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Hidalgo-County-SealWhen the July 2010 floodwaters of the Rio Grande River washed away part of the earthen levee protecting the Peñitas pumphouse, much of the area south of the expressway was in danger of flooding. Had the levee given way, the pump station supplying drinking water for the McAllen-Edinburg area would also likely have been ruined.

Trucks and heavy-duty equipment were immediately called in and emergency crews worked through the night to save the levee, sparing a widespread area, including south Mission and south McAllen, from flooding. While the temporary repairs were sufficient to save the pump station, more permanent repairs were needed. Three years later, those repairs are stalled.

Godfrey Garza, manager of Hidalgo County Drainage District #1, Monday expressed concern over the uncompleted levee project under the jurisdiction of the International Boundary Water Commission (IBWC). The major area of concern mentioned is the rehabilitation of the area around the Peñitas pumphouse.

Garza said in 2010 the IBWC received money to make changes needed to prevent flooding if the levee should breech at that location. When that happened, the money Hidalgo County had received to do the project was returned as IBWC was then placed in charge of that segment. IBWC plans were completed and the information was sent to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) for accreditation. To date the plans have not been certified.

According to Garza, it has taken too long to get certification. The IBWC had the money to build the segments, but now because of rising costs, would have to re-bid the project due to the delay, or cancel plans to build the segments of the levee needed.

Garza told Hidalgo County Commissioners if the levee were to break at that location the area that would be flooded would be the same area flooded during Hurricane Beulah. It would run from Bentsen Palm Road on the west to east of Cage in Pharr and further east into San Juan in some areas near the expressway. It would include the land south of Expressway 83 and north of the north flood canal. Areas that would be affected would be anything in Mission south of the expressway, including Cimarron. It would also flood the McAllen Airport and anything else that lies within those boundaries.

Garza asked Judge Ramon Garcia to send a letter to the IBWC to ask the area be certified as flood-safe. If not, Garza recommended that Hidalgo County ask for the original money sent to do the project be returned to the county so the project could be completed if FEMA did not plan to certify the plans of the IBWC.

Also of concern were some areas near Mercedes and Weslaco where Ballenger Construction was working on drainage projects when the company declared bankruptcy. Garza said a new contractor is needed to finish those projects.

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