If Nueces County leaders have their way, flooding may become a smaller problem for residents in South Texas.

County Commissioners last week unanimously approved the selection of Naismith Engineering to help design and execute a master drainage plan for the county. Naismith is currently overseeing construction of the Equestrian Center at the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds, which is scheduled for completion in December.

County officials said there is a need for a plan to improve drainage around the county, particularly in rural areas, such as the Tierra Grande colonias.

"There's no good outfall channel out there for rain, so that's something that's going to need to be addressed," said Public Works Director Glen Sullivan. "There's certain things we want done."

For instance, the master drainage plan will have to take existing infrastructure, such as drainage for the cities of Corpus Christi and Robstown, into consideration when planning gets underway.

"Current drainage will need to be incorporated into the county drainage plan," Sullivan said. "(Planners) will need to decide where major channels need to be in the future and what size they need to be."

Precinct 2 Commissioner Betty Jean Longoria said she is happy that a selection has been made and is anxious to see a plan form to address the county's drainage issues.

"We need to have a drainage system in Nueces County," Longoria said. "I personally want to see a master plan."

The county currently doesn't have a drainage district, Longoria added, unlike Bishop and Robstown, both of which have drainage districts.

Sullivan said a final cost for the project has not been set, nor has the amount of funding that will be available, but he estimated there would be about $1 million available - $800,000 in federal monies and a 20 percent match from the county, about $200,000.

Before any planning can begin on the 1-year project, however, negotiations must take place on Naismith's professional services contract.

"We'll send them a draft copy of the contract and they'll fill in man hours and work days and send it back to us," Sullivan said. "This is going to require extensive field work on their part since they have to calculate that information."

Naismith was awarded the contract over five other applicants, scoring one point higher overall than three other companies on the proposal evaluation form. A committee comprised of Longoria, Sullivan, Court Administration Director Steve Waterman and Purchasing Agent Elsa Saenz looked over the proposals and made the recommendation to the Commissioner's Court last week.

If, however, the county cannot work out a contract with Naismith for the drainage plan, the project will go to the runner-up. However, three companies - Goldston Engineering, RVE Inc. and S&B Infrastructure - had a second-best score of 91, meaning things could get tricky for the county if a deal with Naismith doesn't work out, county officials said, since there is no clear runner-up.

"That would be an interesting situation if that were to happen," Sullivan said.