Sept. 12 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday it has issued waivers of environmental and historical preservation laws to speed construction of fencing between California and Mexico.
The waivers protect border barriers near Calexico, Calif., from federal regulations such as Endangered Species Act and the National Historic Preservation Act, the department said in a news release.
The department described it as "an area of high illegal entry" that is a "critical sector for border security." In fiscal year 2016, the United States Border Patrol "apprehended more than 19,400 illegal aliens and seized approximately 2,899 pounds of marijuana and approximately 126 pounds of cocaine in the El Centro Sector," according to Homeland Security.
This project is approximately a three-mile segment that starts at the Calexico West port of entry and extends westward, replacing approximately two miles of the existing primary pedestrian fence with a new "bollard wall," the department said.
The Border Patrol plans to build 18-to-25-foot fencing that replaces the existing 14-foot fencing built in the 1990s, The Hill reported. The waiver also allows improvement of Border Patrol service roads.
DHS Acting Secretary Elaine Duke published the waiver in the Federal Register.
According to the notice, "The Secretary of Homeland Security has determined, pursuant to law, that it is necessary to waive certain laws, regulations and other legal requirements in order to ensure the expeditious construction of barriers and roads in the vicinity of the international land border of the United States near the city of Calexico in the state of California."
Existing budget appropriations cover some repairs and improvements to existing fencing, including the prototypes.
The White House requested $1.6 billion for 2018 to begin new construction for the wall between the United States and Mexico, which was a campaign promise by President Donald Trump.
"The Department is implementing President Trump's Executive Order 13767, Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, and continues to take steps to immediately plan, design and construct a physical wall along the southern border, using appropriate materials and technology to most effectively achieve complete operational control of the southern border" according to the release.
Last week, DHS announced prototypes for a wall in the San Diego sector, west of El Centro.