SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Three years ago, the U.S. Border Patrol announced a plan to build a span that would connect one side of the Tijuana River canal with the other side just north of the U.S.-Mexico boundary.

The structure would include a 20-foot-wide roadway, lights and bollard fencing running down to the river bottom.

It would also have gates that would be open to allow water and debris to flow.

But almost immediately after the project was made public, environmentalists criticized the idea, saying the bridge and its supports would not be able to withstand the surge of water and sediment.

Despite the opposition, work began on the project last November.

Since then, a study conducted by Zeppelin Floods, a flood prevention consultant, showed the bridge could cause flooding in the downtown Tijuana area. The study was commissioned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Support columns for a bridge that will span the Tijuana River canal are under construction. (Salvador Rivera/Border Report)

In an article published by the “Voice of San Diego,” Jochen Schubert, a hydrologist from Zeppelin Floods, said, “There’s an elevated risk of flooding because the system hasn’t been managed correctly.”

Due to the channel’s current state, Schubert believes the proposed project could generate flooding south of the border in the event of a power outage, gate malfunction or delay in opening the gates during strong rains.

“As the flow comes down the channel, it hits this wall of sand and dirt, elevating the flow in the channel so it backs up into Tijuana and could increase the risk of the levee overtopping,” Schubert said. 

The study shows water would back up and flow into neighborhoods directly south of the area, including Tijuana’s famed Zone Norte, where many bars, nightclubs, brothels and strip joints are located.

Through a spokesperson, Border Patrol said it would not be “speaking on the Channel Project at this time.”

Three years ago, U.S. Border Patrol Agent Justin Castrejon told Border Report the bridge is needed because “in this channel there is no physical barrier preventing people from making illegal entry.”

He also stated that “where there is border infrastructure in place, it does help out tremendously. He a bridge is “a great tool for us to mitigate those illegal entries.”

Officials in Tijuana have not said anything about the possibility the structure would flood areas of the city, but the Mexican Consulate in San Diego has said, “there is concern about the possible flooding that could be created by the U.S. infrastructure project.”

So far, crews are in the process of building the support columns that will hold the bridge in place.

Work is expected to be done by next year.