Precinct 4 begins bond-approved drainage project

NEAR EDINBURG — Hidalgo County officials broke ground Thursday on a critical drainage project that will alleviate flooding near the communities of San Carlos and La Blanca.

The Sunflower Drain, known as Project No. 36, is one of 38 projects funded by a $190 million bond issuance voters approved for Hidalgo County Drainage District No. 1 in November 2018.

It’s also the first of four projects funded by that bond that has been launched in Precinct 4, Commissioner Ellie Torres said Thursday during a joint groundbreaking ceremony with the district.

“As you may know, the (Rio Grande) Valley is no stranger to severe thunderstorms and weather events that often result in major flooding to many homes and businesses,” Torres said Thursday. “Most recently, Hurricane Hanna brought heavy rains that filled our drainage systems to capacity.”

The Category 1 hurricane, which dropped about 15 inches of rain in some parts of South Texas in July, is still fresh in Torres’ mind.

“I myself have witnessed the flooding in this area and the devastation it brought to our residents,” she said. “As we walked the streets to deliver assistance, such as food and cleaning supplies, my heart was filled with emotions and weighted with despair.”

It’s why she’s pushed to get the project completed, said Raul Sesin, general manager of the drainage district.

“Commissioner Torres, she stepped into this. This was already developed prior to her administration, but she’s been pushing to get this project out for this community,” Sesin said. “She understands the needs of the community and, as she pointed out, the residents.”

More than a handful of them were present at Thursday’s groundbreaking.

“The project will have a major impact on the residents of this humble, small community around us. And I know that we have many residents from the small community next door to us who have seen their share of flooding here with us today,” Torres said. “Thank you for being here.”

County officials answered questions about the project by using maps placed around the tent that was used for the ceremony, which was held about a quarter mile north of the Precinct 4 Endowment Resource Center, 107 N. Sunflower Road.

“We are looking at improving drainage for this whole area on the north side of (State Highway) 107,” Sesin said. “Initially what was created was a detention area here to my left that flows north easterly…This was developed shortly after Hurricane Dolly in 2008, and we worked with Urban County to develop that project.”

Years later, the system was re-evaluated and a lateral ditch was developed.

Now, the drainage district is spending nearly $1 million, or $988,803.19 to be exact, to make various upgrades to the system.

“The project was designed by Izaguirre Engineering Group, LLC and consists of upgrading the existing culvert crossing underneath State Highway 107, upgrading the existing connection to South Main Drain, and purchasing additional right of way to improve the existing drainage ditch,” county officials explained in a news release.

The project was recently awarded to Mor-Wil LLC, with construction expected to begin this month and end 180 days after.