- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - A southern Arizona city that spent days cleaning storm-related debris - including parts of trees - from Mexico that knocked down an international border fence is asking the federal government to cover costs.

Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino said the city council has directed its attorneys to work with the federal government in an attempt to regain what it spent cleaning up large tree trunks and branches that made their way from a canyon in Sonora, Mexico, through the border fence and into two trailer home parks and businesses in the Arizona city in late July.

Garino says it was the government’s responsibility to open flood gates attached to the tall, steel fence that would have prevented so much debris from making it into the city.

“As a city, you know, we want to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. The cause of this was the fence. We have to have some system there that’s operational and it’s functional,” Garino said.

Garino said he couldn’t provide an estimate for the cost of the cleanup effort. However, the Nogales International reports that city officials have estimated $23,000 in costs.

Meanwhile, the fence, just west of the Mariposa Port of Entry, remains down because of continuing rainfall, Border Patrol spokeswoman Nicole Ballistrea said. The soil needs to be completely dry before the fence can go back up, she said. The fence stood between 18 and 26 feet high, extended at least 7 feet underground and was reinforced with rebar. The debris knocked down about 60 feet worth of fencing.

“The late hour and sudden onslaught of the storm did not leave adequate lead time for agents to safely release the gates,” Ballistrea said. “We’ll continue with the repairs once the saturation level has (dropped).”

The storm in Nogales, Sonora, began the weekend of July 25 but largely avoided the American side of the border. Still, debris from a canyon about a mile south of Nogales, Arizona, traveled up to the border and became trapped at the fence. Enough debris piled up that it knocked the fence over. In came tree stumps, pieces of wood, and about three feet of water that flooded businesses on Western Avenue in Nogales and two trailer home parks.

“I remember helping one group pull out a tree that was 12-feet-long, 16 inches in diameter, underneath the trailer,” Garino said.

It took the city, county and volunteers three days to clean up the mess.

“That’s why we’re trying to address the federal government, because if you look at it you would see that if the gates would have opened it would have been a casual flow. The amount of water that fell wasn’t enough for it to cause a flood,” Garino said.

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