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San Diego's 36 storm drain tunnels add to border woes

Akilah Weber graced with money from biotech, contractors, and Doordash

“Border Patrol expects that security improvements introduced by the new border wall may increase the threat of cross-border tunneling.”
“Border Patrol expects that security improvements introduced by the new border wall may increase the threat of cross-border tunneling.”

Human flood detection

Since the border between the U.S. and Mexico is once again an immigration battleground, the war to staunch the flow of undocumented crossers from Mexico to San Diego is being fought in the frontier’s byzantine flood control and smuggling tunnels. So says the Homeland Security department’s Office of Inspector General.

“Since 1990, Border Patrol has discovered approximately 190 cross-border tunnels through manual methods such as human observation of traffic patterns, law enforcement efforts, and routine patrol operations,” per a newly released February 23 audit report. “For example, the San Diego sector has 36 storm drain tunnels that require 24/7 monitoring by patrol agents. These storm drain tunnels must often remain open to allow for normal operations and, absent technology capability, require direct physical surveillance to deter illegal access.”

The campaign funds keep rolling in for Assembly hopeful Akilah Weber.

Beefing up surface border barriers could force more human traffic underground, and halting the flow won’t come cheap, the document adds. “Border Patrol expects that security improvements introduced by the new border wall may increase the threat of cross-border tunneling. But CBP currently lacks adequate technology to detect tunnels or tunneling activities or monitor permanent, cross-border tunnels. Senior Border Patrol officials expressed during interviews an urgent need for a technology solution to aid detection efforts and alleviate risks to field agents.”

Auditors found that the progress of a year-long plan to beef up underground capabilities has thus far been slow. “In January 2020, [the Department of Homeland Security] approved the Cross-Border Tunnel Threat program, which Border Patrol described as a network of permanently installed sensors to detect, classify, and localize subterranean activities.” But the effort “to implement 6 miles of Cross-Border Tunnel Threat capability along the southwest border, with nearly 100 total miles” by 2030, has thus far failed.

“According to Border Patrol officials, establishing an effective solution for tunnel detection required many years of development because technology with the unique requirements involved in detecting tunnels did not exist.” Adds the document,” [Customs and Border Patrol] has deployed about 28 percent of the surveillance and subterranean technology solutions planned, even after receiving more than $700 million in funding since fiscal year 2017. Shifting priorities, construction delays, a lack of available technology solutions, and funding constraints hindered CBP’s planned deployments. Consequently, most southwest Border Patrol sectors still rely predominantly on obsolete systems and infrastructure with limited capabilities.”

Merchants of grease

Corporate special interest cash continues flowing into the campaign funds of Democratic Assembly hopeful Akilah Weber, daughter of California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, the previous holder of the same Assembly seat. New money to Akilah Weber’s 2021 election committee includes March 29 contributions from biotech giant Genentech ($2000) and the Associated General Contractors PAC ($3000). Trash collection giant Republic Services came up with $3000 on March 25 and the Consumers Attorneys PAC kicked in $4900 the same day. Akilah Weber’s 2022 election committee, already in business, also picked up more money, including $4900 from online food delivery service Doordash on March 22, and $1500 from drug delivery firm Sunovion on March 17.

Waste magnate Rich Leib, of Solana Beach, gave $1000 to Akilah Weber.

The only recent individual giver was Solana Beach’s Rich Leib with $1000 on March 29 to Weber’s 2021 campaign account. A member of the UC Board of Regents and ex-Solana Beach School Board member, Leib is chief executive of Dunleer Strategies. His online regents’ profile describes the outfit as “a San Diego-based consulting firm that works with emerging companies to develop strategies to help them meet short and long-term business goals. Before that, he spent 15 years as executive vice president and general counsel for Liquid Environmental Solutions, a company he cofounded and helped grow into the leading non-hazardous liquid waste recycling company in the U.S.”

Leib’s waste business has not been without controversy. In September 2016, the firm’s “state-of-the-art” grease-and-grit processing plant raised an underprivileged neighborhood ruckus in Austin, Texas, according to an account by TV station KAXN. “We don’t need any more giant trucks rolling down that street,” Colorado Crossing resident Kalinda Howe told the station. “Nobody would build this in West… Austin.”

A February 2016 report by the San Antonio Express-News highlighted the legislative clout Leib’s firm had cultivated in the Lone Star state. “Liquid Environmental, which has operations in 24 states, first showed up in Texas in 2002 after buying dewatering plants in San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and Austin. It since has opened plants in El Paso and Weslaco.”

Critics, the story said, “allege Liquid Environmental has persuaded legislators to introduce a series of bills since 2003 that would increase the barriers to entry for businesses like theirs.” Added the piece: “Since 2002, Liquid Environmental executives Alan Viterbi, Rich Leib, Peter Crane, Patrick Reilly, Dana King, Brian Bidelspach and the company itself donated a total of $38,500 to Texas legislators’ campaigns.”

— Matt Potter (@sdmattpotter)

The Reader offers $25 for news tips published in this column. Call our voice mail at 619-235-3000, ext. 440, or sandiegoreader.com/staff/matt-potter/contact/.

