FEATURED, FROM LEFT: Julián Álvarez III, Commissioner Representing Labor, Texas Workforce Commission; Arcelia “Shelly” Sánchez, Deputy Director, Workforce Solutions Strategy and Engagement; Sonia Falcón, Chair, Board of Directors, Texas Workforce Solutions; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; and Dr. Shirley Reed, President, South Texas College, on Thursday, August 1, 2019. The South Texas College Board of Trustees has announced a 19-member search committee to find a successor to Reed, the founding president of the two-county community college system, who retired in January 2021.
Photograph Courtesy SOUTH TEXAS COLLEGE
Hidalgo County Drainage District No. 1 awarded $32.7 million from Texas Water Development Board for flood control, announces Sen. Hinojosa
The Texas Water Development Board on Wednesday, March 10, 2021, approved a project application from the Hidalgo County Drainage District No.1 for financial assistance through the Flood Infrastructure Fund for a portion of the total cost for a major flood control project, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, announced.
The Hidalgo County Drainage District No.1 Flood Control Project was approved for $32,670,000 in financial assistance consisting of $22,869,000 in financing and $9,801,000 in grant funds.
“The residents of Hidalgo County have experienced six flooding disaster declarations in five years resulting in damage to homes, businesses, and public infrastructure in various parts of the county,” Hinojosa said. “Today’s actions by the Texas Water Development Board, will reduce frequent flooding problems and accommodate the area’s rapid urbanization and future economic development.”
The project will spread between Mile 9 North, Mile 15 North, FM 493, and the International Boundary and Water Commission floodway, just north of Weslaco.
The project was approved under Category 2 of the Texas Water Development Board’s 2020 Flood Intended Use Plan, which is designed for planning, acquisition, design, and construction activities to implement flood mitigation projects.
Hidalgo County Precinct 1 Commissioner David L. Fuentes was in attendance at the Texas Water Development Board meeting on Wednesday, March 10, 2021, via phone conference, and thanked the Board of Directors for the award.
Fuentes has been instrumental in promoting the need for adequate drainage and flood control projects after a series of extreme rain events resulted in widespread flooding in Precinct 1, impacting thousands of residents and damaging homes and properties.
“We are extremely appreciative of the Texas Water Development Board’s commitment to improving our area’s ability to mitigate (lessen) and control the damaging effects of flooding in our region,” said Fuentes. “This project is critical to meet our current needs as well as accommodate for future growth in population, saving lives, homes, and properties for years to come.”
The Texas Water Development Board is a state agency, and among its many duties, it provides loans and grants for the water and wastewater needs of Texas’ economically-distressed areas.
It’s efforts must receive approval from a full-time, three-member Boardappointed by the governor, which considers loan applications from eligible applicants, awards grants for water-related research and planning, and conducts other Texas Water Development Board business, such as approving the state water plan.
Drainage in Hidalgo County is served by a network of large, manmade network of ditches that were constructed during the late 1970s through the middle 1980s to provide outfalls for the county. These ditches are collectively referred to as the Hidalgo County Master Drainage System.
Hidalgo County Drainage District No.1 is responsible for the development and maintenance of these ditches. It also provides planning and engineering functions required for the growth and development of the drainage system.
The mission of the Hidalgo County Drainage District No. 1 is to proactively manage the Hidalgo County Master Drainage System and allow for the efficient exportation of drainage water, to protect life and property for Hidalgo County residents, businesses and surrounding jurisdictions.
Raúl E. Sesin, PE, CFM, is the general manager of the Hidalgo County Drainage District No. 1.
The project’s planning phase is anticipated to end in August 2021, with the design phase commencing in November 2021. Expected construction is scheduled to begin in June 2022.
“On behalf of our community, we want to also thank Hidalgo County Commissioners Court, Gov. Greg Abbott, our state legislative delegation, and our team members who worked and supported our efforts to secure this funding,” Fuentes added.
According to the Texas Water Development Board:
• Over the past few years, Hidalgo County has experienced more frequent and intense storm events, resulting in widespread flooding that has impacted thousands of residents. Along with the unprecedented rainfall and flat terrain, the county has also seen rapid urbanization that has contributed more runoff to its system, further adding to the challenge of improving its current drainage capacity.
