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Mariachi performers from the Edcouch-Elsa Independent School District serenade Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, whose House District 40 includes the Delta Region, at Canales’ District Office in Edinburg on Thursday, February 6, 2014.

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

South Texas state lawmakers – including Rep. Terry Canales – are seeking $20 million in state funding to help pay for the Delta Region Water Management Project, a key component of Hidalgo County’s plans to reduce the damage caused by flooding while capturing such excess rainfall to create a new source of water that can be purified by cities for drinking. The Delta Region Water Management Plan will feature the development of the Delta Watershed, to be located in northeast Hidalgo County near Highway 107 in La Villa. The watershed is one of 25 projects overwhelmingly approved in a county-wide election on November 6, 2012 to improve the region’s drainage system. In that referendum, Hidalgo County voters authorized the county judge and the county commissioners, through their roles as the Board of Directors for Hidalgo County Drainage District No. 1, to issue $84 million in bonds, and leverage a $100 million federal grant, to pay for those 25 projects, including the Delta Watershed in La Villa. The planned Delta Watershed, by bringing the ability to capture stormwater, thus promoting water conservation, could qualify for state funds through the Texas Water Development Board, a state agency whose powers include providing financial help to entities statewide in the form of both grants and loans. As a result, Canales, Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya, and Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, are joint authors of a legislative rider by Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, that could result in $20 million over the next two years coming from that state agency for the Delta Watershed in La Villa. A rider is a legislative directive, inserted in the General Appropriations Act following appropriation line items for an agency, which provides either direction, expansion, restriction, legislative intent, or an appropriation. The term also applies to special provisions at the end of each article and general provisions in the General Appropriations Act. “What our measure would do, if approved by the Texas Legislature, is authorize the Texas Water Development Board, which is a state agency, to use up to $10 million a year for the next two years, beginning on September 1, from its existing state funds and unexpended balance, for the Delta Watershed, because that project is designed to reclaim flood water runoff,” said Canales. That rider is awaiting action by the House Appropriations Committee, which includes Longoria and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission. Martínez, who is taking the top legislative role with the rider, called the Delta Region Water Management Project “an innovative, forward-thinking plan that will benefit the Valley for decades to come. Whether it is for our agricultural economy, environment, farmers, municipalities, or water supply, this project will positively impact the entire Rio Grande Valley,” Martínez said, adding, “I’m honored to lead the way on this rider and am joined by a strong, united delegation in fighting to provide for a better future for residents of the Rio Grande Valley.” Longoria said the rider would represent an outstanding investment by the Legislature and the Texas Water Development Board because of the uniqueness of the planned Delta Watershed. “Texas, not just the Valley, is dealing with a significant drought, so much so that on March 9, Gov. Abbott said our current drought conditions have reached historic levels and continue to post an imminent threat to public health, property, and the economy,” Longoria said. “But here in Hidalgo County, we have an excellent plan which is deserving of state financial support, and that is the message we are taking to the Legislature and the Texas Water Development Board.”

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Rep. Canales, Rep. Longoria, Rep. Martínez and Rep. Oliveira seeking $20 million in state funds for planned Delta Watershed, designed to help protect Valley from floods and droughts

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

South Texas state lawmakers are seeking $20 million in state funding to help pay for the Delta Region Water Management Project, a key component of Hidalgo County’s plans to reduce the damage caused by flooding while capturing such excess rainfall to create a new source of water that can be purified by cities for drinking, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, has announced.

The Delta Region Water Management Plan will feature the development of the Delta Watershed, to be located in northeast Hidalgo County near Highway 107 in La Villa. The watershed is one of 25 projects overwhelmingly approved in a county-wide election on November 6, 2012 to improve the region’s drainage system.

In that referendum, Hidalgo County voters authorized the county judge and the county commissioners, through their roles as the Board of Directors for Hidalgo County Drainage District No. 1, to issue $84 million in bonds, and leverage a $100 million federal grant, to pay for those 25 projects, including the Delta Watershed in La Villa.

The planned Delta Watershed, by bringing the ability to capture stormwater, thus promoting water conservation, could qualify for state funds through the Texas Water Development Board, a state agency whose powers include providing financial help to entities statewide in the form of both grants and loans.

As a result, Canales, Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, and Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya, are joint authors of a legislative rider by Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, that could result in up to $20 million over the next two years coming from that state agency for the Delta Watershed in La Villa.

Martínez, who is taking the top legislative role with the rider, called the Delta Region Water Management Project “an innovative, forward-thinking plan that will benefit the Valley for decades to come.

“Whether it is for our agricultural economy, environment, farmers, municipalities, or water supply, this project will positively impact the entire Rio Grande Valley,” Martínez added. “I’m honored to lead the way on this rider and am joined by a strong, united delegation in fighting to provide for a better future for residents of the Rio Grande Valley.”

The rider is awaiting action by the House Appropriations Committee, which includes Longoria and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission.

“What our measure would do, if approved by the Texas Legislature, is authorize the Texas Water Development Board, which is a state agency, to use up to $10 million a year for the next two years, beginning on September 1, from its existing state funds and unexpended balance, for the Delta Watershed, because that project is designed to reclaim flood water runoff,” said Canales.

