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State and local officials call on Biden to aid RGV in levee reparations

State and local officials have called for reparations to the Rio Grande levee as it leaves locals vulnerable to the extremities of harsh weather.

Last Wednesday morning, local officials held a press conference to discuss the severity of breaches in the Rio Grande levee and the impact it could leave for locals with the approaching hurricane season.

The levee was built under the 2006 Safe Fence Act to protect the Rio Grande Valley’s delta region from flooding. It then became a base for the construction concept of former President Trump’s border wall. Cuts and modifications to the levee took place.

However, when President Biden entered office on Jan. 21, all border wall construction came to a halt under his administration, leaving the levee in a weakened and critical state. There are currently four breaches to the levee that extends from Palmview through Mission.

“When this border wall started construction, and they started to do work, there were several breaches along this area,” said Hidalgo County Judge Cortez during the press conference, motioning to the mile-long cut behind him. “When there was a change of administration…they just walked away from here.”

Hidalgo County Commissioner Everardo Villareal said the breaches to levy were discovered after he took office in January but seemed to be present in the region for some time.

“We want to make it very clear that our concern is the safety of our community,” said Villareal at last Wednesday’s press conference.

During Hurricane Hanna last year and 2010s Hurricane Alex, many of the residents were heavily affected by high winds and flood damage to the deep delta area.

Villareal said that he and other officials have walked the area and toured the levee via helicopter to view the damage from an aerial perspective.

Cities such as Palmview, Madero, Granjeno, and southern rural districts east of Mission will be heavily affected by the compromised levee as hurricane season rolls around the corner.

Commissioner Everardo Villarreal and County Judge Richard Cortez. Courtesy photo.

Palmview Mayor Ricardo Villareal addressed his concerns on the issue, saying it will take months for citizens of the Rio Grande to recover from severe weather conditions and flooding.

“We had a hurricane just last season, and we are still recovering along not only this area, the precinct, but the whole county is still recovering from such a devastation,” said Mayor Villareal. “We do need the cooperation and the help from all our entities, local, federal, and state.”

“We had a phone conference with our senator (Senator John Cornyn) this past Friday,” said Commissioner Villareal during a follow-up interview on Tuesday morning. “After that discussion, he prepared a letter and forwarded it over to President Biden, informing him of the breaches and the concern of how this can affect our community.”

Senator Ted Cruz also followed in Cornyn’s steps and urged the White House to repair the breaches in a letter sent on Wednesday morning:

“Your decision to halt levee wall construction when you halted border wall construction has left hundreds of thousands of residents vulnerable in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV),” wrote Cruz. “We have heard from Hidalgo County officials and residents that as hurricane and flooding season soon approaches, the unfinished border wall levee system in Hidalgo County is a matter of urgent public safety. They have been emphatic—remediating the levee wall system should be an emergency priority.”

The Hidalgo Drainage Center contacted the International Boundary & Water Commission and has communicated their concerns to the offices and to the chief engineer in El Paso. County officials have also reached out to the Army Corps, Homeland Security, and FEMA with the aid of Senator Cornyn. County officials are actively working to reach more state and federal contacts to fix the levee before June 1.

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