President's signature pushes drainage study funds
Last updated 12/29/2020 at 10:05pm
While Congress and the White House go back and forth on whether to increase individual stimulus payments from $600 to $2,000, Texas Sen. John Cornyn is taking a well-timed victory lap.
The $1.4 trillion bill to fund government agencies that President Trump signed Sunday night along with the $900 billion pandemic relief package included the Water Resources Development Act of 2020. That will fund a feasibility study for the Port Arthur and Orange County flood risk management project.
That project will allow construction of improvements to interior drainage.
Cornyn included 20 priorities in the act, including a Jefferson County ecosystem restoration project.
“We can’t prevent natural disasters, but we can prepare for them,” Cornyn said. “With the President’s signature, 20 different projects will move forward, further protecting Texans from severe flooding and catastrophic storms.”
The $25 feasibility study is the predecessor of a hoped-for $100 million project applied for jointly by Orange County, Jasper County, Newton County, Orange County Drainage District and the Sabine River Authority, explained David Montagne, the SRA’s general manager.
“We got short-listed for three of these grants from the Texas Water Development Board and the big project – for $100 million – is the one that would be awarded by the GLO (Texas General Land Office), but it’s actually federal Housing Department money,” Montagne said.
“There’s $4.2 billion being distributed by GLO and they’re going to do about 10 of these big projects, but they don’t want to spend all of their money in Harris County. This would alleviate some flooding in Orange County.”
Orange County Commissioners Court joined an eight-county coalition with Jefferson County that covered the Sabine, Neches and Trinity River basins. But the group quickly divided to subdivide.
“Everybody’s going to have to go after their own pieces,” Montagne said.
“If you started looking at a project that was regional, it would be in the billions and you’d never get it.
“So we’re concentrating on this $100 million project for Orange County. The Drainage District has another project we think is really good, a $5 million project, and we’ve got a $10 million project, ourselves in there.
“We’re going to try to get the $100 million one, but we’re going to apply for the others, too, so if we lose on the big one, maybe we’ll get one of the smaller ones.”
The big project includes building retention ponds in lower Jasper and Newton counties to delay the rush of rainwater down to Orange County. County Line Ditch, which begins in Jasper County, will be improved to run more water east to the Sabine.
At the same time, retention ponds would be added in Little Cypress and Mauriceville and “we’d like to take some water off Cow Bayou and bring it straight to the Neches,” Montagne said.
“It’s a pretty big undertaking, but if we do it, it’ll keep quite a few people from flooding.”
The SRA offices are located in Orange County and Montagne want to see it get its due.
“The feds are going to spend this money, and we want some of it to come back to Orange County. We don’t seem to usually get our fair share. So let’s get our fair share.”