SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. — Following a 12-month, $6.3 million construction project, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officially opened its new administration building at San Clemente Border Patrol Station with a Feb. 10 ribbon cutting ceremony.
The 14,000 square-foot, single story office and administration building has locker facilities for 189 agents and can accommodate up to 250 agents, if necessary. The structure includes 24 offices, a conference room, a muster/training room, a kitchen and a weight room. The Ross Group, of Tulsa, Okla., performed the design-build contract that included a new half-acre parking lot and a water storage tank.
“The Ross Group did an excellent job of overcoming many challenges during the design and construction phases and completed the project with minimum delay,” said Greg Boghossian, who managed the project for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District, which oversaw design and construction of the facility.
The San Diego Resident Office and resident engineer Julie Martinez performed the construction quality control.
“Her team did an outstanding job of managing day-to-day construction activities for this project,” Boghossian said.
Boghossian said other members of the project team, including Contracting, Finance and the Engineering Construction and Support Office from the Fort Worth District were an integral part of success of this project.
Alfaro Gonzales, the patrol agent in charge at the San Clemente Border Patrol Station, said the station is one of eight in the San Diego Sector, which stretches along the Mexican border from the Pacific Ocean to Imperial County and north to Los Angeles and Riverside County.
“Our main focus is to target smugglers along the San Diego to Los Angeles corridor,” Gonzales said. “The 5 is one of the busiest freeways in the nation. We’re the big daddy of border patrol stations. It doesn’t get any bigger than San Clemente Station.”
Border Patrol agents conduct vehicle inspections on the highway next to the station, but Gonzales said it is impractical to conduct them continuously because of the impact on traffic.
Gonzales said success with traditional enforcement methods has led smugglers to increase their offshore attempts. Smugglers often use 20-40 foot, open-hulled fishing boats, often going more than 100 miles out to sea to avoid detection.
“So now we use ocean and coastal enforcement also,” Gonzales said. “Our responsibility is much greater than it was two or three years ago.”
Gonzales said agents have seized 20,000 lbs marijuana so far this year, surpassing last year’s total, and that smuggling events on water are up 42 percent.
“We expect to double last year’s apprehensions of 3,000 illegal aliens,” he said.
The San Clemente Station serves a critical function in maintaining the nation’s border security. It has grown from a trailer on the side of the highway to a modern structure from which agents coordinate their activities to combat the smuggling of humans and contraband.
“When I started here in 1985, we worked out of a single-wide trailer,” Gonzales said. Over the years, the office grew to a triple-wide but fell far short of providing a safe, functional working environment for the agents.
“I leaned over to pick up some paper off the ground, and my hand went through the trailer wall,” Gonzales said. He doesn’t expect to experience anything similar with the new administration building.
“For us to get quality of this type is very much appreciated,” Gonzales said. “It’s like a festive mood because of the building, like a new beginning. It’s clean, well-built, but not expensive. We’ve put the money we have to very good use. This is refreshing.”