Blaine cameras the last in the line

Published on Thu, Nov 8, 2001
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Blaine cameras the last in the line

The U.S. Border Patrol is ready to dig into Blaine, installing the final leg of a camera system that stretches from the Cascades to the sea. “The elected to start from the east end,” said city assistant public works director Steve Banham. “Now they’re ready to move into Blaine.”

“We’re working out some last details,” said Border Patrol project coordinator Wesley Vanderheyden. The last details involve putting up a performance bond and fine tuning an interlocal agreement with the city of Blaine governing Border Patrol use of city right-of-way to lay fiber optic cable and install cameras on wooden poles. “It covers nine cameras which will be located strategically to help the border patrol monitor the border,” Banham told city council October 22, asking for their approval of the draft interlocal agreement. “It’s a major project which was of great interest before but of special interest today.”

The border camera plan has been in the works for several years to address concerns that there is nothing to limit or monitor movement across the U.S./Canada border between the ports except for a limited number of border patrol agents. “The proposed project would allow remote video surveillance equipment to effectively monitor the 45.5 corridor,” east of the Cascades, according to the June 2000 environmental assessment for the project. A fiber optic system would transmit data from the cameras to the control facility in Blaine, “providing increased efficiency…, improving response times concerning illegal entry activities and increasing the safety of U.S. Border Patrol agents.”

The western terminus of the camera system would be at Blaine Marina 250’ east of the visitors’ center. Eight other cameras in the city would be placed at locations along the border, in residential areas and downtown where the border patrol has determined it needs an extra set of eyes.

Council member John Liebert echoed the same concerns voiced by mayor John Hobberlin when the project was last presented to council over a year ago. “To the people who live in these areas is there any assurance there won’t be any interference?” he asked.

Banham said the interlocal agreement and bond were there to provide some of that assurance. “It’s an extensive excavation, all in right-of-way, and we’re protective of that,” he said. “The interlocal agreement provides a process and procedures in case we run into any problems.” Plans for laying the fiber optic cable also call for directional boring under paved surfaces to minimize disruption.

Vanderyacht addressed another kind of discomfort. “I have heard concerns that big brother is going to be spying and that isn’t the case,” he said. “This is a national security project and we have excellent policies in place. The people monitoring these cameras are very professional.” He said cameras would stay trained on areas where illegal entry was a likelihood, not on people’s bedrooms. “Anyone found doing that won’t have a job anymore,” he said.

Council unanimously approved the interlocal agreement with the border patrol, leaving it to city attorney Jon Sitkin to make sure the city was kept out of any potential hot-water. “If someone has a problem with cameras at the border, that’s an issue with the federal government, not with Blaine,” Banham said. ‘We need to address concerns of indemnification.” He said he expects a contract to be signed and construction to start within the week..

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