WESLACO, RGV – The officials of the City of Weslaco are looking into long term and short term actions to control and alleviate flooding in the area.
Mike Perez, city manager for the City of Weslaco, announced at one of their city council meetings that there will be actions taken to address the flooding issue in the area. Some short term solutions include cleaning up the coverts and ditches.
One long term solution Perez mentioned was putting together a bond issue to raise about $4 million. Using those funds, city officials intend on building regional detention facilities in key areas that are prone to flooding. Furthermore, they are looking into creating a committee comprised of citizens to oversee the projects and funds that will go into alleviating the flooding.
“The committee will help the commission analyze what the engineers and staff are going to be proposing and they will be needed. I’m assuming on a monthly basis they’ll start working with the engineers what improvements need to be made well short term and long term,” Perez said.
“The committee will be working on some recommendations and that’ll take a lot of time and a lot of energy. It’s important that the people affected by the flood need to be heard and they need to be part of that committee.”
Dina Murillo, a Weslaco resident, said her home flooded for the second time. She was first flooded back in 2015 and the City of Weslaco conducted a study that year to help alleviate flooding for citizens in the area. However, according to Murillo, nothing was ever accomplished. She says this time around, the city is all talk until they take action.
“I know that there’s been a lot of negativity surrounding the city, surrounding drainage and surrounding people that have lost their homes,” Murillo said. “I don’t think that there’s a lot of positivity or a lot of resolution in pointing fingers and continuing to point fingers. My message was a lot about being held accountable, stepping up and taking blame, but then also coming up with positive solutions for the city.”
Armando Martinez, state representative for the City of Weslaco, attended a hearing in Austin regarding disaster relief through the House Committee on Culture, Recreation and Tourism. He brought up the issue of flooding and is focused on finding quick fixes in the event the city were to experience flooding again.
He was advised by W. Nim Kidd, chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management to submit a hazard mitigation grant proposal. This way, the city can submit ideas such as plans, schematics and cost estimates to alleviate flooding and can possibly receive funding from the federal money provided to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. Martinez will personally submit the proposal within 45 days and receive notice within the next 120 days.
“The city is being proactive on cleaning the coverts and cleaning the ditches, making sure that people aren’t doing the illegal dumping–removing tires and things so we can help the flow–that is extremely important,” Martinez said.
“And then there is whatever we can do on our end by adding those funds and bringing them in. That’s what’s going to also help alleviate the flooding issues, but we want something immediate, something quick and something that our people can count on that we’re going to alleviate any type of flooding in those areas.”
Road to Recycling
Ron Garza, executive director of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council, the official council of government for Hidalgo, Cameron and Willacy counties, said illegally dumped used tires have blocked drainage ditches, to devastating effect.
At a recent news conference to announce the second annual Road-to-Recycling regional tire collection project, Garza was asked if illegally dumped tires had added to the drainage problems in Weslaco and other parts of the Valley. He responded:
“Absolutely. After the recent flooding, we saw pictures of some tires in the floodways, and what was even more scary, we saw tires being taken out of the floodways. We are seeing groups of 40, sometimes 50 tires, that were blocking an eight-foot corridor for flood control.”
Garza said cities and counties in the Valley do an “excellent job” trying to upkeep those areas.
“But, it is only a matter of days before they find themselves back cleaning them out again. It is an ongoing struggle but that is why we are collaborating with projects like Road-to-Recycling. We do not only want to collect the tires but really to create the awareness of how dangerous tires are. It is kind of an out-of-sight, out-of-mind issue but it is a critical issue for our area.”
During a news conference to announce Road-to-Recycling tire collection events, Garza said the dumping of unused tires can literally do millions of dollars of damage can be done to flood control systems.
“We advocate all the time for more flood and management control systems here and they are multi-million dollar projects. But, sometimes you can have those multi-million projects and a few illegally dumped tires can cause havoc on that system, preventing it from working properly.”
Editor’s Note: Reporter Steve Taylor contributed to this story from Weslaco, Texas.