Precinct 1, Weslaco field concerns over drainage progress

(Dina Arevalo | The Monitor)

WESLACO — Hidalgo County Drainage District No. 1, Hidalgo County and the city of Weslaco fielded concerns at a drainage project meeting Saturday morning.

The meeting was held at the Las Brisas project site in what will soon be a dry detention pond.

Hidalgo County Pct. 1 Commissioner David L. Fuentes, Drainage District Manager Raul E. Sesin and Weslaco city officials, including Mayor David Suarez and Commissioner Josh Pedraza, were on hand to provide information about the projects and address the concerns of their constituents.

“We’re just doing a little community outreach here for the local rural subdivisions that are being impacted by this project,” Sesin said. “This bond project, it’s one of our 38 projects that we identified back in November to do. This detention facility is under construction right now.”

The money for the projects comes from the $190 million bond approved by voters in November 2018.

Local officials have been hearing concerns from constituents regarding the progress of the projects.

“A lot of people think that we’re done here. We’re maybe 40% or so, so it’s not even close to being done,” Sesin said. “This is just one facility. We’ve got other facilities. We’ve got a new ditch, direction of flow is going to change to expedite the water getting out of this area. We’ve got work that we’re doing on existing ditches that are widening. It’s a multitude of things that are happening. This is just one phase of it, one very small phase of the whole overall improvements that we’re doing for this area.”

Commissioner Fuentes shared Sesin’s desire to be transparent with his constituents.

“Recently there have been some people that have been putting out misinformation about this project in general,” Fuentes said. “I had mentioned when we did the kick-off here that it was an $11 million project. They look at this hole in the ground, 10 acres, and they’re saying, ‘Wow, this is an $11 million hole in the ground?’ No. This is a brand new drainage system that’s going to have miles of new ditches. It’s going to have detention facilities along the way. We want people to really understand.”

Fuentes said that he understood why people would be concerned with the progress of the project, which is estimated to be completed by June.

“Because it’s impactful to them, they drive out of their neighborhood everyday and see a hole in the ground. They might not understand,” Fuentes said. “From their standpoint, they see water standing in this ditch and they’re like, ‘Is this what we’re gonna see everyday?’ No. We want to clarify exactly what the scope of work is for us: what the end result is going to be, how long it’s going to take to construct, and what the cost of it is and how we’re all working together to make sure that they don’t ever flood again.

“These people in this particular area surrounding this ditch, this detention facility, have endured the most catastrophic flooding in the city of Weslaco,” Fuentes added. “Them and some people north of here. We want them to know that we’re addressing the problem, and this is how we’re addressing it.”

Maria Flores lives off of Mile 9 North. She attended the meeting because she wanted answers regarding some of her losses from last year’s flooding.

“I came here for the purpose that when I got flooded, I lost everything in my house and a lot of my caliche,” Flores said. “I paid good money for that caliche. It’s all gone. Now when it rains, I have the problem of flooding. After all that flooding, we’re still not completely recovered. I lost a lot of things. I’m trying to recover from it.”

When asked if her concerns were addressed during the meeting, Flores said “not really,” but she did appreciate the three entities hosting the meeting to try to reach out to the community.

“It was a good idea,” Flores said. “It’s very helpful. The people asked a lot of questions, and I think they gave some really good answers.”

And that’s exactly what officials were hoping to do.

“If we weren’t clear enough the first time when we did the ribbon cutting or the ground breaking, we want to make sure that people understand that the $11 million that we’re going to spend on this system is going to incorporate detention facilities, buying land, creating new ditches, putting in a pump structure at the IBWC (International Boundary and Water Commission),” Fuentes said.

“We want them to understand the whole scope of work.”