The Chargé in Mexico (Schoenfeld) to the Secretary of State

No. 983

Sir: Confirming my telegram No. 160 of to-day’s date one P.M.,76 in further relation to the proposal of the International Boundary Commission for the construction of certain cut-offs in the Rio Grande, [Page 579] near El Paso, Texas, I have the honor herewith to enclose a copy with translation of a note under yesterday’s date received from the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations in reply to my note of August 12 in the sense of your telegram No. 176 of August 11, three P.M.

I have [etc.]

H. F. Arthur Schoenfeld

The Mexican Minister for Foreign Affairs (Sáenz) to the American Chargé (Schoenfeld)

No. 11089

Mr. Chargé d’Affaires: I have the honor to refer to the Embassy’s note No. 720 of the 12th instant in which, by instruction of your Government, you were good enough to inform me that by Minute No. 61 our International Boundary Commission recommended the construction of three cut-offs in the Rio Grande near the City of El Paso, Texas, the result of which would be according to the accompanying report of the consulting engineers on the International Boundary Commission, as stated in the note, to obviate the danger of floods in that section and in another considerably below the point mentioned.

The recommendations contained in Minute No. 61 were duly studied as provided by article 8 of the convention of March 1, 1889, and within one month, as stipulated in article 8, our decision in the matter was drawn up and sent to our Embassy in Washington for transmission to the Department of State.

In this decision, which decision must already be known by the Department of State, according to instructions to our Ambassador in Washington, it is stated:

That there was authorized and approved the study of the project of defense works and rectification in the El Paso valley, in cooperation with American engineers, it being recommended at the same time that the cases of bancos in this zone of the Rio Grande should be presented to the Joint Commission before the project in question.
That, although it is true that the topographical work necessary to settle pending cases in the El Paso valley has already been done, this decision can not be carried out.
That the Mexican Government believes that consent should not be given to making any cut-off unless at the same time and before the work is carried out there be settled the question of sovereignty over the segregated territory. In the present cases this question of sovereignty would have to be settled, a thing which the Mexican Government would not desire to do before other questions of the same character are settled which have been pending for a number of [Page 580] years, principally for reasons attributable to the Government of the United States.
That the cut-offs in question were recently proposed by the Government of the United States in a draft convention for the settlement of the Chamizal case and for the better definition of the international boundary at certain points along the Rio Grande, presented to the Government of Mexico in its note of February 19, last. This draft convention was rejected in its totality by the Mexican Government and it could therefore not now consent that a part thereof should be carried out.
The Government of the United States has desired to connect the cases above referred to with the pending Chamizal case and in its turn Mexico does not want to create new difficulties until that relative to the Chamizal is settled.

As you will see, it was only the desire to avoid the creation of new difficulties before the settlement of pending cases and the reaching of an agreement by the two Governments in the matter which was the motive for postponing the carrying out of the recommendations of the International Boundary Commission contained in Minute No. 61, to the end that, after the question of the interpretation of the treaties which the said cases involve [apparent omission], without failing to recognize the advisability of carrying out all the proposed works.

Before reaching the decision mentioned, based on the reasons set forth, the urgency which might exist in immediately undertaking the proposed cut-offs was taken into consideration, and the reports of the engineers charged with the project and of the consulting engineers of the International Boundary Commission were carefully studied, and from that point of view it was found that in the unanimous opinion of all of them the cut-offs proposed and recommended by the International Boundary Commission in Minute No. 61 are not, according to the report of the consulting engineers relative to the matter, anything more than the “first stage” in the general project, the construction of which is to be recommended in view of the fact that the modifications of relatively slight importance which they would produce in the hydraulic equilibrium of the river permit their initiation in the upper region of the valley and not in the lower as would be logically convenient; and it was found that considering the higher value of property in the neighborhood of the cities of El Paso and Juárez and in view of certain considerations of a financial character which make it possible to perform the work immediately, their construction is recommended without, however, it failing to be indispensable to continue the construction of the works in the whole valley.

The foregoing views and the technical development of the project having been studied, it is easy to arrive at the conviction that, what [Page 581] in the opinion of the experts will settle the problem of saving the lands in the valley of El Paso from floods, will be the completion of the project in its entirety and not that of its “first stage”; that if for financial or other reasons it is not possible immediately to carry out the project in its entirety or in the form in which it would be logically convenient to do so, whereby in the opinion of the technical experts the danger would be averted, the construction of the first part proposed for the benefit of those interested in the first portion could be recommended; but if the project is studied even more in detail and attention is paid to the fact that in order to carry it out it is essential to construct levees provided with rip-raps and with structures forming the artificial channel for the maximum discharge of floods and the fact that the probable floods at this season will surely render difficult, if they do not entirely prevent, the construction of these structures, especially in the detail recommended by the consulting engineers, one will arrive at the conviction that the construction ought to be commenced after the present flood season and that, consequently, there is no reason to hasten it in disregard of considerations of real importance which would tend to postpone it.

I hope that the Government of the United States of America will be good enough to appreciate the true importance and value of the reasons on which was based the decision relative to this matter and will agree to the justice which supports it.

It is very satisfactory to me to renew to you the assurances of my most courteous consideration.

Aarón Sáenz
  1. Not printed.
  2. File translation revised.