ALAMO, RGV – When hurricane season is underway in the Rio Grande Valley, as it is now, the main floodway needs to be operational, in case the Rio Grande tops its banks.
This is not the case right now because of repairs to the levee on the south side of the floodway south of Alamo. There is a big gap in the south side levee about three quarters of a mile west of Tower Road. This has Valley leaders concerned. So much so that the Rio Grande Regional Water Authority has written to the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission.
“We are very aware and concerned about the breach in the floodway and that is why we are writing to the IBWC,” said Jim Darling, chairman of the RGRWA and mayor of McAllen.
“Obviously, the hurricane season is a pretty long season and except for hurricanes it is in the dry season. So, they, IBWC, do their construction then. You are supposed to have emergency plans so they can shut down any project in three days, should there be a hurricane. But if you look at what they are doing, south of Alamo, there is no way in the world they could shut that down and repair it in three days.”
Asked who is doing the levee repair work, Darling said: “IBWC is doing the work. It is their floodway system.”
Just to exacerbate the problem, Darling said, Mexico is now releasing water from two of its tributaries south of Falcon Dam, which means more water will be flowing into the Rio Grande.
“Mexico has been storing water and, traditionally, they have gone to conservation stage before the hurricane season. We are already a month into the season and now they are talking about releasing the water. We made note of our concerns to the IBWC engineer at our (RGRWA) meeting and we are following it up with a letter to IBWC Commissioner Edward Drusina.”
Darling said that in addition to the RGWRA, the City of McAllen would also be sending a letter to U.S. Section Commissioner Drusina. “We are concerned about hurricane season and breaches to the levee during hurricane season,” Darling said.
Julian Alvarez, president of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership is currently the interim executive director of the RGRWA. He told the Rio Grande Guardian: “We need to take action on this. It surprises us about the number of days being requested for repairs. Three days does not seem enough time to fix what needs to be done, especially with the continuous rain we have had and the lack of workers. We owe it to the folks in the Rio Grande Valley to write a letter voicing our concerns. We are in hurricane season and we need the floodway system to be working. We should have had any repairs fixed a long time ago.”
Sally Spener, secretary for foreign affairs in the U.S. Section of the IBWC, said of the repairs to the floodway levees south of Alamo: “This is an area where Hidalgo County Drainage District #1 is doing construction on a structure that goes through the levee as part of their drainage system improvements. The USIBWC issued the district a license to do this work. One of the requirements is that the District has a contingency plan whereby they must immediately reconstruct the levee in the event of a forecast hurricane/flood. This is standard practice for any construction projects on our levee system.”
Jaclyn Treviño, multimedia coordinator for Hidalgo County is handling media inquiries while public affairs director Julia Benitez Sullivan is on vacation. Treviño said of the levee repairs south of Alamo: “This is a project being conducted by IBWC. They are fortifying the floodway.”