More fixes for Interstate 10 flooding on the way

Overnight flooding prompts concerns over readiness of stormwater system

EL PASO, Texas - So why did Interstate 10 flood again on Wednesday?

Back in Storm 2006, it was closed down throughout the day. On Wednesday, it was blocked for at least a couple of hours. But weren't millions in Stormwater Utility fixes supposed to prevent it from happening?

Stormwater Utility officials admitted that area in Central El Paso, next to I-10, is the biggest problem area in the city, and although they've completed some projects, several others must be completed before they can guarantee it'll never happen again.

"About 6:30 this morning, the water level was on the sidewalk," said Rene Gonzalez, who lives just off of Interstate 10 at Missouri and Cebada and was left dealing with a messy situation in his Central El Paso basement apartment. "That caused the sewer and bathroom to come out and flood my home. It came up through my toilet."

The Cebada Pump Station, near Chamizal Park, is designed to pump water out of the area that flooded near the freeway and into the river. But there was a lot of trash among all the water, which slows down and backs up the process.

"All that does is create a blockage," said Christina Montoya, spokesperson for the Stormwater Utility.

She said trash is only part of the problem. The bigger issue is time to complete $500 million in projects as part of the Stormwater Master Plan.

"We've completed a lot of those projects in the Northeast, Central, East Side, Lower Valley, all different parts of town we have completed," Montoya said. "But we've always maintained this Central area is probably one of the biggest hardest problems to tackle for the utility because it's not just one project."

In addition to the recently completed Gateway Pond, which filled up quickly and was being drained Wednesday afternoon, Montoya pointed to still to be constructed ponding areas along Cotton and Copia streets up stream from I-10.

"Once these ponds are built, they'll be able to capture some of that water and retain it so that it will not come down all at once," she said.

What will make the biggest difference is another pump station at Piedras, which isn't expected to be started for several years.

"The pump station is a huge project," Montoya said.

Until that's completed, residents can expect the area to continue to flood.

The newest ponding area in Central El Paso, which should help prevent future flooding in the I-10 and Cebada area, is being bid out right now and is expected to be completed in the next year. The second one will be built sometime after that.

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