Local officials stress state constitutional amendment would fund much-needed flood control efforts

In this June 21, 2018 file photo, McAllen firefighter Abraham Soto rides in the back of a municipal dump truck while looking for stranded residents at Oak Terrace subdivision at Vine and Bentson in McAllen. Severe storms in June and July caused flooding in areas of Hidalgo, Cameron and Jim Wells counties that resulted in a major disaster declaration by the federal government. With the start of the 2019 hurricane season Saturday, authorities are advising residents to purchase flooding insurance--and reminding homeowners that, like in 2018, floods can also be caused by non-tropical storms. (Delcia Lopez/The Monitor)

EDINBURG — Elected officials here are asking residents to vote in favor of Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment that would appropriate almost a billion dollars to flood control projects across Texas. Voters, meanwhile, will begin having their say as early as Monday — the start of early voting.

State Rep. Bobby Guerra spoke out in favor of Prop 8 during an Edinburg City Council meeting Tuesday and asked voters to support it during the upcoming November election.

“After seeing the devastating flood after Hurricane Harvey and the recent flooding we have experienced here in the Rio Grande Valley, it was clear that the legislature needed to develop an innovative approach on how the state addresses flooding issues throughout the state,” Guerra said.

If passed, the measure would create the Flood Infrastructure Fund, which would take $793 million from the Economic Stabilization Fund, otherwise known as the rainy day fund, to pay for flood control and mitigation projects.

“This will require no new taxes,” Guerra said. “These funds come from oil and gas revenues that the state receives, which is where we obtain funding for public schools and our retired teachers.”

The fund would allow municipalities and counties to apply for grants and loans to prepare for future disasters.

“As we know, Hurricane Harvey was absolutely horrible to watch on television, and we were very blessed that Harvey did not hit the Rio grande Valley,” Guerra said. “However, we’ve had our hurricanes in the past. When I was a child, Hurricane Beulah hit, and quite frankly, Edinburg, McAllen and much of the Valley was under water.”

The region is currently hyper focused on flood control after undergoing two 500-year rain events that flooded parts of the Valley.

Earlier this week, a slew of elected officials and stakeholders met with Sen. John Cornyn to ask him to draw down federal funds to several projects, including the Raymondville Drain and the Delta Water Reclamation project.

Cornyn toured the ongoing construction sites and heard from a number of representatives from across the Valley about the area’s needs.

“Rains and floods don’t follow political boundaries, so we must all work together as a region to improve the drainage infrastructure of the entire Rio Grande Valley and parts of the state of Texas,” Guerra said.

If Texans approve Prop 8, the fund would be administered through the Texas Water Development Board. It would stand apart from the General Revenue Fund to ensure money is available in future budget cycles, Guerra added.

Edinburg council members unanimously approved a resolution in favor of the proposition and also encouraged voters to support it.

“Proposition 8 is the answer to creating a regional solution to address flooding,” Guerra said.

nlopez@themonitor.com