for cross-border tourism and conservation; and, be it further RESOLVED, That the legislature hereby call upon the United States Department of State to communicate the interest of the State of Texas in this matter to the government of the United Mexican States and to all other parties participating in decisions relating to either reopening or removing the bridge at La Linda; and, be it further RESOLVED, That the Texas secretary of state forward official copies of this resolution to all the members of the Texas delegation to the United States Congress and to the United States secretary of state and the Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores, United Mexican States.
Alas, I fear one night the bridge will disappear like balancing rock did at EROCK long ago - kaboom! And that will end the La Linda bridge controversy once and for all.
Group seeks to reopen border bridgeBy MEGAN WILDEFAR WEST TEXAS – While the Department of Homeland Security plans border barriers, a local group is working to reopen La Linda international bridge east of Big Bend National Park.For more than six years, a coalition of Brewster County and Coahuila residents and non-profits has been trying to restore the single-lane La Linda bridge, which was barricaded in 1997. The coalition sees the crossing as the lynchpin for a cross-border tourism economy between Big Bend National Park and adjacent protected natural areas in Mexico’s Sierra del Carmen.Last week the Texas legislature passed a resolution encouraging the U.S. Department of State to return the bridge to service. Armed with the state’s support, the local coalition plans to discuss the bridge at an upcoming meeting with the national authorities who sanction ports of entry.The coalition argues La Linda is uniquely situated to be reopened. Congress approved the bridge’s construction in 1962, making it the only federally authorized bridge along the 385-mile stretch between Presidio and Del Rio. Unlike the area’s other informal border crossings, which were closed after September 11, La Linda was an official port of entry for decades, used primarily by chemical companies transporting fluorspar from Coahuila mines to the railroad in Marathon.Having served as a port of entry before, the bridge is the most practical place for tourists to cross between Big Bend and the Mexican nature preserves, according to Ty Fain, president of Marathon’s Rio Grande Institute and a leader of the local coalition.“To get there from Presidio or Del Rio,” he said, “that’s not practical.”Fain believes opening La Linda would allow a nature-tourism economy to grow on both sides of the Rio Grande.“If Mexico can put national parks and recreational areas over there, building an economy like we have in the Big Bend area, it’ll be good for them and it’ll be good for us,” Fain said. “But that’s not going to happen if they remain in total isolation.”While the state resolution is a step forward for Fain’s group, there’s still a way to go to connect the Chihuahuan desert natural areas.“I think [the resolution] was probably a good thing to do, but the final decision is going to be up to Homeland Security and Customs and Immigration,” said Big Bend National Park Superintendent William Wellman. “And I’m not sure how much influence it will have.”It was U.S. Customs that closed La Linda crossing in 1997. When Mexican fluorspar mines became unprofitable, the bridge fell into disuse, and U.S. and Mexican customs authorities began viewing it as a drug smuggling corridor. After a Mexican official was killed there, Customs ordered the bridge’s closure, and the U.S. Coast Guard then called for the idle structure’s demolition.Faced with the bridge’s destruction, Brewster County officials asked Fain and area rancher Kay Love to help preserve the link between Big Bend and Coahuila. Fain and Love succeeded in staving off the bridge’s demolition, but reopening the crossing has proven to be more challenging.“It’s a long, long process,” Fain said.The state legislature has passed a resolution supporting La Linda’s restoration before. Both authored by state Representative Pete Gallego, the 2003 resolution is very similar to the resolution passed last week. The earlier resolution differs in its mention of the General Land Office as a potential bridge owner, but Fain said the state agency has since changed its mind about taking possession.Sorting out the bridge’s ownership has been one of the biggest hurdles for the local coalition. A few years ago Fain was given a Department of State roadmap with 16 requirements for reopening La Linda. Among them was consolidating ownership of the bridge.“That’s what we’re working on now,” Fain said.The Mexican half of the bridge is owned by the Mexican government. And while Mexico is ready to run its half, “it takes two to run an international bridge,” he said.Ownership of the U.S. half has changed hands many times over the past several years. A partnership between Fain’s institute and Mexican non-profit Museo Maderas del Carmen, headed by Alberto Garza, is currently in negotiations to purchase the U.S. side of the bridge from its current owners, Andy and Judy Kurie.“My Mexican partner is real interested in nature tourism,” Fain said. “He’s got the money to make this happen, and I’ve still got a little energy left.”Eventually Fain would like Texas to own the U.S. side of the bridge. “The state has showed no interest so far though and neither has the county,” he said. “But we’ll take it and get it opened and run it, and demonstrate this can really become a useful asset for tourism.”With a new state resolution in hand and the bridge’s ownership settled, Fain hopes to present a plan for operating La Linda crossing at the U.S.-Mexico Binational Bridges and Border Crossings Group meeting later this year. He met with the group a few years ago and feels a lot has been accomplished since then.“The last time we went through that process, they gave us 16 hoops to jump through, and this time I think we’ll be down to about half a dozen,” he said.Fain also feels increasingly hopeful about Mexico’s efforts to build eco-tourism in the region.“The Mexican government is in the process of creating a Mexican equivalent of the Wild and Scenic River on the Rio Grande,” he said. “That’s another indication that they’re buying into a tourism-based economy, and that’s good news.”In Big Bend, superintendent Wellman believes linking the American and Mexican natural areas would be very good for the national park and the Rio Grande. While he understands why Customs closed the region’s border crossings, losing that connection has been tough for both countries, he said.He agrees La Linda is the best place to reopen, because it might support enough traffic for customs to justify a staffed port of entry. But he’s guardedly hopeful about when customs will make that decision.“I have some hope that in the future, in another five or 10 years, maybe conditions will change enough so that we can go back to something that would allow people limited access here,” he said. “But I don’t see that happening any time soon.”
Yeah, that sounds unusual for the US Coast Guard many hundreds of miles from the coast, but it seems they are also in charge of any International Bridges.
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