South Texas Officials Worry About Breaches In Border Levees

PALMVIEW, Texas (AP) -- South Texas officials say they are worried about flooding during the hurricane season starting June 1 from breaches in a levee system that remain after border wall construction was halted.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez told Border Report Wednesday that there are at least four breaches in the levee system protecting Hidalgo County's low-lying region from floods during a major storm.

Cortez spoke next addressed a dirt levee built to protect the delta region from seasonal flooding from the Rio Grande.

He said border wall construction under former President Donald Trump opened breaches in the region's levee system but they weren't repaired before President Joe Biden issued an order to stop all construction after he took office in January,

Cortez and other officials now say the unfinished work has left the levee system in a precarious situation.

The breach is among four identified by local officials who say they could pose a threat to public safety during the annual six-month hurricane season that runs through Nov. 30.

Hidalgo County Emergency Management Coordinator Ricardo Saldaña said at an afternoon news conference that the levees have worked well in the past, but the breaches have now put nearby communities at risk.

He said federal agencies including the U.S. Section of the International Border and Water Commission had been contacted about the concerns. The commission oversees water treaties between the U.S. and Mexico along the shared border.

Lori Kuczmanski, the commission's public affairs officer, said in an emailed statement that the agency is "very concerned about the existing levee gaps in the Lower Rio Grande Valley" and "has reiterated to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Customs and Border Protection the immediate importance of providing flood protection to the local community."

She said the commission requires anyone doing work on the levees overseen by the agency to "have a plan in place to ensure levee integrity for any flooding that could occur during the hurricane season."