COMMENTARY: Support state amendment creating flood infrastructure

In recent years, the Rio Grande Valley has seen flooding that has caused widespread devastation to homes, businesses, public property and infrastructure.

It was estimated that the flooding from June 2018 would cost upwards of $100 million according to the National Weather Service. However, this cost does not include the disruption of our lives and the loss of those sentimental things that can never be replaced.

I personally wrote to Gov. Greg Abbott urging him to declare a disaster to the affected areas and was pleased when he did so, allowing much-needed state resources to assist our local governments and emergency management rescue efforts.

While this is important, we must look forward on how to better prepare and prevent such flooding in the first place.

This past legislative session, I worked with my colleagues in the Texas House of Representatives to explore options on how we as a region can be better prepared and how we can put infrastructure in place to help with flooding to avoid the destruction and devastation we have seen in recent years.

Out of those efforts, we passed legislation that authorizes Texas constitutional amendment Proposition 8. Prop. 8 if passed with voter approval would create the Flood Infrastructure Fund.

The Rio Grande valley is one of the fastest growing regions in the state because of everything our area has to offer. This growth and development brings with it higher damage costs caused by a major flooding event.

What does voting yes to Prop. 8 mean exactly for Texans? If passed, Prop. 8 will create the Flood Infrastructure Fund, a special fund that is outside of the general revenue fund. It would be a statewide funding mechanism that helps local communities and regions finance drainage, flood mitigation and flood control projects. Utilizing $793 million from Texas’ economic stabilization fund, or rainy day fund, in tandem with other provisions voted on by the legislature, Prop. 8 will allow grants and loans to be awarded to municipalities across the state that suffer from flooding.

The Texas Water Development Board would oversee the FIF, and would be able to issue loans at or below market rate for these drainage/flooding projects.

Additionally, it will open the door to more federal funding.

Current federal funding only applies to counties and cities that can meet the 35% local matching fund requirement.

However, that requirement is out of reach for many Texas towns. Access to the FIF makes those matching dollars attainable through the grants that will be available to our local governments.

Rebuilding after cataclysmic flooding carries both a monetary and community cost. I encourage all those who wish to hear more on Prop. 8 to join me on at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. All are welcome to come and hear from experts who will be on hand to answer any questions.

My colleague and friend, State Affairs Committee Chairman Dade Phelan, who authored the legislation behind Prop. 8, which I supported, is traveling here to be one of the guest speakers as well as local leaders who can speak specifically to the unique challenges here in the Rio Grande Valley. I fully support this and other efforts to be proactive in stopping the devastation from the flooding we face.

This event is free and open to the general public. Early voting on this and other constitutional amendments begin Monday, Oct. 21; Election Day is Nov. 5.

R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, represents District 41 in the Texas House of Representatives.