HARLINGEN, Texas — Ahead of the Harlingen City Commission meeting next week in which two ordinances aimed at improving the city’s drainage receive a final vote, flood victims in the community are demanding a better plan gathered for a drive across the city’s most flood-stricken areas.
“The flood of trails, we’re doing this as an awareness to flooding,” Civil Engineer J.V. Garcia said. “We want to guide our elected officials into doing the right thing.”
Garcia formed the group Reinvent Harlingen Drainage to call for a solution to the community’s flooding crisis.
The city is proposing a 25-year flood plan, which passed 3-2 during a special meeting in September, despite more than 20 people speaking out during the public comment period to say that doesn’t go far enough.
“If it stands as is, obviously I’m going to vote against it because it doesn’t help the existing development,” District 2 Commissioner Frank Puente said. “What I’m worried about is those who’ve been affected by the floods, if it doesn’t benefit them i’m going to vote against it.”
Puente is one of the commissioners who voted against.
The caravan drove through major flooding areas, including the Wildwood subdivision, which sits next to Stuart Place Crossings. Resident Frank Hayes says his property flooded the past three years due to the new construction redirecting water into his neighborhood.
“That new development that’s what started it all,” Hayes said, gesturing in the direction of Stuart Place Crossings.
He is not hopeful for the proposed plan.
“I feel kind of betrayed by the city council that they’re not stepping up to the plate and doing something that’s going to actually help,” he said. “They’re trying to use an 8-year plan and call it their 25-year plan and they’re not changing the plan much.”
What he, Garcia and others are pushing for is a 50-year plan, which is what Hidalgo county implemented in cities following the June 2018 flood.
District 38 Representative Eddie Lucio III also attended to show his support.
“It’s so important that when the community organizes, that us as elected officials listen,” he said. “Because i think the greatest solutions come from those in our communities dealing with these issues every day.”
He adds more work needs to be done at the state level to incentivize collaboration among drainage districts.
Following the final readings, the assistant city manager will provide a presentation on the city’s flood mitigation projects and grant opportunities.