EDINBURG, RGV – Hidalgo County Commissioners have promised that funds approved for improvements to the county’s storm drainage system will not be diverted to other projects.

Unofficial final results on Tuesday show a $190 million bond issue passed on a vote of 67 percent to 33 percent.

Back in 2006, almost $80 million out of a $100 million bond issue that was approved by Hidalgo County voters for drainage projects in 2006 was used to fix federal levees. 

“In the past, some monies have been diverted from other bonds to support projects outside of the bond projects they were approved for,” said Hidalgo County Commissioner David Fuentes.

Fuentes represents Precinct 1 in eastern Hidalgo County. In June, much of Fuentes’ precinct suffered flooding. 

At a news conference in support of the $1900 million bond issue, Fuentes said:

“The only commitment we can make is that we are working towards working on these projects. We want to get all of these projects in the ground. We are fully committed to improving the drainage in this area. We cannot go back in time and try to explain what happened in the past, or change anything that happened in the past. All we can do is assure our constituents that you have our full commitment to get these projects worked on as quickly as possible.”

Hidalgo County Commissioner Eddie Cantu was also at the news conference. Asked if he too would commit to keeping the $190 million on drainage projects identified by Hidalgo County Drainage District No. 1, Cantu said:

“If you look at the drainage projects I have in Precinct 2 and the rain events we had in June on those people, it would be almost impossible for me to take that money and move it somewhere else. How am I gong to look those people in the eye and say, we are not going to do your project, even though you were underwater and you had water in your homes. 

“We have a commitment to the people who voted us into office. There is no way we are moving this money away from an area that as heavily impacted. I do not think we have had an event like this before, where so many people were impacted with water in their homes.”

Raul E. Sesin, general manager of Hidalgo County Drainage District No. 1, said the June 2018 floods were caused by the second to worst rains to hit Hidalgo County since Hurricane Beulah in 1967.

Commissioner Fuentes said 1,700 homes in his precinct will be directly impacted by new drainage projects. 

“These are 1,700 families that hopefully will never have to go through a structural issue again. When we walked the streets with FEM A after the (June 2018) event, when they were doing their individual assessment, we were trying to determine how many homes had 18 inches of water or more inside the homes. We have 1,700, and of those, probably 1,000 were in Precinct 1. It was very disappointing,” Fuentes said.

Fuentes said the $190 million bond issue “will not fix everything.” However, he said it will help those in most need.

Community groups like La Unión del Pueblo Entero and Valley Interfaith were in full support of the bond issue.

Andy Noriega, a Valley Interfaith leader from St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Weslaco, said: “People keep talking about the June 20th floods. But in 2015, our homes flooded with just an inch less of rain than what fell on June 20th. We see that these proposed projects will take water out of our families’ homes and into retention ponds and canals. That is why we support this bond.” 

During RGV Public Radio 88 FM’s election night coverage, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling came on the air to express his pleasure that the drainage bond issue had won the support of a large majority of Hidalgo County voters.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story shows Hidalgo County Commissioners David Fuentes and Eddie Cantu flanking Raul E. Sesin, general manager of Hidalgo County Drainage District No. 1.