Hidalgo County announced on Monday that the International Boundary Water Commission (IBWC) will be allocating $110 million to complete levees within its flood control system, possibly within one year.
Work will be done using 100 percent of federal dollars, according to Godfrey Garza, Irrigation District No. 1 manager.
This is a federal problem, let the federal government address it, Garza said. They have their money in place, now we are working on the time schedules to make sure we liquidize those programs to make sure our FEMA maps are addressed properly.
The issue is a priority be because the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been threatening to issue a new flood plain declaration. Due to the deterioration of its levees, much of Hidalgo County would have been in the flood zone, requiring mandatory flood insurance, and potentially harming business in the region.
As of Monday the County is still looking to hear back from IBWC on a timetable proposed to IBWC U.S. section chief, Bill Ruth, in El Paso last week. At that meeting County Judge JD Salinas, Garza, and county engineers showed how levees can be completed in 12 to 18 months.
With federal funds apparently now in place, the group has come back and put a number and date together tentatively looking to get the first segments of the levee out for construction within 90 days. Twelve months after that, the levees will be completed in Hidalgo County, Garza said.
They are looking at our schedule and comparing it to their projection schedule and they will get back with us as to how their schedule compares to ours, Garza said. If we can assist them, we will try to partner with them to try to expedite this program. The most important part is that the money is there, and there is a schedule there that shows that it can be done within the 12 to 18 months.
IBWC has received $220 million under the stimulus plan signed by Barack Obama last month. IBWC has decided to allocate about half of the money to the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The money, appropriated by the federal government will fund 12 repair projects covering 100 miles of river levees and interior flood control systems.
Once the work is complete ,all the levees in Hidalgo County will be up to par with the exception of an area from north of Baseline Road in Mercedes east to the Cameron County line.
Historically, the federal government has only allocated between $5 and $15 million every two years to the IBWC for repairs to the Valleys levees but the County has received over $300 million over the course of one year to leverage construction for the levees, according to Garza
We look at the money we put in ourselves to leverage for the levees with the Department of Homeland Security, he said. DHS comes in with about $165 million or $170 million, another $110 million which we got now, plus what we put in amount to over $300 million in federal injection to a federal program in Hidalgo County. That has kept our construction companies working, our unemployment going down, and reducing the risk of major catastrophic flooding in our area.
The 12 projects that have been approved by the IBWC, according to the County are:
Lower Rio Grande Floodways, River & Arroyo Colorado.
LRG (Lateral A to Retamal Dam; Retamal Dike; Floodways, & Arroyo Colorado Levees).
Hidalgo Loop Phase 1 redesign and levee raising in areas wall is missing.
Hidalgo Loop Phase 2 (floodgate and International Port of Entry) redesign and levee raising in areas wall is missing.
Mission Levee & Culverts at Edinburg Pump.
Lateral A to Retamal Dam (Includes Retamal Dike).
Main Floodway North Levee of Arroyo Colorado (Granjeno to 23rd Street).
Main Floodway North and South Levees (23rd Street to FM 1015).
North Floodway North and South Levees (FM 1015 to Baseline Road).
Arroyo Colorado North Levee of Arroyo Colorado (Divisor Dike Willacy Canal at Florida Street).
Arroyo Colorado North Levee of Arroyo Colorado (Willacy Canal South White Ranch Road).
North Floodway North and South Levees (Baseline Road Hidalgo County Line).