City launches $1.5 million drainage project

Firm to study widening of storm sewer lines

HARLINGEN — For decades, many residents in the area of Ninth and 13th Streets have braced for heavy rains that often spawn floodwaters.

Now, the city is taking a big step to curb flooding along some the area’s oldest neighborhoods.

Earlier this week, city commissioners approved an engineering contract aimed at launching a $1.5 million drainage project along Ninth and 13th streets.

“We are upgrading the storm sewer system,” City Manager Dan Serna said.

In 2008, when Hurricane Dolly flooded much of the area, city leaders drafted a long-range master plan to better drain floodwaters.

In a meeting Tuesday, commissioners selected TEDSI Infrastructure Group based on the recommendation of a five-member committee made up of department heads who reviewed the experience of 14 engineering firms.

To fund the study, the city will use a $124,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency along with $30,000 in local funds.

Based on the findings, the city plans to install wider storm sewer lines along parts of the two streets, Assistant City Manager Carlos Sanchez said.

“We’ve had street flooding in this location,” Public Works Director Celina Gonzales said. “The existing storm sewer lines are antiquated. We have to upgrade these lines to hold bigger capacities so water can flow faster.”

The study will help determine the diameter of about 5,000 feet of storm sewer lines required to improve drainage in the area of Ninth and 13th streets.

“We want to determine the scope and necessity of the improvements,” Serna said of the study. “The intent is to improve the runoff during storm events.”

Gonzales said the proposed project is based on the city’s master drainage plan drafted in 2008, when Hurricane Dolly flooded much of the area.

Since then, the city has undertaken $13.4 million worth of projects.

To fund those projects, the city used $6.49 million in grant money while dipping into its general fund budget or borrowing to come up with the remaining $6.9 million.

How we got here

From 2012 to 2014, the city used the money to complete drainage projects in the Buchanan, Hays and M Street area, the Jefferson Avenue area and the Third Street area.

Because of the master plan, the city is now working on this project along Ninth and 13th streets along with about $8.5 million worth of additional projects.

At City Hall, officials are counting on landing about $7.4 million in grant money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of a plan in which the city would fund about $2.4 million of the projects’ costs.

The other improvements will target areas along Fifth and Seventh streets, Business 77 and Dixieland Road.