A rider is a legislative directive, inserted in the General Appropriations Act following appropriation line items for an agency, which provides either direction, expansion, restriction, legislative intent, or an appropriation. The term also applies to special provisions at the end of each article and general provisions in the General Appropriations Act.

VALLEY, OTHER KEY PORTIONS OF TEXAS UNDER DROUGHT CONDITIONS

Longoria said the rider would represent an outstanding investment by the Legislature and the Texas Water Development Board because of the uniqueness of the planned Delta Watershed.

“Texas, not just the Valley, is dealing with a significant drought, so much so that on March 9, Gov. Abbott said our current drought conditions have reached historic levels and continue to post an imminent threat to public health, property, and the economy,” Longoria said. “But here in Hidalgo County, we have an excellent plan which is deserving of state financial support, and that is the message we are taking to the Legislature and the Texas Water Development Board.”

There are 95 Texas counties currently affected by drought, according to the Governor’s Office.

In his proclamation, Abbott stated that the following counties, in alphabetical order, are facing exceptional drought conditions:Archer, Armstrong, Bandera, Baylor, Bosque, Briscoe, Burnet, Carson, Childress, Clay, Collin, Collingsworth, Colorado, Comal, Comanche, Cottle, Crosby, Dallam, Dallas, Delta, Denton, DeWitt, Dickens, Donley, Eastland, Edwards, Ellis, El Paso, Erath, Fannin, Floyd, Foard, Frio, Garza, Gillespie, Gray, Hall, Hamilton, Hansford, Hardeman, Hartley, Haskell, Hemphill, Hidalgo, Hill, Hood, Hudspeth, Hunt, Hutchinson, Irion, Jack, Johnson, Karnes, Kendall, Kerr, Kimble, King, Knox, Lamb, Lipscomb, Llano, Matagorda, McLennan, Medina, Montague, Moore, Motley, Oldham, Palo Pinto, Parker, Parmer, Potter, Real, Rockwall, Shackelford, Sherman, Somervell, Stephens, Stonewall, Tarrant, Throckmorton, Tom Green, Travis, Uvalde, Val Verde, Walker, Wharton, Wheeler, Wichita, Wilbarger, Willacy, Williamson, Wise, Young and Zavala.

The governor’s declaration received support from fellow Republican and Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who focused on the impact the lack of adequate rainfall is having on Texas’ farms and ranches.

“I commend Gov. Abbott for his continued leadership on water issues and commitment to using all available resources to help Texans who are suffering from this extended drought. Even though our state has received welcomed rains, the drought is still causing perils for agriculture producers and citizens alike. It’s important to understand the drought is by no means over. Many area lake levels remain low and river flows are down,” Miller said.

“While the pain and damage caused by this multi-year drought cannot be overstated, our state’s farmers and ranchers stand steadfast in their commitment and fierce in their resolve to be part of Texas’ water solution,” Miller continued. “Texas agriculture matters, and our industry will rebuild and continue delivering healthy food and strong fiber for all Texans.”

Canales expressed confidence that, given the leadership positions of the Valley in the House and in the Senate, the Delta Watershed has a good chance of securing some, if not all, of the requested $20 million.

He noted some of the most prominent committee assignments, which help rally legislative support for local issues, being held by the Valley’s House legislative delegation.

“Rep. Oliveira, who is Chair of the House Committee on Business and Industry, Rep. Martínez, who serves as Vice Chair of the House Committee on Transportation, and Rep. Longoria, who along with Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., sit on the state budget-writing House Committee on Appropriations, carry great influence and prestige for the Valley in the Legislature,” said Canales. “Rep. Ryan Guillen, Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, and Rep. Bobby Guerra, along with myself, also have the experiences and key committee assignments to help make this innovative Delta Watershed project a reality.”

Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, is Chair of the House Committee on Culture, Recreation and Tourism, Lucio, III is Vice Chair of the House Calendars Committee, while Guerra’s and Canales’ committee appointments include the House Committee on Insurance and the House Committee on Energy Resources, respectively.

DELTA WATERSHED BACKGROUND, HIGHLIGHTS

More details about the planned Delta Watershed project and the vision involved in that project are provided in the following memorandum, dated February 10, 2014, and prepared by Black & Veatch, a leading global engineering, consulting and construction company based in Kansas with major offices in Texas.

The letter, from Sara Eatman with Black & Veatch, was delivered to Connie Townsend with the Texas Water Development Board, with copies provided by Eatman to Ken Jones, Executive Director, Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council, and Godfrey Garza, Jr., who at the time was Manager for the Hidalgo County Drainage District No. 1.

The contents of that memorandum follow:

Hidalgo County Drainage District No. 1 has requested for the Rio Grande Regional Water Planning Group (RWPG) to consider an amendment to the 2011 Regional Water Plan (RWP) so that the Delta Watershed Project is included as a recommended strategy.

The RWPG took action to consider the amendment request at the RWPG meeting on January 22nd, 2014.

