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Congressman Raul Grijalva speaks on blasting Tohono O'odham sacred Monument hill

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Posted at 7:10 PM, Feb 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-12 18:37:51-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — There is concern the new 30-foot border wall is threatening sacred burial sites in Monument hill at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The controlled blasting began last week.

Congressman Raul Grijalva tweeted Tuesday, in part, he toured the area with Tohono O'odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris last month to see first-hand.

In the tweet, Grijalva in part said, President Trump has waived more than 40 environmental natural resources, and land management laws to build his border wall. Communities are suffering for it.

Grijalva said "the consistency of what's happened to people who have inhabited this part of the world forever and maintaining their presence is not just about it's about a physical human being it's about their values and their sacred sites, burial site. That's their identity in this part of the world."

Congressman Grijalva sent KGUN9 photos and videos of the tour with chairman Norris.

He still hopes it's not too late for crews to change course.

Grijalva says the tribe tells him this was a burial site for the Hohokam around the 1700-1800s and some of these rock piles are more than 2,000 years old. Also, that this is an area used for ceremonies and dances.

At the end of the month congressman Grijalva is part of a committee to hear impacts on border wall construction.

KGUN9 has reached out to Customs and Border Protection on the blasts and the threats to burial sites.

In a statement, a CBP spokesperson said "The construction contractor has begun controlled blasting, in preparation for new border wall system construction, within the Roosevelt Reservation at Monument Mountain in the U.S. Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector. The controlled blasting is targeted and will continue intermittently for the rest of the month. U.S. Customs and Border Protection will continue to have an environmental monitor present during these activities as well as on-going clearing activities.

As with all border barrier projects, CBP conducted biological, cultural, and natural resource surveys of all new border wall system projects currently being executed in the Tucson Sector including the area of Monument Mountain within the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. In addition, CBP has and will continue to coordinate with federal land managers, state agencies, local governments, tribal governments, and other interested stakeholders to obtain information about the possible presence of sensitive resources that may be within the project areas and to develop site-specific construction best management practices to be implemented by the contractor during construction activities that avoid or minimize impacts to resources to the great extent possible.

Based on the environmental surveys and stakeholder coordination completed, no biological, cultural, or historical sites were identified within the project area, which consists of the 60 foot wide swath of land that extends from the international border north and is known as the Roosevelt Reservation. Recently the construction contractor began controlled blasting on Monument Hill within a 5 foot wide area of the Roosevelt Reservation that is immediately adjacent to the international border for the purpose of loosening rock in order to allow for the construction of a footer for the new border wall.

CBP’s environmental monitor is present during these activities to ensure that if any previously unidentified culturally sensitive artifacts are observed within the project area that construction is halted and the appropriate stakeholders are notified to include tribal nations. In addition, the environmental monitor is present to ensure construction best management practices are being implemented by the construction contractor."