Hidalgo Co. Calls for Extended Levee along Border

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GRANJENO - Hidalgo County officials said local taxpayer money won’t be used to build the wall the government wants.

The county’s plan, signed by officials and sent to the government this week, looks to extend the current levee wall another 30 miles.

Eighty-three-year-old Daniel Garza has always lived in the 145-year-old city of Granjeno. His childhood home sits at the corner of the town.

It’s where Garza said he’s seen border crossers and violent storms firsthand.

“Just a couple feet more and it would have gone over the levee,” he said.

Garza recalled how the flood zone filled a few years ago. The water rushed and stopped short of his backyard. He said the levee wall and surrounding earthen levees protected them from the rising waters.

“It did protect our community from it,” said Granjeno Mayor Yvette Cabrera.

Hidalgo County Drainage District Manager Raul Sesin said the county decided to build the levee after they considered it a risk.

Back then, he said FEMA was ready to decertify the levees if something wasn’t done.

“Basically, areas that are considered non-flood zones would be considered flood zones. Flood insurance rates would have to be purchased by landowners, which would be an astronomical amount,” Sesin said.

In 2008, county officials convinced the government to turn the border wall project into a levee wall project.

The county contributed $58 million to the $174 million set for the project. Sesin said their decision helped make the levees be deemed not a risk.

“We’re not in a position to invest monies into the project,” he said.

Local taxpayer money isn’t included in the project’s plan this time. Sesin said the county is only asking the government to extend what is already in place.

“Hidalgo County already has about 20 miles of this security levee. It’s a steep drop over to the southern side,” he said.

Currently, it’s possible for someone to go around the end of the security wall. We saw the levee was so steep, it seems impossible to get over it without a 20-foot ladder.

“The design that they have, the footing that they put in, the depth that they go, it definitely is much stronger than the earthen one. It does provide the flood control that we need,” Sesin said.

The drainage district manager said the county will jump on board if they’re given the opportunity.

“We’re going to do it. We’re going to partner with the federal government to try to use federal funds, which eases the burden on local funds,” he said.

As people in Granjeno remain concerned about both flooding and security, Garza said the road outside his home continues to be patrolled by Border Patrol.

“They run right through here at night. They damage our property,” he said.

Sesin said expanding the levee wall will help law enforcement and the government with security goals while helping the county with flood control. 


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