Refugio County’s construction coffers were boosted by a significant degree late last month.

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush announced May 21 that the Texas General Land Office (GLO) approved more than $19 million in flood mitigation projects to improve drainage infrastructure throughout the county. Two major projects were funded that, according to Bush’s office, “will directly benefit residents in majority low-to-moderate income (LMI) areas that faced repetitive storm damage in 2015 and in 2017 with Hurricane Harvey.”

In conjunction with Texas State Senator Lois W. Kolkhorst and Refugio County Judge Robert Blaschke, Bush announced an amount of $12,112,636 for the town of Refugio’s citywide wastewater treatment plant and drainage project, as well as $6,910,131 for the county’s hazard mitigation improvements project aimed at Woodsboro.

“Unlike larger metropolitan areas, communities like Refugio have rarely had access to critical infrastructure funding to effectively mitigate against hurricanes and other storms,” Bush said. “In the years since Hurricane Harvey, the GLO has helped to rebuild family homes and apartment complexes in Refugio county. With these mitigation funds, those homes as well as local businesses will be better protected against the big storm.”

The application process for more than $2.3 billion in funding for the state ended on Oct. 28, 2020, with GLO evaluating 290 submitted applications in accordance with a Housing and Urban Development approved scoring criteria. Eligible applications with the highest scores were awarded funds, including the HUD requirement that at least 50 percent of total funds must be used for activities benefitting low-to-moderate income persons.

For the town of Refugio’s citywide wastewater treatment plant and drainage project, the $12,112,636 was awarded based on an LMI percentage of 51.98. The project comes in need due to the town’s location approximately 15 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, making Refugio a risk for severe flooding. This issue damages critical town assets such as local utilities and drainage systems.

During Hurricane Harvey, flooding led to the county suffering a 100 percent loss of the affordable rental housing for local workforce.

“Our communities are only a few miles from the coast and surrounded by an intricate creek and river system, making them susceptible to flooding. This $19 million from Commissioner George P. Bush and the GLO will help us improve our local drainage systems and utilities to better protect our residents.”

Improvements to the town’s drainage system are slated to include the following:

• Building a new wastewater treatment plant adjacent to the existing plant above the floodplain

• Installing lift station generators

• Demolishing the existing elevated water storage tank and installing a new elevated water storage tank

• Installing generators at the wastewater treatment plant

• Constructing drainage improvements at Whitlow Addition

• Installing concrete pavement and underground storm drains on Commerce St. by the railroad tracks.

The other major funded project, the county’s hazard mitigation improvements project, proposes improvements to the drainage system and increases to water system resiliency in Woodsboro. The project will provide continuous damage and critical water services during flooding and power outages, increasing the town’s ability to respond to future disasters.

Aims of the Woodsboro project, funded with an LMI percentage of 59.17, include:

• Addressing underground storm sewer drainage on Jeter St from Driscoll St to FM 1360 ditch, including inlets at street intersections

• Southwest drainage improvements to include ditch regrading, driveway culverts and street culverts

• Drainage improvements on FM 1360 (Kasten Ave.) south of Woodsboro High School to include concrete ditch lining and street drainage crossings

• New water well and treatment facility to include ground storage tank, pumps, chlorination system, fencing, etc at existing location

• New trunk line from new water plant to existing elevated storage tank

• Locke St water line replacement from Terminal St to FM 1360.

The grant will aid a Woodsboro water system that has had previous issues from flooding, as well as problems during February’s winter storm freezing pipes.

Both projects, per the grant, will need to be completed by 2024.

“Damage done by floods and hurricanes in our area has been a major issue,” Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) said. “That’s why I commend Commissioner Bush for recognizing our local needs and allocating these funds. This goes a long way to solve real problems and is a great example of the federal, state and local governments working together.”

•tleffler@mysoutex.com•

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