Massive drainage project enters second phase

·2 min read

Aug. 11—RAYMONDVILLE — Rio Grande Valley leaders are launching the second phase of one of the region's biggest drainage projects whose price tag's projected to climb to about $400 million.

On Friday, Hidalgo County Drainage District 1 is set to break ground on the Raymondville Drain project's $7 million second phase during a ceremony at a site 18 miles east of Raymondville on Highway 186.

"The Raymondville Drain project, once constructed, will provide stormwater management on a regional basis by providing a new channel that connects to existing channels, widening of existing channels, as well as additional improvements," Hidalgo County officials stated.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is funding the project's second phase through the RESTORE Act.

The project aims to "clean and remove obstructions" along the Raymondville Drain, a 62-mile canal designed to upgrade drainage across a 130-square-mile area along the lower Texas coast, TCEQ spokeswoman Victoria Cann stated Wednesday.

"When functioning properly, the existing drain provides flood control to Hidalgo and Willacy counties," she stated. "Debris, sediment and plant growth have overtaken the drain. In its current impaired state, stormwater flows too slowly to accommodate basic community needs, impeding flood relief throughout region. By restoring the existing Raymondville Drain to its proper state, stormwater in the Gulf Coast region will be efficiently captured and managed by the drain, thus providing substantive flood control to the region."

As part of the project, officials are upgrading standards to protect against 100-year storm events, or storms with chances of occurring once every 100 years or have a 1-percent chance of occurring during any given year.

"The Raymondville Drain project will provide a permanent solution to regional flooding by providing 100-year storm protection to watersheds of three counties in the Gulf Coast region — Hidalgo County, Cameron County and Willacy County," Cann stated. "As such, this project is critical to provide the community resiliency the region needs, to produce economic growth and to safeguard the environment."

Phase 1

After 40 years of planning, Valley leaders launched the Raymondville Drain project in 2017, aiming to build a 63-mile, 350-feet-wide regional floodway running from Edinburg to the Laguna Madre.

In 1986, the Water Resources Development Act authorized the project.

But funding's been hard to get.

Five years ago, Hidalgo County launched the project with $17.1 million in state funding and a $4.5 million grant from the Texas Water Development Board.