MISSION, TEXAS (KVEO)—Congressman Henry Cuellar held a press conference to discuss his tour of the Rio Grande Valley Border Levee System in Hidalgo County, Texas Tuesday afternoon.
County Judge Richard Cortez and PCT. 3 County Commissioner Everardo Villarreal joined Cuellar on the tour.
According to a news release, Cuellar took a helicopter ride to assess damages done to the dirt levees.
Hidalgo County officials have been asking the Biden administration to fill in “dangerous breaches” that the Trump administration cut into an earthen levee system to facilitate border wall construction.
On April 30, Cortez told Border Report he would take matters into his own hands and fix the levee breaches that were caused by border wall construction without approval from the federal government.
Cortez, in a statement sent to local media, said he was moving forward with repairs before the start of hurricane season.
“I am also in touch with our legal counsel to assess my authority as director of emergency management as it relates to conducting emergency repairs on federally controlled property,” said Cortez in a written statement. “But I must emphasize: my duty is to protect the safety of the residents of Hidalgo County and, currently, that entails getting these levee breaches repaired.”
Cuellar also told Border Report that he has already requested $10 million in federal funds for the repairs.
When President Joe Biden took office, he halted border wall construction but four truck-sized breaches remain in Hidalgo County where crews had cut through the earthen wall to move heavy equipment south of the levee to build the wall barrier.
According to Judge Cortez, 250,000 people could be affected by an inadequate levee system.
Word from the federal government said that it would take six to nine months to put the levees back. The county was ready to begin working on the levee themselves and get reimbursed if that was the final response from the federal government.
Tuesday during the press conference, Rep. Cuellar, Judge Richard Cortez, and Commissioner Villarreal announced that work on the levee had already begun.
“We didn’t plan this, where it happened this quick but it did happen,” said Rep. Cuellar about the work that had already begun on in the background. He says it was thanks to the pressure put on by Judge Cortez, Villareal, and fellow representatives.
Rep. Cuellar says that while it is unknown how much the reparations will cost, it is being funded by federal dollars.
Contractors told Judge Cortez that it would take around two weeks to fill in the gaps in the levee, but there will be more work that will take more time to complete, possibly by September.
Villarreal assured that there is an emergency plan in the case that a storm threatens the area while the levee is being worked on.
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