$2.7 million project will study watershed shared by Nueces, Jim Wells and Kleberg Counties

Robin Bradshaw
Alice Echo News Journal

On Thursday, May 20, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) approved a project application from Nueces County for financial assistance through the Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF) for a tri-county regional drainage master plan study. The tri-county effort, led by Nueces County, includes Jim Wells and Kleberg Counties, as well as the City of Driscoll and Nueces County Drainage District No. 2.

This regional drainage study is the first of its kind for the basin and will involve studying and developing hydrology hydraulic computer models of the entire Baffin Bay and South Corpus Christi watersheds that cover all three counties.

More:JWC plans to support an in-depth drainage study with Nueces and Kleberg

More:Robstown awarded TWDB funds for flood mitigation and improved infrastructure

“The approval of this study and grant funding by the Texas Water Development Board is the result of a true regional team effort on the part of elected leaders, researchers, and environmental advocacy groups to get the data we need to make informed and sound decisions about growth, infrastructure and development,” said Barbara Canales, Nueces County Judge. “Water does not see county lines or city limits signs, and by having a truly regional approach based on data, we can grow smartly. The flooding and damage we saw from yesterday’s heavy rains bring to mind the destruction from Hurricane Hanna and Tropical Storm Beta last summer, and from Hurricane Harvey in 2017 underscore the need to act regionally, and today is an important first step. This study will give us the ability to work together from a comprehensive master plan.”

Judge Canales initiated efforts towards this monumental study during the 2019 Legislative Session, advocating for flood infrastructure funding grants.

The data from the study will guide regional planning efforts to reduce flood risk, improve roadways and travel conditions, improve water quality, and reduce infiltration and inflow to the wastewater collection system during flood events. The study is expected to be completed in 18 months and has a total project budget of $2.7 million, with $2,137,500 coming from a TWDB FIF Program Grant. Texas A&M Kingsville and the South Texas Water Center are also partnering with the three counties on this project and contributing in-kind service.

Nueces County's proposed Regional Drainage Master Plan is an extensive regional effort that received Letters of Support from Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa and State Representatives Todd Hunter and Abel Herrero.

Key stakeholders include:

  • Nueces County (primary applicant)
  • Jim Wells County
  • Kleberg County
  • City of Driscoll (*provided for submittal of Revised Full FIF Application)
  • Nueces County Drainage District No. 2
  • City of Corpus Christi
  • City of Petronila
  • City of Robstown
  • Harte Research Institute
  • Port of Corpus Christi
  • South Texas Water Center/TAMU Kingsville
  • Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program
  • Coastal Bend Council of Governments
  • Baffin Bay Stakeholders Group
  • Wildlife Forever
  • Texas Water Resources Institute – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

The FIF program provides financial assistance in the form of loans with an interest rate of 0 percent and grants for flood planning, flood control, flood mitigation, and drainage projects. Funding to start the FIF program came through a one-time transfer of $793 million from the State of Texas’ "Rainy Day" Fund.

Nueces County served as the primary applicant for the grant funding request, and hired Susan Roth Consulting in December 2019 to prepare the grant application, develop project scope, identify and engage key stakeholders, and manage the application through the approval process. Nueces County submitted an abridged application to the TWDB for the new FlF Program in June, 2020, for evaluation and ranking against other proposals. Based on the project’s ranking, Nueces County was invited by TWDB to submit a full application in October 2020.

The total project budget is $2,700,000, comprised of a $2,137,500 grant from TWDB FIF Program, a $150,000 in-kind service contribution shared by all 3 counties, and a $412,500 cash match shared by all 3 counties. Nueces County plans to solicit bids to hire an engineering consultant team for this project next month, with a targeted project kick-off meeting in late August.

“I call our Coastal Bend the crown jewel of Texas,” Canales said. “From our beaches to the bay, from city to country, we are blessed with natural beauty and resources. I was born and raised here, and as County Judge, I took an oath to ensure that future generations will be able to live, work, prosper, and enjoy this magnificent region. Today is an important step in delivering on this promise.”