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Hidalgo-County-SealThe Hidalgo County Drainage District agreed to look into an alternative plan to fortify the gap between the levees at the Peñitas Pumphouse at the request of Irrigation District No. 1, which owns the property.

If waters overtook the levees, much of southwest Hidalgo County would flood. An engineer representing the irrigation district told the Commissioner Court, which oversees the drainage district, the county’s temporary solution of building a wall behind the pump station would leave the station vulnerable.

If the building were to fall during a major storm, an area extending from Peñitas to Mission and Edinburg would be without water as the pumphouse produces 6.5 billion gallons of drinking water daily. It also provides 70,000 acres with irrigation water and maintains 26 miles of canals to Edinburg.

Instead, the engineer suggested the county consider fortifying the earthen levees on each side of the pump station and shore up the station itself. The total price tag for work on the building could range from $800,000 to $1 million.

The county’s temporary solution of the wall behind the pump station was expected to cost about $100,000 and was intended to be complete by hurricane season, which begins in June.

County Judge Garcia expressed concern that the irrigation district’s solution wouldn’t be complete until possibly the end of the year, but he was told the county had resources to move dirt to build up the levees another six or seven feet. The levees need to be 5 ½ feet taller to meet certification.

The judge also asked about sharing construction costs with the irrigation district, and he was told that was something that would need to go before the irrigation district’s board because the agency is “not in the business of holding back flood waters.”

The current long-term solution is under the guidance of the International Water and Boundary Commission and is expected to cost several million dollars.

Part of the reason the project was not completed when the work on the levees was done is the channel leading to the pumphouse filled with sediments of unstable soil.

A new design hasn’t been drawn, the engineer said, and the soonest the members of the International Water and Boundary Commission said the project would be budgeted is 2015.

The IWBC asked for a letter from the court telling them which way the drainage district wanted to proceed. After discussion, it was decided to shore up the pumphouse and rebuild the earthen levees around the pumphouse and wait for IBWC to have funding to come back and fix the problem correctly in the future.

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