Raymondville Drain project means more more water capacity. But will all communities benefit?

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State and County officials broke ground last week marking the start of construction on the long-awaited Raymondville Drain Project — and one less excuse for not connecting colonias to the regional drainage system.

For a region with a history of flooding this is good news. The project has been under construction for over 20 years and has faced anemic funding support from the federal government — until now. The Texas Water Development Board awarded the project $4.5 million. The ditch is part of the regional storm water management system that helps pass storm water from Hidalgo County through Willacy County to outfall to the Laguna Madre and the Gulf of Mexico. 

According to the Hidalgo County Drainage District website the Raymondville Drain Project, “will provide storm water management on a regional basis (ultimately contributing to improvements to watersheds of three counties) by providing a new channel that connects to existing channels, widening of existing channels, as well as additional improvements to the approximate 63-mile drainage system of in-line and off-line detention, reservoirs, and control structures.”

The project is historic in scale due to its size and cost. The increase in capacity of the regional system will no doubt benefit the region. But the extent of the project’s benefits for many residents in the unincorporated county is still to be determined. County officials are aware that many of the colonias and subdivisions in the unincorporated county often lack localized drainage solutions within their communities and are not connected to the larger system to which they are paying into. Residents are aware of missing or inadequate infrastructure that causes flooding and standing water issues in their neighborhoods.

When advocating solutions to county commissioners and drainage district staff, residents are often told that the capacity of the regional system must be increased before their colonia or subdivision can be connected to the larger system. Because of this pretext, localized drainage solutions are often the last piece completed when addressing storm water management issues which means that residents see the direct benefits last. While the reasoning for this process is understood it can be a hindrance in addressing urgent flooding issues and infrastructure needs in colonias and unincorporated areas.

With the continuation of the Raymondville Drain and the increased capacity there will be fewer obstacles in connecting neighborhoods to the larger system and one less reason county staff has not followed through for colonia residents who have been advocating drainage infrastructure for years. 

County staff and leaders should be proud they have moved this project forward. Advocates commend the drainage district for increasing the regional storm water management capacity and recommend that an emphasis on localized drainage solutions that connect communities to this system be Hidalgo County Drainage District’s next focus.

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