Homeland Security surveillance plan at Canadian border questioned

The Department of Homeland Security has agreed to reopen the public comment period on plans to build a number of high-powered surveillance towers along Vermont's border with the Canadian province of Quebec, Vermont's congressional delegation said Friday.

U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch said in a statement that they have heard from many Vermonters in border communities with privacy concerns about the towers proposed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

"We have also heard concerns about how these towers will adversely affect the natural landscape of the border communities. We share these concerns," the delegation said, adding that the potential impacts need to be fully vetted.

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The 60-day extension to the public comment period will allow Vermonters to be heard, they said. The new deadline is June 17.

The towers are proposed in an area of northern Vermont that has been used by smugglers moving south into the United States and north into Canada. The plan includes towers in Champlain, New York, and the Vermont towns of Highgate Center, Franklin, Richford, Derby, Derby Line and North Troy.

Earlier this month Welch and Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan, both Democrats, met with officials in Derby Line where one of the towers is proposed to be built.

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