TWDB approves resolutions seeking millions in water projects

Texas Water Development Board held a hearing at Harlingen City Hall on Thursday, Sept. 14. The day before they toured the Rio Grande Valley.

HARLINGEN, Texas – Water issues such as higher pressure, cutoffs and other interruptions are about to get better for thousands of residents in two areas of Cameron County.

The Texas Water Development Board has approved two resolutions requesting $10 million from the Harlingen Water Works System (HWS) and more than $12.9 million from the Laguna Madre Water District.

The two entities serve more than 90,000 members and requested the funds for planning, acquisition and design of wastewater system improvement projects.

Carlos Galvan, general manager with LMWD, said the money will go for demolishing a water storage facility and for replacing two underground storage tanks.

“This is great,” he said on Friday, a day after the board approved the resolutions. “This is is going to benefit all of our customers.”

Galvan said they serve about 20,000 permanent residents and up to 100,000 holiday-makers during the summer season from the Memorial to the Labor Day weekends.

The three-member board approved the two requests as well as from other three cities, totaling $38.2 million during a meeting held Thursday, Sept. 14, at the Harlingen City Hall.

Tim Skoglund, general manager with HWS, said the funding the board approved will come in the form of a loan.

“We are pleased to receive it,” he said, referring to the approval of the resolution. “The money will be provided in federal assistance and it will go for the sewage system.”

According to the request submitted on behalf of the City of Harlingen, the funds will be used for financing, acquisition and design of a wastewater system improvement project.

In addition to Harlingen, HWS serves the towns of Palm Valley, Combes and Primera, but the last two use septic tanks.

The meeting was one of several the board held as part of a Rio Grande Valley traveling tour and the first it made in more than ten years statewide.

Brooke T. Paup, the board chairwoman, said the trip to the Valley left a big impression on her as she saw first-hand the importance of water supply and flood mitigation.

“When we talked about these traveling tours the first place we wanted to come to is the Rio Grande Valley,” she said, “because you are such water warriors and care so about much about infrastructure.”

The first item of the 14-point agenda called for the presentations of regional water projects, plans and other issues.

Janie Lopez, state representative for District 37, said she wanted to extend her appreciation to the board for its support in water and drainage projects and for coming to the Valley – a place she described important to the state and to Gov. Greg Abbott.

Lopez said a study is being conducted about an artificial drainage system to help manage storms, prevent floods and safeguard the residents of many communities.

Others addressing the board included Harlingen Mayor Norma Sepulveda, Los Fresnos Mayor Alex Flores and the general managers of several water irrigation districts.

Sepulveda said the biggest asset the Valley has is its people and providing water, sewage and drainage services are top priorities here.

Flores said the city he represents is one of the fastest growing in the area with a population of more than 8,000 people.

He said the TWDB has allocated more than $14 million in the last ten years for improvements.

But he also said many of the problems with flooding in the area can be attributed to abandoned drainage ditches and called for buying easements as many of them are in private properties.

Although the Valley and Texas have been experiencing drought conditions on and off since the 1950s, seeking other means of water supply have been in the works for some time.

John Dupnik, executive administrator with the TWDV staff, gave an update on finding an alternative water source for the future, particularly for this region of the state.

He said 14 of 23 studies have been conducted for long term brackish underground water production, yielding an accumulative 3.8 billion acre feet of water.

Dupnik said waste, desalinized and brackish underground waters are going to be important sources of water production in Texas.

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