Based on the materials submitted to the RWPG, a draft amendment has been developed for public consideration. This memorandum describes the requested amendment and the associated changes made to integrate this Water Management Strategy (WMS) into the 2011 RWP.

Also included in this package are the Draft Amendment, the Regional Water Supply Facilities plan from Hidalgo County Drainage District (April 2011), and the Addendum (October 2012). A spreadsheet with the calculations has also been sent digitally for your convenience.

(Adapted from December 11, 2013 Submittal as Water Management Strategy to Region M)

This Water Management Strategy seeks to reclaim raw water from storm water rainfall and irrigation runoff into HCDD#1 Master Drainage System ditches and retain this water in various reservoirs adjacent to the main floodwater channel in NE Hidalgo County, Texas.

This raw water will be sold to various municipalities, utilities, water supply corporations, irrigation districts, etc. for potable water treatment and raw water distribution for agricultural uses, respectively. As a major storm approaches these reservoirs water levels can be reduced in volume to provide for Storm water control/management during major rainfall events for detention reasons.

This project will also provide educational benefits to the general public schools to educate the public under the MS4 program. The project can provide economic development in the development around said reservoirs. In Phase 2 this project could provide for water treatment of the raw water for distribution to smaller municipalities/ water supply entities within the LRGV Region.

The Current project is preliminarily located in northeast Hidalgo County, Texas adjacent and south of the main floodwater channel, north main drain, and west of the IBWC Floodway west to US 281.

Potential end users for this project may include, but is not limited to, the City of Edinburg, Santa Cruz Irrigation District, Delta Irrigation District, North Alamo Water Supply Corporation, City of McAllen, Cities of Edcouch/Elsa/ & La Villa.

The base flow at the proposed water development site was measured at 58.5 cfs (37.8 MGD/42,300 acre-feet/year). As recommend in the Regional Water Supply Facilities Plan prepared for TWDB in 2011, conservatively 16,785 acre-feet/year of water could be developed for beneficial uses. The proposed development strategy can be phased based on the needs of water.

The amount of developable water could be increased by capturing floodwater during wet season. The proposed development strategy was based on historical base flow data and water quality sampling as documented in two previous studies – Regional Water Supply Facilities Plan for TWDB in 2011 and Hidalgo County Water Development Project for Hidalgo County Drainage District No.1 in 2006 by Civil Systems Engineering, Inc.

Two feasibility studies were performed in formulating the proposed development strategy. In 2006, a study titled Hidalgo County Water Development Project was performed to investigate the availability of water within the Hidalgo County Master Drainage Systems. Also background water quality conditions were studied by collecting of 15 water samples across the study area. It was concluded that the sufficient water could be developed for future beneficial uses.

In 2011, a study titled Regional Water Supply Facilities Plan was funded by TWDB and Hidalgo County Drainage District No.1 to evaluate the feasibility of the proposed development strategy.

Potential project sites were evaluated with consideration the needs of water, availability of water, floodplain and environmental concerns. Alternative water treatment processes were evaluated with consideration of the water quality conditions within the drainage systems. Costs of development were estimated.

Conceptual cost estimates, capital and annual O&M, were developed for each alternative treatment process as detailed in the 2011 TWDB Regional Water Supply Facilities Plan.

Capital cost estimates included construction components such as excavation and site work, equipment, concrete and steel, labor, pipe and valves, power supply access and instrumentation, and housing that are expended in the construction activities of the project, and other expenses such as engineering, engineering service during construction, financial and legal services, permitting, commissioning and startup.

The capital cost estimates include a 30 percent contingency. The capital costs in this estimate do not include costs for land and rights-of-way. Also intake structures, raw water storage basin, and floodwater detention basin, and transfer pump stations were not included. Annual O&M cost estimates included all labor and materials required to run the treatment plant.

It should be noted that the cost estimates for this study are based on conceptual designs.

Detailed cost estimates are required for final engineering design. The final cost estimates for the project will depend on actual labor and material costs, competitive market conditions, actual site conditions, final project scope, implementation schedule, continuity of personal and engineering, and other variable factors. The final project costs will likely vary from the estimate presented.

Based on previous inquiries with the TCEQ, it is anticipated that the TCEQ will require HCDD#1 to obtain a water right for this project. Additionally, HCDD#1 intends to enter into wholesale raw water supply agreements with one or more local governments for the sale of the water made available by this project.

No negative socioeconomic effects are anticipated.

At this time, no residential or commercial displacements are anticipated. Additionally, no impacts to access or community cohesion are anticipated.

Anticipated positive socioeconomic effects include:

• Additional potable water source;
• Reduced flooding and associated property damage;
• Increase in jobs from construction/maintenance of the proposed facility;
• Educational benefits to the public schools under the MS4 program; and
• Economic development in the area surrounding the proposed facility. Environmental benefit is expected: capturing storm water rainfall and irrigation runoff would reduce fresh water flows into the Lower Laguna Madre, thereby benefitting seagrass growth and species composition.

••••••

Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, represents House District 40 in Hidalgo County. HD 4o includes portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr, San Carlos and Weslaco. He may be reached at his House District Office in Edinburg at (956) 383-0860 or at the Capitol at (512) 463-0426.

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