Hutchison writes letter in support of weir project
January 6, 2004

By Mel Huff, The Brownsville Herald


To submit a Letter to the Editor:

Brownsville, Texas - U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has written a letter in support of the Brownsville Weir and Reservoir Project in an effort to help local leaders trying to persuade the Mexican government to approve the plan.

The letter, addressed to U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza, urges Garza "to encourage Mexico to follow our lead and partner with us in construction of the Brownsville Weir and Reservoir Project."

"Participation in the process is crucial, as is continued approval from the Mexican government of the methods and goals of the project in order to avoid potential bureaucratic obstacles," Hutchison wrote.

The purpose of the weir is to capture excess water flows from the Rio Grande that are released upstream but not used. Proponents believe the project will secure Brownsville's future water supply.

Campirano said the $40 million structure would be built "just downstream from the new Los Tomates bridge," at the site of an existing stone weir. It would impound up to 6,000 acre-feet of water between the existing banks of the Rio Grande.

When it is full, the reservoir would stretch about 42 river-miles upstream, reaching as far west as Bluetown  located at U.S. 281 and FM 506 in southwest Cameron County.

The project entered a new phase last month when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would issue a construction permit.

Obtaining the federal permit was the second hurdle in the permitting process. First, backers needed to secure a state water-rights permit from the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission.

The International Boundary and Water Commission will carry the ball into the next stage  working out an agreement with Mexico, said Eduardo Campirano, assistant general manager of the Brownsville Public Utilities Board, the project's local sponsor.

As Texas Railroad Commissioner - the post he held before he was named ambassador  Garza had opposed the weir project.

Garza, also a former Cameron County judge, argued that better alternatives - including aggressive conservation and wastewater reuse and recycling - had not been adequately considered.

He also charged that the project poses a threat to agriculture, shrimping and ecotourism.

"Senator Hutchison is an effective and well-regarded member of the U.S. Senate," Garza said. "As soon as the PUB figures out what their next step is and who the proper Mexican counterparts are, I will gladly forward the Senator's letter to those individuals or entities."