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Tunnel linking Lynden, Canada shut down

Seattle Times | July 21, 2005
By Jennifer Sullivan

A "professionally constructed" tunnel leading nearly 100 yards from an abandoned house in the Northwest Washington town of Lynden to a greenhouse just beyond the U.S.-Canadian border was shut down yesterday before it could be used.

A law-enforcement source familiar with the investigation said it was newly constructed and designed for drug trafficking.

The tunnel, about five minutes outside downtown Lynden, Whatcom County, had been monitored by federal authorities for several months, the source said. He said the tunnel passed under two roads and appeared to be skillfully built.

"It wasn't built by a teenager with scrap wood from nearby homes," said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A woman who lives across the street from the abandoned property in the 100 block of Boundary Road said federal agents stopped her when she tried to drive home yesterday. She said three people were arrested in the abandoned home; Border Patrol agents confirmed the arrests.

"It blows me away," said Ruthie Steinfort. "We're right next to the border station."

Steinfort said her rural neighborhood, which is about a two-minute walk from the border, is constantly teeming with Border Patrol agents searching for people crossing illegally.

The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment on the case. Authorities told The Associated Press the case was largely handled by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The U.S. Attorney's Office is planning to hold a news conference today.

The law-enforcement source said a portion of the tunnel's interior was lined with wood. He called the underground project "elaborate." He said that when he traveled to the site about a month ago, it was still under construction, but added it could have been completed by now.

Though the tunnel had been under construction for the past several months, Steinfort said she never heard any noise coming from the rundown property. She said she thought the home was sold about two years ago to an Eastern Washington couple, but she never saw anyone set foot on the property.

"They never mow the lawn, and everything is deteriorating over there," Steinfort said.

Steinfort said federal agents spent the past several weeks in a nearby motor home watching the abandoned property. She said the woods near her home and the neighborhood were crawling with police yesterday.

Such tunnels aren't uncommon in U.S. border towns.

In March, U.S. officials found a tunnel that had been dug from a middle-class San Diego-area neighborhood to an upscale residence in Mexico. Investigators called the 200-yard-long tunnel the most sophisticated they have seen along the California-Mexico border.

Investigators used a machine that can "see" underground, a video-equipped robot, a drug-sniffing dog and an air horn to find it.

That tunnel was 3 feet wide and 5 feet high with a concrete floor. It had wood-beam supports, fiberglass walls, ventilation, video security and groundwater-removal systems. Several altars with flowers and pictures of saints also were found inside.

 

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