City gets $5.6 million for flood runoff analysis

Maricela Rodriguez/Valley Morning Star Thunderstorms passed through and drenched the area with several inches of rain June 2018. The heavy rainfall caused the Arroyo Colorado to overflow.

HARLINGEN — Christmas has come early for city officials.

The $5.6 million present from the Texas Water Development Board will nearly completely fund a $6.2 million project to analyze and report back on regional flood protection by looking at the complete watershed of the Arroyo Colorado.

Harlingen officials have long felt restricted in dealing with local flooding events, since so much of the runoff is dependent on flood-control measures farther up the arroyo where the city does not necessarily control.

The study will cover two watersheds.

One is the Arroyo Colorado area of around 297 square miles and 49 centerline miles of the arroyo itself. The second is an additional 740 miles of existing drainage channels, ditches, irrigation canals and other areas holding water which are north of the arroyo.

Included in the study area are the cities of Harlingen, San Benito, La Feria, Combes, Mercedes, Primera, Progresso, Rio Hondo, Santa Rosa, Rangerville, Palm Valley and portions of both Cameron and Hidalgo Counties.

Additionally, there are three drainage districts and one irrigation district within that area.

The study will help pinpoint spots which need help in a region which has experienced five federally declared flood events, including FEMA disaster declarations, in the past five years.

“In addition to the nearly $20 million dollars of drainage projects we have completed and are under way, this regional study will point the way forward for a coordinated drainage plan,” Mayor Chris Boswell said.  “I commend City Manager Dan Serna and his team for spearheading this regional effort.”

As part of a regional effort, Harlingen plans to partner with the other entities within the study area to produce hydraulic flood studies that will identify mitigation projects necessary to address flooding.

Both Boswell and Serna have insisted storm water management needs a regional approach, and this flood study will provide the tools to leverage local funds and petition for state and federal funds to construct drainage improvement projects to best effect.

The city hopes to contract to get the study started next year with a completion date of September 2022.

Earlier this month, the City of Harlingen was awarded $1.3 million to help fund storm sewer system improvements from the new Flood Infrastructure Fund created by the Texas Legislature last year in the wake of devastating flooding over much of the state.

The Harlingen money, a federal grant match award, also will be used to implement stormwater pollution prevention measures.