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“Border Patrol expects that security improvements introduced by the new border wall may increase the threat of cross-border tunneling.”
“Border Patrol expects that security improvements introduced by the new border wall may increase the threat of cross-border tunneling.”

Human flood detection

Since the border between the U.S. and Mexico is once again an immigration battleground, the war to staunch the flow of undocumented crossers from Mexico to San Diego is being fought in the frontier’s byzantine flood control and smuggling tunnels. So says the Homeland Security department’s Office of Inspector General.

“Since 1990, Border Patrol has discovered approximately 190 cross-border tunnels through manual methods such as human observation of traffic patterns, law enforcement efforts, and routine patrol operations,” per a newly released February 23 audit report. “For example, the San Diego sector has 36 storm drain tunnels that require 24/7 monitoring by patrol agents. These storm drain tunnels must often remain open to allow for normal operations and, absent technology capability, require direct physical surveillance to deter illegal access.”

The campaign funds keep rolling in for Assembly hopeful Akilah Weber.

Beefing up surface border barriers could force more human traffic underground, and halting the flow won’t come cheap, the document adds. “Border Patrol expects that security improvements introduced by the new border wall may increase the threat of cross-border tunneling. But CBP currently lacks adequate technology to detect tunnels or tunneling activities or monitor permanent, cross-border tunnels. Senior Border Patrol officials expressed during interviews an urgent need for a technology solution to aid detection efforts and alleviate risks to field agents.”

Auditors found that the progress of a year-long plan to beef up underground capabilities has thus far been slow. “In January 2020, [the Department of Homeland Security] approved the Cross-Border Tunnel Threat program, which Border Patrol described as a network of permanently installed sensors to detect, classify, and localize subterranean activities.” But the effort “to implement 6 miles of Cross-Border Tunnel Threat capability along the southwest border, with nearly 100 total miles” by 2030, has thus far failed.

“According to Border Patrol officials, establishing an effective solution for tunnel detection required many years of development because technology with the unique requirements involved in detecting tunnels did not exist.” Adds the document,” [Customs and Border Patrol] has deployed about 28 percent of the surveillance and subterranean technology solutions planned, even after receiving more than $700 million in funding since fiscal year 2017. Shifting priorities, construction delays, a lack of available technology solutions, and funding constraints hindered CBP’s planned deployments. Consequently, most southwest Border Patrol sectors still rely predominantly on obsolete systems and infrastructure with limited capabilities.”

Merchants of grease

Corporate special interest cash continues flowing into the campaign funds of Democratic Assembly hopeful Akilah Weber, daughter of California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, the previous holder of the same Assembly seat. New money to Akilah Weber’s 2021 election committee includes March 29 contributions from biotech giant Genentech ($2000) and the Associated General Contractors PAC ($3000). Trash collection giant Republic Services came up with $3000 on March 25 and the Consumers Attorneys PAC kicked in $4900 the same day. Akilah Weber’s 2022 election committee, already in business, also picked up more money, including $4900 from online food delivery service Doordash on March 22, and $1500 from drug delivery firm Sunovion on March 17.

Waste magnate Rich Leib, of Solana Beach, gave $1000 to Akilah Weber.

The only recent individual giver was Solana Beach’s Rich Leib with $1000 on March 29 to Weber’s 2021 campaign account. A member of the UC Board of Regents and ex-Solana Beach School Board member, Leib is chief executive of Dunleer Strategies. His online regents’ profile describes the outfit as “a San Diego-based consulting firm that works with emerging companies to develop strategies to help them meet short and long-term business goals. Before that, he spent 15 years as executive vice president and general counsel for Liquid Environmental Solutions, a company he cofounded and helped grow into the leading non-hazardous liquid waste recycling company in the U.S.”

Leib’s waste business has not been without controversy. In September 2016, the firm’s “state-of-the-art” grease-and-grit processing plant raised an underprivileged neighborhood ruckus in Austin, Texas, according to an account by TV station KAXN. “We don’t need any more giant trucks rolling down that street,” Colorado Crossing resident Kalinda Howe told the station. “Nobody would build this in West… Austin.”

A February 2016 report by the San Antonio Express-News highlighted the legislative clout Leib’s firm had cultivated in the Lone Star state. “Liquid Environmental, which has operations in 24 states, first showed up in Texas in 2002 after buying dewatering plants in San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and Austin. It since has opened plants in El Paso and Weslaco.”

Critics, the story said, “allege Liquid Environmental has persuaded legislators to introduce a series of bills since 2003 that would increase the barriers to entry for businesses like theirs.” Added the piece: “Since 2002, Liquid Environmental executives Alan Viterbi, Rich Leib, Peter Crane, Patrick Reilly, Dana King, Brian Bidelspach and the company itself donated a total of $38,500 to Texas legislators’ campaigns.”

— Matt Potter (@sdmattpotter)

The Reader offers $25 for news tips published in this column. Call our voice mail at 619-235-3000, ext. 440, or sandiegoreader.com/staff/matt-potter/contact/.

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