More Than 20 Congress Members Join Lawsuit to Protect Texas Buoy Barrier

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Lawmakers argue that river may not meet definition of navigable waterway

More than 20 members of Congress have filed a motion to join a federal lawsuit that is challenging Gov. Greg Abbott’s use of a buoy barrier in the Rio Grande. The lawsuit was filed by the U.S. Justice Department, which is arguing that Abbott violated the federal Rivers and Harbors Act by deploying the buoys without first getting permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

A key point of contention in the case is whether the Rio Grande is considered a “navigable waterway.” The Arrington group argues that the river may not meet the definition of a navigable waterway anymore, given how it has changed over time. They cite Noah’s Ark from The Bible as an example, arguing that if one takes the Book of Genesis literally, then the entire world was once navigable by boats large enough to carry significant amounts of livestock.

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The Arrington group also argues that the federal government must “produce actual evidence that the river it seeks to regulate is navigable.” They say that given the stakes of the case, the federal government should not be allowed to claim jurisdiction over the Rio Grande without first doing its due diligence.

Abbott has also criticized the Justice Department for using the Rivers and Harbors Act to sue him over the buoy barrier. He said he’s declared an emergency at the border, giving him the power to act to stop the flow of migrants coming into the state of Texas without needing the federal government’s permission.

Justice Department Sues Texas Over Unauthorized Rio Grande Barrier

The buoys are part of the state’s two-year, $9.5-billion border security initiative. Lawmakers are also funding a surge of state troopers and National Guard soldiers along the Rio Grande, as well as miles of razor wire and a makeshift border wall Abbott constructed in Eagle Pass from old shipping containers.

A federal judge has set a hearing for Aug. 22 to consider the Department of Justice’s request for an emergency injunction to force the buoy barrier out of the water until the case can be fully decided.

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