Harlingen kicks off new $2.8 million drainage project

Mayor Chris Boswell, city commissioners and the city manager held a virtual Ground Breaking Ceremony on Tuesday for a major drainage improvement project. The project will be funded by the City of Harlingen and FEMA.

HARLINGEN — Another link in the flood-control chain was forged Tuesday with the ceremonial groundbreaking for the 9th and 13th Street Drainage Improvement Project, a $2.8 million effort backed mostly by federal funds.

The project is one of dozens of similar efforts cataloged in the city’s long-term Master Drainage Plan of 2008, which designated about $44 million of work that needed to be accomplished to improve stormwater runoff.

“In just the last 10 years, we have either completed or have under way nearly $20 million worth of drainage and storm sewer improvements, and this $2.8 million project funded in part by FEMA and the State of Texas administering federal dollars, and the City of Harlingen matching over $1.6 million, is our largest project that continues this progression of important infrastructure development to reduce the chances of flooding in our community,” said Mayor Chris Boswell.

This project, said City Manager Dan Serna, will cost the city just $300,000, and both he and the mayor stressed that meeting the goals of the Master Drainage Plan is being done on a pay-as-you-go basis, with the city resisting the option of obtaining loans to hurry things along.

“I think with the floods that we had in 2018 and 2019, there were substantial amounts of rainfall,” Serna said. “But anything you do to improve drainage runoff is going to improve it not for just this neighborhood, but the entire city.”

“Water doesn’t respect boundaries,” he added. “Water’s going to go where water’s going to go. If we are able to move water into a main drainage channel like the arroyo in a very engineered way, then you’re going to improve the overall drainage for the entire city.”

The work here at the 9th Street and 13th Street project will remove old sewer pipe which is 18 inches to 30 inches in diameter and replace it with reinforced concrete pipe which is 48 inches. The funding will allow the city to dig up the old pipe and replace 7,000 linear feet of it with the new, bigger pipe, which should move water southward toward the Arroyo Colorado much faster.

Serna said the city also has pending grant applications for stormwater runoff projects for Jefferson Street and for 77 Sunshine Strip. In addition, the city is working toward obtaining funds for a $6 million study which will analyze drainage in the entire region, and not just individual cities.

Also, the International Boundary and Water Commission is expected to begin a major dredging of the arroyo from the 77 Sunshine Strip bridge to the Port of Harlingen within the next month or two.

“These aren’t just words that we’re talking about today, these aren’t words about drainage,” Boswell said. “These are actions that are making the improvements that are necessary to reduce the chances of flooding for our community members.”

rkelley@valleystar.com