By Mel Huff, The Brownsville Herald
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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,"
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