Federal funds will start phase two of resaca project - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Federal funds will start phase two of resaca project

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Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2018 10:30 pm

Passage of the America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, signed into law in October, is good news for the Brownsville Public Utility Board's resaca restoration efforts, though Congress still has to appropriate money for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which will then channel funds to BPUB to begin phase two of the resaca program.

A $3 million, three-year study by USACE completed in September provided an estimate for resaca improvements recommended for phase two of $202.5 million, according to BPUB water resource manager Rene Mariscal. The non-federal share of that, to be paid by BPUB, possibly with the help of the city of Brownsville or other partners, is estimated at $64.3 million, he said.

Resacas are former distributaries of the Rio Grande, carved out during floods in the time before levees were built to control the river. In addition to their aesthetic qualities, resacas serve as wildlife habitat, and flood control and water storage for the city.

When the USACE funds become available, Project Engineering and Design will get underway for the first project within phase two, Mariscal said. That should take about $1 million and last about a year, with actual construction lasting perhaps two years and also contingent on funding, he said. Then it's on to the next phase-two project, engineering and designed followed by construction, all of it contingent on funding, and so it goes for 16 years, Mariscal said.

The work will entail dredging, swapping out non-native vegetation with native plants, and bank improvements within Brownsville's extensive Town Resaca system, which includes Calle Jacaranda Resaca, St. Joseph northwest, northeast and southeast resacas, Calle Retama Resaca and Sunrise Rotary Park Resaca.

BPUB began phase one in 2013 with the restoration of the Old City Cemetery Resaca, followed by the dredging of resacas through Gladys Porter Zoo and Dean Porter Park. Phase one was completed about two years ago. Some phase-two work has already been done, namely the Zoo Extension Resaca across the street from the Old City Cemetery. Also, BPUB is in the process of restoring the native ecosystem of the resaca paralleling Resaca Boulevard, a project partially paid for by USACE.

BPUB's resaca program has also made a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality list making it eligible for RESTORE Act funds, generated by billions of dollars in fines stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Making the list is good news, though it doesn't guarantee BPUB will get any of the money, Mariscal said.

“The TCEQ is reviewing applications and selecting the ones to be funded in 2019,” he said. “All we've been notified is that we made the list. If we do get funded we would use those funds to continue work within the (Town Resaca) system.”

BPUB wants to eventually extend its restoration campaign to two other systems, Resaca de la Guerra and Resaca del Rancho Viejo, though Mariscal admitted those projects are down the road a bit.

As for when Water Infrastructure Act funding via USACE could arrive, BPUB hopes to get news sometime this winter, he said.

“It's one of those things that we know it's supposed to be coming soon, but not exactly when,” Mariscal said.

sclark@brownsvilleherald.com

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