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Increasing business in a recession is the goal of the McAllen Economic Development Corporation with a strategy that they claim will create jobs here in the Valley.

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IBWC awards $20.9 million Valley levee contract to Ballenger Construction

IBWC awards $20.9 million Valley levee contract to Ballenger Construction
Picture: Bill Ruth, U.S. commissioner at the IBWC, is slated to speak to members of the IBWC's Lower Rio Grande Citizens Forum in Mercedes on Wednesday.

MERCEDES, Oct. 19 - The U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission has awarded a construction contract worth $20.9 million for rehabilitation of Lower Rio Grande Flood Control Project levees.

The announcement was made just two days before the IBWC’s Lower Rio Grande Citizens Forum meets in Mercedes.

The contract has gone to Ballenger Construction Company of Harlingen to construct 48 miles of levee improvements along the North Floodway and Arroyo Colorado in Hidalgo and Cameron counties. In accordance with the contract, Ballenger Construction Company will furnish all labor, materials, and equipment for the levee construction.

In a statement, IBWC said the work will provide enhanced flood protection for the communities of Weslaco, Mercedes, La Villa, and La Feria.

The funding comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Recovery Act includes $220 million for USIBWC levee projects. IBWC expects to award all its federal stimulus dollars for construction contracts in the Valley by the end of 2009. Construction should be complete by the end of 2010.

IBWC said it is raising the levee height and making structural improvements to bring the levee into compliance with standards established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the 100-year flood. Construction is expected to be completed by September 2010. Construction contracts were previously awarded for the Banker North Floodway and the Main Floodway.

The Recovery Act funding has enabled IBWC to accelerate work on its aging Rio Grande flood control system in Texas and New Mexico to provide adequate flood protection for over three million U.S. residents. Before the stimulus money became available, Congress was only providing about $20 million a year for Valley levee rehabilitation work.

When the federal stimulus dollars for the Valley levee projects were first announced last May, local elected officials said the projects would create nearly 5,000 jobs and $508 million in economic impact.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, along with Hidalgo County officials held a news conference to celebrate the start of a $110 million injection of stimulus funds to complete more than 100 miles of levee restoration on the border.

“This project is a sweeping, bold, and decisive step that will create jobs right away and strengthen the economy in the Rio Grande Valley for years to come. Nearly 5,000 jobs to be created as a result of the levee construction, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is living up to what it was intended to do – to stimulate the economy,” Cuellar said.

“This historical and unprecedented infusion of federal dollars to the Rio Grande Valley is an indication of the great working relationships between local, state, and federal governments.

Cuellar said that once fully operational, the levees will protect life and property. “You provide security to our community by business community and others knowing that the levees will protect them from flooding,” he said.

Another additional benefit, Cuellar said, is the saving of millions, maybe even billions of dollars, over a period of time in insurance premiums.

The event took place at the Birding Center Nature Park located on the grounds of the historic Hidalgo Pump House.

Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas released an economic impact study, commissioned by his office and conducted by Sai Mullapudi of the University of Texas-Pan American’s Data & Information Systems Center Division of Community Engagement.

Salinas said the study indicates that the entire levee rehabilitation project, when complete, will produce nearly 5,000 local jobs and generate $508 million in economic impact.

“The infusion of federal funds and the fusion of our ideas have made Hidalgo County a better place all around,” Salinas said. “This levee project saves lives, protects property and, may well be considered the ultimate stimulus package for our county. In this time of stress and hardship, this is some good news that uplifts our community to know that we are helping to create jobs and keep the economy strong.”

The next meeting of IBWC’s Lower Rio Grande Citizens Forum takes place on Wednesday at the IBWC’s Mercedes office from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. At the meeting, engineer Larry Voice and flood insurance specialist Linda Delamare from FEMA’s regional office in Denton, Texas will discuss the current effort to update Flood Insurance Rate Maps. The maps will be used to determine flood risk, applicable flood insurance requirements, and flood insurance rates for property owners.

Prior to the FEMA presentation, IBWC U.S. Commissioner Bill Ruth will make brief remarks to welcome new Lower Rio Grande Citizens Forum board members. Ruth appointed new board members in September. This is the first meeting of the newboard.

At the same meeting, IBWC Public Affairs Officer Sally Spener will give an overview of Commission responsibilities and will review the duties of the Lower Rio Grande Citizens Forum Board. IBWC Area Operations Manager Rodolfo Montero will present nformation about the Commission’s current activities in the Valley, including operation and maintenance of the Lower Rio Grande Flood Control Project, work on the Morillo Drain salinity control project, and operation of diversion dams.

IBWC provides regular public updates on its planning and spending of Recovery Act funds at http://www.recovery.govand%20www.state.gov/recovery. An updated project schedule is available at http://www.ibwc.gov/Files/LRG_Schedule.pdf.

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