FEMA grant to help fund $2.7M drainage project

HARLINGEN — For decades, residents along some of the city’s oldest neighborhoods have wallowed along flooded streets during heavy rains.

Since 2008, when Hurricane Dolly flooded much of the region, the city’s master plan has called for a multimillion-dollar project to curb flooding in the area along Ninth and 13th Streets.

“We’ve seen flooding there in the past,” Assistant City Manager Carlos Sanchez said yesterday. “It’s mostly street flooding.”

For nearly five years, officials have been asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help in funding the $2.7 million project.

Now, FEMA has awarded the city a $1.1 million grant to boost the size of the area’s storm sewer pipes to better drain floodwaters in the area made up of about 325 homes and businesses.

“We kept resubmitting and resubmitting it until it finally went to the top of the list,” Sanchez said, referring to the city’s grant application.

To help fund the project, city commissioners have set aside $1.6 million out of the city’s new $47.6 million general fund budget.

“The city of Harlingen is elated to be the recipient of the FEMA grant,” Mayor Chris Boswell stated.

U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, helped the city land the grant, city spokeswoman Irma Garza said.

“We are more than grateful to our federal delegation for their support of this funding to meet critical drainage needs for our city,” Boswell stated.

The project’s scope

As part of the project, crews will replace 7,180 linear feet of undersized storm sewer pipelines with 48- and 72-inch reinforced concrete pipes in the area running from Ninth and 13th streets and Harrison, Tyler and Pierce avenues.

In 2018, a $92,963 FEMA grant helped fund a study that determined the area’s storm sewer pipes couldn’t handle floodwaters.

“With development, over time those pipes require additional capacity,” Sanchez said.

“This project will minimize the amount of flooding,” he said. “Part of the project is to increase the size of the pipes and add inlets so water is drained into the Arroyo Colorado more efficiently so it gets out quicker to make all these areas drivable a lot quicker.”

At City Hall, City Manager Dan Serna estimated construction on the 10- to 12-month project would begin during the first quarter of the year.

City drainage projects

Meanwhile, officials continue to work on other drainage projects in the areas of Altas Palmas, Beckham Road, Lake Drive, Secluded Acres, Becky Lane and Halpin Road while upgrading the 13th Street drainage ditch, the Dixieland Road drainage ditch and the Jefferson drain ditch.

As a result of the June 24 storm that dumped as much as 15 inches in less than four hours, officials have launched 10 projects aimed at upgrading drainage ditches.

Since they drafted the city’s master plan in 2008, officials have undertaken $13.4 million worth of drainage projects.

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

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.