• Hidalgo County is a smooth, nearly flat plain that includes portions of the Gulf Coastal Plain and the Rio Grande Delta. There are few natural surface drainage channels within the county. Most of the storm precipitation in excess of soil infiltration capacity runs off slowly as sheet flow. While overland runoff moves very slowly toward the drainage ditches, numerous obstructions such as elevated canal levees, dikes, roadways, and railroad embankments tend to impede the flow.
• Ponding can be very widespread and usually shallow, but in some areas, it can persist for months after a storm has passed.
Ponding is the (typically) unwanted pooling of water, typically on a flat roof or roadway. Ponding water accelerates the deterioration of many materials, including seam adhesives in single-ply roof systems, steel equipment supports, and particularly roofing asphalt. On low-slope asphalt roofs, ponding water allows the oil solvent components of the asphalt to leach out and evaporate, leaving the roof membrane brittle and susceptible to cracking and leaking in the ponding location.
Flood Infrastructure Fund
Passed by the 86th Texas Legislature in 2019 and approved by voters through a constitutional amendment, the Flood Infrastructure Fund was created to provide funding for flood mitigation projects.
The purpose of the Flood Infrastructure Fund, as outlined in Senate Bill 7, is to assist in financing drainage, flood mitigation, and flood control projects. Flood Infrastructure Fund projects presented for
consideration has been scored and ranked using prioritization criteria outlined in 31 Texas Administrative Code § 363.404 and further specified in the Flood Intended Use Plan.
A bill is a type of legislative measure that requires passage by both chambers (House of Representatives and Senate) of the legislature and action by the governor in order to become effective. A bill is the primary means used to create and change the laws of the state. “Bill” types include Senate and House bills, Senate and House Joint Resolutions, Senate and House concurrent resolutions, and Senate and House resolutions.
As Vice-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee and a co-author of Senate Bill 500 during the 86th Legislative Session in 2019-2020, Hinojosa was instrumental in securing funding to start the Flood Infrastructure Fund through a one-time transfer of $793 million from the “Rainy Day” Fund.
A coauthor is a legislator authorized by the primary author of a bill or resolution to join in the authorship of the measure. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives allow an unlimited number of coauthors on a bill or resolution. A coauthor must be a member of the chamber in which the bill was filed.
The state’s “Rainy Day” Fund, officially known as the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund, is a financial resource controlled by the Texas Legislature which is used to stabilize (protect) the state’s economy and prevent budget cuts to essential state agencies and services, according to The Texas Signal.
As of December 2020, Texas was sitting atop a $10.7 billion economic stabilization fund that has yet to be used to do exactly that, stabilize the state’s economy and prevent budget cuts to essential state agencies and services.
Project Need and Description
According to the Texas Water Development Board’s agenda packet:
The east side of Hidalgo County Drainage District No.1, just north of the city of Weslaco, is one of the
natural low areas where water migrates and accumulates, draining into two outfalls, before entering the International Boundary and Water Commission levee.
To reduce frequent flooding problems and to accommodate the area’s future development, the Hidalgo County Drainage District No.1 needs to expand and improve the main drainage ditch, drainage ditch laterals, regional detention facilities, culvert crossings, discharge structures, and pumps.
The proposed project is located between Mile 9 North, Mile 15 North, FM 493, and the IBWC floodway, an area containing approximately 18,600 acres, just north of the city of Weslaco.
The project has been divided into four segments that interconnect and drain into the two outfalls that drain into the IBWC floodway. The construction of each segment is composed of channel excavation, regional detention pond excavation, embankment, gate well control structure, pump and controls, concrete rip rap, reinforced concrete boxes, and reinforced concrete pipe.
The rights-of-way are limited in the area; therefore, land acquisition is included in the project.
The improvements will benefit over 400 structures in the area. The project will reduce the water surface elevation by more than 1.5 feet and it will increase the storage and discharge capacity of the storm system.
The Hidalgo County Drainage District No.1 project is eligible under Category 2 of the 2020 Flood Intended Use Plan. This category of funding was designed for planning, acquisition, design, and construction activities to implement flood mitigation projects. Category 2 projects are eligible to receive up to 70 percent in grant funding.
Recipients of financial assistance may either use their own available funds or borrow Flood Infrastructure Fund money at zero percent for any portion of the required local share not provided through Flood Infrastructure Fund grants.
