Border shipping containers are being removed from the Coronado National Forest

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Jan. 5, 2023 at 7:09 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Nearly 1,000 shipping containers placed in the Coronado National Forest by former Arizona Governor Doug Ducey are being removed at a cost of $60 million to the Arizona taxpayer. That’s on top of the $90 million to place them in the sensitive desert in the first place.

Today, the Justice Department allowed the media into the remote area to witness the fact the containers are being removed.

It was like a parade, a line of pick-up trucks hauling the containers one by one out of the forest and to a storage area near Tucson.

“That’s wonderful, it’s a multimillion dollar parade” said Robin Silver, founding member of the Center for Biological Diversity which sued the state to remove the containers. “The good thing is, is finally the stunt is over and the containers are being removed.”

Even though the containers are being removed, the damage to the desert, is extensive, and may take years to restore. Who pays for that, on top of removal costs, will fall on the newly sworn in Katie Hobb’s administration.

“They have no choice but to pay for it,” he said. “No court is going to allow the state to get away with doing that kind of damage and then not remedy it, so the state will have to pay.”

Ducey began by putting containers to plug holes in the border fence near Yuma last summer but was sued because it was on federal and tribal property. Those containers have been removed at a cost of $9 million.

The state also installed three miles of containers in the Coronado National Forest, East of Sierra Vista, about a third of what was intended, before it was sued and stopped because it was on Forest Service property. The state was trespassing. Ducey reached an agreement which set January 4th, as the date for removal but it also did not release the state from any liabilities.

“Now that we’ve got the Department of Justice on our side and can help us make sure that the area is returned a close as possible to normal,” he said.

the media was given its first look at the removal process today but was kept at a distance.

The contract gives the state until the middle of March to remove the containers but the restoration project has yet to be negotiated.