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Federal Legislative Agenda 2017

Quality of Life

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Rio Grande Basin - Chacon Creek - Funding

Situation Assessment

The City of Laredo seeks to congressional authorization to complete the Chacon Creek Study  by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the purpose of providing flood control, natural habitat conservation and linear park development.

 

Background

The creek is a tremendous natural resource for Laredo with economic, recreational and educational potential, but a history of neglect, and illegal dumping of materials and debris mask this potential. Carter & Burgess, a strategic consulting firm, prepared a multi-objective master plan which defined the creek’s 100-year floodplain and proposed targeted channel improvements to relieve flooding, maintain the overall natural character of the waterway, and add needed passive/active recreation facilities. Rather than build a 200-foot-wide concrete channel over the entire 4.5 miles of the corridor, as was suggested in a previous study, Carter & Burgess proposed targeted terraced channel enlargements over a much shorter distance – less than 4,000 feet – which would accentuate green spaces, preserve the creek’s natural course and minimize impact on wildlife and wetlands, while providing the most cost effective flood mitigation. These channel improvements require the removal of approximately 50 homes located in the 100-year flood plain. However, upon completion of the proposed improvements, the reduction in 100-year floodplain elevation will remove approximately 250 homes from the floodplain. Workshops and public hearings were conducted and helped answer citizens’ questions about the master plan and other issues, while including the public in the design process.

 

The project would provide flood risk management, ecosystem restoration and recreational amenities to Chacon Creek in the eastern part of the City of Laredo, Texas. The flood risk management component of the project will consist of the permanent evacuation of 73 residential structures along Chacon Creek. The vacated flood risk management lands will be used for recreational amenities. The ecosystem restoration component will include 16.75  acres  of wetland restoration and 401 acres of riparian restoration. The project provides $539,000 in annual flood risk management benefits, $1,049,800 in recreation benefits, and an increase in 248 average annual habitat units. The benefit-cost ratio is 1.52 to 1 at 4 1/8 percent and 1.01 to 1 at 7 percent.

 

The project is fully supported by the local sponsor because Chacon Creek is the last unaltered tributary to the Rio Grande within the city limits of Laredo and has tremendous potential to be a valuable environmental, recreational and educational amenity for the area and the region.

 

The proposal also addressed leisure and cleanup issues. Laredo city leaders envision the creek offering recreational, educational and economic opportunities. A multi-objective approach would create “people spaces,” while developing amenities, such as a hike and bike trail system and perhaps, a regional park. The plan emphasizes ecosystem restoration, transforming a once- abandoned area littered with tires, barrels and pallets into a year-round attraction for citizens and visitors. In addition, the plan recommends park benches be placed along the routes, creating natural habitat zones to study and admire indigenous vegetation. Similarly, the Chacon Creek project includes enhancing existing babbling brooks and preserving acres of native plants and trees. Developing this natural treasure would generate hundreds of acres of new recreational and educational parklands. Moreover, it would yield important by products, such as eliminating illegal dumpsites, improving water quality and drawing attention to the city’s natural resources.

 

An Independent External Peer Review (IEPR) occurred in early FY 2011 on a near-completed draft report. The Corps’ Fort Worth District was addressing IEPR comments and preparing the report for public review and comment when work was suspended due to lack of a study authority. Routine schedule maintenance occurred for the remainder of FY 2011 and through FY 2012.

 

As part of Section 7001 of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA 2014) requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to publish a notice in the Federal Register to request proposals from non-federal interests for proposed feasibility studies and proposed modifications to authorized USACE water resources development projects or feasibility studies. City of Laredo had submitted the Chacon Creek feasibility study reauthorization proposals to the Army Corps of Engineers in December 1, 2014.

 

Solution

The study currently does not have an authority. The Fort Worth District and Corps Headquarters have worked with the sponsor’s Congressional delegation to secure a study authority with little success. The project currently has a near-completed draft report ready to be released for public comment but is unable to do so due to the lack of a study authority. Currently, the City is moving forward with completing the report under Section 203 of WRRDA 2014. Additionally, the City of Laredo is requesting congressional inclusion in the next Water Resources Development Act for construction funding.

 

Target Agency

Army Corps of Engineers

 

Contact

John Porter

Environmental Services Director

619 Reynolds St.

Laredo, Texas 78040

Phone: (956) 794-1650

Fax: (956) 727-7944

Email: jporter@ci.laredo.tx.us