Hidalgo County Drainage District No.1 qualified for a $9,801,000 grant under the Flood Infrastructure Fund equal to 30 percent of the total project costs. The remaining 70 percent will consist of $22,869,000 in Flood Infrastructure Fund financing and $3,043,915 in cash from the District.
In recent years, Hidalgo County has experienced more frequent and intense storm events resulting in widespread flooding. The District’s Phase 1 Flood Control Project was approved for $32,670,000 in financial assistance consisting of $22,869,000 in financing and $9,801,000 in grant funds. The project will spread between Mile 9 North, Mile 15 North, FM 493, and the IBWC floodway, just north of Weslaco.
The project will expand and improve the main drainage ditch, drainage ditch laterals, regional detention facilities, culvert crossings, discharge structures, and pumps to reduce frequent flooding problems and accommodate the area’s future development. The Hidalgo County Drainage District No.1 will provide the remainder of the cost to complete the project, which is projected at $3,043,915. The projected completion date is June 30, 2024.
19-MEMBER SEARCH COMMITTEE FOR NEW PRESIDENT OF SOUTH TEXAS COLLEGE ESTIMATES FINALISTS WILL BE INTERVIEWED IN PUBLIC IN EARLY MAY 2021
The South Texas College Board of Trustees, which is seeking a new president for the two-county higher education system following the retirement of Founding President Dr. Shirley A. Reed in January 2021, has engaged the Association of Community College Trustees, and Dr. Bill Holda, Search Consultant, Association of Community Colleges, to assist with the search in cooperation with a 19 (nineteen)-member Presidential Search Committee.
The next step in the process is advertising the profile nationally, including through The Chronicle of Higher Education and other major publications and websites. The Presidential Search Committee will review the applications, interview semifinalists for the position, and identify the final candidates to forward to the Board of Trustees.
Final candidates will be interviewed and participate in open forums, either virtually or in-person, at South Texas College, most likely in early May.
In addition to faculty, staff, and student representatives, the 19-member Presidential Search Committee includes:
• Paul R. Rodríguez, Chair, Presidential Search Committee, Member and Past President, STC Board of Trustees;
• Noel Benavídez, Representing the Private Sector;
• Sergio Contreras, President & Chief Executive Officer, RGV Partnership;
• Hon. Jim Darling, Mayor, City of McAllen;
• Aisha González, Representing the Private Sector;
• Bonnie González, Chief Executive Officer, Knapp Community Care Foundation;
• Dr. Frank Guajardo, Chief Executive Officer, Museum of South Texas History (MOSTHistory);
• René Guajardo, Member, STC Board of Trustees;
• Gary Gurwitz, Founding Member, STC Board of Trustees;
• Dr. Danny King, Owner/Chief Executive Officer, Leadership Innovation Transformation;
• Keith Patridge, President and CEO, McAllen Economic Development Corporation; and
• Mike Pérez, City Manager, City of Weslaco.
According to college leaders, South Texas College’s next president must be committed to strengthening campus camaraderie, involved with the community, innovative and technologically savvy, and be able to understand and appreciate the Rio Grande Valley’s unique culture, according to surveys and public forums that are playing a critical role in the search process.
The South Texas College Board of Trustees incorporated this input into a model “Presidential Profile” of what it wants to see in its next top administrative leader and formally adopted the standards at its Tuesday, March 9, 2021 meeting.
A total of 157 people attended the forums and 181 people responded to the online survey.
“South Texas College is committed to hiring a president who can motivate students, faculty, and staff to reach their full potential and will succeed in expanding on the tradition and impact the college has established in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Paul Rodríguez, Chair, Board of Trustees, South Texas College, and Member and Past President, South Texas College Board of Trustees.
The Association of Community College Trustees, which has more than 40 years of experience as the only nonprofit dedicated to providing services to community college governing boards, has successfully completed more than 500 CEO executive searches ranging from college presidents to state chancellors.
“The Board of Trustees is committed to continuing a transparent process and excited about finding a nationally recognized leader that will help carry our excellence in service to the community forward,” said Rose Benavídez, Chair, Board of Trustees, South Texas College.
Evana Vleck and Daniel Ramírez contributed to this article. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).