McALLEN, October 28 - It is not easy having our communities come together and agree on an issue, yet almost all Hidalgo County communities have united for a regional purpose that will impact the lives and well-being of our citizens while protecting property and home Ė drainage improvements.
The County Commissionersí Court appointed a drainage advisory committee comprised of several citizens, of which I am a co-chair, to review our current drainage system. We identified 25 countywide improvement projects that will move water runoff out of our cities into the county drainage system and out to the Laguna Madre Bay. We made a recommendation to the board of the Drainage District #1 to call a bond referendum and help alleviate our drainage challenges. This action resulted in a proposition to pass a $184 million bond that is in front of voters today.
Many cities, chambers, economic development entities and school districts in Hidalgo County including Weslaco, Pharr, Edinburg, Mission, Donna, Mercedes and McAllen have endorsed their support for this bond referendum. They understand that drainage is the #1 infrastructure challenge we face today for the future of our economic development and quality of life.
What we have proposed to the community is a regional and managed approach to drainage. Because of the nature of the system, no matter how good the drainage is in a city, it will not function adequately if we canít get the water out of the city. Every city in Hidalgo County receives direct benefit from the drainage improvements that are on the bond referendum. Out of the 25 specific projects, 18 directly impact several county cities by alleviating the choke points we currently have with runoff and help move water faster out of our cities. For more information, please visit www.hcdrainage.org to see a list of the proposed projects.
This bond drainage referendum cannot be viewed as an individual city initiative. There are three drainage improvement projects directly related to Mission. Three directly related to Edinburg. Donna has two major projects. McAllen and Pharr have three. Weslaco and Mercedes have two and an ancillary project. Edcouch, Elsa and La Villa have one major project; and one of the largest and most significant drainage projects in the area. Alamo has two and one ancillary project. San Juan and Hidalgo each have one and an ancillary project. There is a drainage improvement project for just about every city in Hidalgo County.
These improvements have been designed so that all cities can benefit. Not one city has an advantage over another. This regionalization approach of drainage is important because it allows us to manage water runoff from one city to another. Flood gates can be opened and closed remotely with drainage pipes that are double the size of current ones. If one city in the county is quickly flooding from the effect of a 3- to 5-inch per hour rain event, while other cities are not, this improved system can focus drainage on this one city and move the water out faster through the county system and into the bay. This lessens the burden on the entire county drainage system for localized heavy rain that affects just one or two cities. Alleviating localized rain from any one city will have a positive impact on our community.
We are all members of Hidalgo County working together to solve our challenges. This is a process of cooperation and regionalism where improvements to the drainage system today will benefit future generations for years to come. Improvement to the drainage system will help our citizens personally by lowering their insurance rates tomorrow. The cost savings is estimated in the millions. By alleviating water from cities and moving it faster into the county system, shopping center developers will have more flexibility when it comes to creating drainage ditches or holding ponds on their property.
Another example is the Mission Inlet Recertification project. This project has a direct impact to the southern county industrial park area. By re-certifying the Mission inlet with an additional pipe structure for less overflowing this will improve the rating on the FEMA flood map. This opens up land in southern Hidalgo County that can be used for different purposes to benefit the regionís economic development.
I invite each of you to go out and vote for drainage and support the need for these improvements. Itís an urgent necessity that wonít fix itself unless we take action.
Jim Darling is a McAllen city commissioner, member of the McAllen Public Utility Board, co-chair of the Hidalgo County Drainage Advisory Committee and chairman of the Lower Rio Grande River Water Authority.