The Department of Homeland Security announced its plans to build a 15-mile prototype of the border wall in San Diego.
The department issued a waiver from numerous environmental laws and regulations to build the wall with "robust physical characteristics" to prevent illegal immigration crossings in an area of "high illegal entry."
"The Department is implementing President Trump’s Executive Order 13767, Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, and continues to take steps to immediately plan, design, and construct a physical wall along the southern border, using appropriate materials and technology to most effectively achieve complete operational control of the southern border," the department said in a statement Tuesday announcing plans to issue the waiver.
In one of his last moves as DHS secretary, Gen. John Kelly signed the notice on July 26, before he was tapped to serve as White House chief of staff.
The waiver was published in the Federal Register on Wednesday.
The notice outlines the plans for projects along a 15-mile stretch along the Southwestern border in the San Diego sector. The department said the area is in need of further border protection immediately, as it is the site of over 31,000 illegal alien apprehensions, the seizure of 9,167 pounds of marijuana, and approximately 1,317 pounds of cocaine last year alone.
"The construction of border wall prototypes in the Project Area and the robust physical characteristics that are to be incorporated into the border wall prototypes are intended to deter illegal crossings," the notice states.
The department will waive several environmental regulations to build the prototype wall, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and a host of others.
DHS said it is still committed to safeguarding the environment but is eliminating onerous rules that would delay construction.
"While the waiver eliminates DHS's obligation to comply with various laws with respect to covered projects, the Department remains committed to environmental stewardship with respect to these projects," the department said. "DHS has been coordinating and consulting—and intends to continue doing so—with other federal and state resource agencies to ensure impacts to the environment, wildlife, and cultural and historic artifacts are analyzed and minimized, to the extent possible."
The project in San Diego will replace outdated fencing in the area that was built in the early 1990s, the department said.
"The new primary barrier will use an operationally effective design that is intended to meet Border Patrol's current requirements," the notice states.
The finished prototype may be used for future designs for construction of the wall along the rest of the border.
"In addition to deterring illegal crossings in the Project Area, DHS will use the border wall prototypes to evaluate various design features for potential inclusion in a border wall standard that will be developed by the Government and utilized as a part of border wall construction going forward," the department said. "Importantly, construction of the border wall prototypes in the Project Area also means that DHS can evaluate various design features in the border environment under actual operational conditions."
"As such, the construction of border wall prototypes will not only deter illegal entry in the Project Area, but evaluation of the border wall prototypes is also critical to and necessary for future border wall design and construction," the department added.
Building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico was one of President Donald Trump's top campaign promises. The House of Representatives recently passed legislation that allocated $1.6 billion for the border wall, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan released a video advocating for its construction, saying, "It's time."