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Pictured at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Cameron County Irrigation District No. 6's new Los Fresnos-Santa Rita Pump Station, are Jon Pederson, CCID#6 board member; Joe Collinsworth, CCID#6 board member; Eddie Cruz, CCID#6 board member; Bryan Shaw, chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality; Congressman Filemon Vela; Ray Lopez, President, CCID#6 board; Alex Hinojosa, deputy managing director of the North American Development Bank; Edward Drusina, U.S. Commissioner for the International Boundary and Water Commission; Bech Bruun, chairman of Texas Water Development Board, Tito Nieto, CCID#6 general manager; Bruce Schmitt, CCID#6 board member; and Frank Ferris, project engineer, of Ferris, Flinn & Medina.

BROWNSVILLE, RGV – As U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa and others work in Washington, D.C., to secure more funds for the North American Development Bank, more evidence of its impact along the U.S.-Mexico border region was on display this week in the Rio Grande Valley.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Thursday by Cameron County Irrigation District No. 6 for the new Los Fresnos-Santa Rita Pump Station. It was partially financed with a grant for close to $990,000 from NADBank. Alex Hinojosa, deputy managing director of NADBank, was present for the inauguration, along with U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela and other dignitaries.

U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa
U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa

“We are pleased to see the completion of this important project, which will increase water availability and service reliability for the District’s users, while at the same time significantly reducing the District’s energy requirements and operating costs,” said NADBank’s Hinojosa, in his remarks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Cameron County Irrigation District No. 6 provides irrigation services to about 19,268 acres of farm land and supplies municipal water to the city of Los Fresnos, Texas, and the Olmito Water Supply Corporation, among others. Its old pump station was built in the early 1900s and for several years now its average overall efficiency has been low, contributing to estimated water losses of more than 12,730 acre-feet/year through seepage and evaporation in the canals.

The $1.98 million project involved the instillation of two supplemental vertical turbine pumps with natural gas powered motors, as well as a 36” pipeline to connect each pump to the conveyance line that will transport the water to the supply canal.

Ray Lopez, chairman of Cameron County Irrigation District No. 6, said: “This new pump station puts our District and the community we serve in a very good place for the future – not only with regard to energy diversity and efficiency, but also with water conservation and service reliability. We know other districts are looking at similar infrastructure improvements too, and we are just grateful to get a head start with the help of NAD Bank.”

In addition to Congressman Vela, NADBank’s Hinojosa, and CCID #6 Chairman Lopez, other VIPs at the groundbreaking ceremony included International Boundary and Water Commission U.S. Commissioner Edward Drusina, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Chairman Bryan Shaw, and Texas Water Development Board Chairman Bech Bruun.

Cameron County Irrigation District No. 6 board members Jon Pederson, Joe Collinsworth, Eddie Cruz, and Bruce Schmitt were also present, along with the District’s general manager, Tito Nieto, and project engineer Frank Ferris, of Ferris, Flinn & Medina.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Congressman Hinojosa has been working to secure increased funding for NADBank. At a recent hearing of the House Committee on Financial Services, Hinojosa questioned Treasury Secretary Jacob ‘Jack’ Lew about funding for the agency. He noted that the Obama administration wants to double the NADBank’s capital over the next five years – from $3 billion to $6 billion – “to support a robust pipeline of investments in the border region.” However, Congressional approval is required.

“Since its creation over 20 years ago, the NADBank has made a tremendous improvement to some of the most impoverished communities in both the U.S. and Mexico, including towns and colonias in my district, along the U.S.-Mexico border, from Texas through New Mexico, Arizona to California,” Hinojosa said. “The Bank’s investments have contributed towards many life renewing resources, including potable drinking water to millions of people – many of whom faced health-threatening conditions due to unsafe sources of drinking water.”

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob 'Jack' Lew
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob ‘Jack’ Lew

Hinojosa pointed out that NADBank was created in 1994 as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to alleviate the environmental and economic problems resulting from increased commerce across the US-Mexico border region. “It is a bi-national bank equally governed by the U.S. and Mexico to fund the development of environmental infrastructure in potable water, wastewater treatment and solid waste as well as projects aimed at improving air quality, water conservation, and energy efficiency.”

Hinojosa said he is working with colleagues on the House Financial Services Committee and fellow U.S.-Mexico border members to secure a capital increase for the NADBank. He said he initiated a letter addressed to the House Appropriations committee seeking full-funding of the capital increase for the NADBank as requested in Obama’s FY2017 budget in order to realize an agreement reached by Obama and Peña Nieto for the border region. Hinojosa has introduced “The North American Development Bank General Capital Increase Authorization Act of 2016” (H.R. 4834) to authorize the bank’s capital increase.

“The NADBank is a critical component of the US-Mexico bilateral relationship. Strengthening the NADBank would be an important demonstration of the United States’ shared commitment with Mexico to build a stable and prosperous border region. As a valued and trusted institution on both sides of the border, the Bank can continue to help mitigate high poverty rates and security challenges along the U.S.-Mexico border,” Hinojosa added.

In his testimony, Secretary Lew responded: “The administration is looking for this capital increase because it will allow the United States to continue supporting these kinds of infrastructure projects on our border. They are so important. It deepens our relationship with Mexico, it addresses environmental issues that are cross-border issues. It is an important aspect of our economic life to have those issues addressed and only we and Mexico are the parties of interest – which is why the NADBank and the U.S.-Mexico relationship is so different.”