Mexico's flood-preventing measure will benefit Rio Grande conditions
April 15, 2004
By Rachel Williamson
The Monitor
McAllen, Texas
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McAllen, Texas - As of Wednesday night, Mexico opened the gates at El Cuchillo dam in northern Nuevo Leon, beginning a controlled release of water to the Rio Grande that is expected to prevent flooding in area communities.

Until the end of May, in preparation for hurricane season or other rain events, Mexico will release about 5,000 cubic feet of water per second from El Cuchillo into the Rio San Juan, which joins the river at Rio Grande City.

The water release will free up storage space since the dam has been overspilling, said Sally Spener, public affairs specialist for the U.S. side of the International Boundaries and Water Commission.

Before last fall’s heavy rains, the dam had not been over-spilling since 1988, Spener said.

“This is good; it is a controlled release,” Spener said. “They're making room for additional (rain) water.”

The water will not directly benefit South Texas farmers since the point of the release is downstream of Falcon and Amistad dams, where water is stored for Mexico and the U.S., said Carlos Rubinstein, Rio Grande watermaster.

But the water still will benefit river conditions that, eventually, will help farmers, Rubinstein said.

“It doesn't provide long-term relief because we don't have a place to store it,” Rubinstein said. “But there are some benefits to it.”

The extra rush of water will help clear out aquatic weeds, he said.

“It (the extra water) simply flushes it out,” Rubinstein said. “Real simple.”

Before October’s heavy rainfall helped get rid of the aquatic weeds, 20 percent more water than the demand was released from Falcon and Amistad to push along the requested water, Rubinstein said.

But as of October, that has not been the case, he said.

This means that more water can be stored in the dams, which currently have a combined total storage of more than 50 percent of their capacity, Rubinstein said.

Overall, the extra water will improve the river’s health, he said.

“It’s going to greatly benefit us in maintaining the mouth of the river open and producing fresh water inflows at the Gulf of Mexico,” Rubinstein said.

Water conditions are looking the best they have in 10 years, said Jo Jo White, general manager of the Mercedes irrigation district.

The recent rain has been sufficient enough that farmers do not need to pump water from the river right now, White said.

“It’s a good feeling to know we have ample water to meet our demand for this growing season,” White said.