An infusion of $220 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding is letting the U.S. section of the International Boundary and Water Commission accelerate work on 170 miles of levees of the Rio Grande flood control system in Texas and New Mexico. The El Paso, Texas-based commission says the work will improve flood protection for more than two million U.S. residents.
Commissioner C.W. “Bill” Ruth says all planned ARRA-funded construction will be completed by February 2011. “At previous funding levels, we were looking at a 20-year project to complete the work,” he says.
The program is raising levee height to bring them into compliance with 100-year flood standards set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The commission so far has awarded two construction contracts worth a total of $20 million. The largest, announced on Aug. 31, is a $19-million-plus contract for rehabilitating lower Rio Grande levees in Texas. The project went to Longhorn Excavators Inc., Richmond, Texas, and covers a 43-mile reach of the main floodway in Hidalgo County, impacting the communities of McAllen, Hidalgo, Pharr, San Juan, Alamo, Donna and Weslaco. Construction is expected to be completed by next September.
In July, USIBWC awarded a $950,997 contract to Inuit Services Inc., Anchorage, Alaska, for work along three miles of the Banker Floodway North Levee, also in Hidalgo County. Construction on that contract is scheduled to be completed in February 2010.
Hidalgo County contains the bulk of work, according to IBWC spokeswoman Sally Spener. Other counties with levees on the list include Dona Ana County, N.M., and El Paso and Hudspeth counties in Texas.
USIBWC began a multiyear program in 2002 to rehabilitate its 506 miles of levees. Priority is based upon greatest impact to the largest number of residents, the greatest economic benefit and segments ready to be certified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The commission has created a comprehensive schedule to fully obligate the new funds by September 2010. It has hired term-contract specialists and civil engineers and is issuing a stream of contracts and task orders for geotechnical analysis, aerial surveys and design. More than 300 direct jobs will be created, the agency says. “We plan to have all construction contracts awarded by the end of December 2009,” Ruth says.