Some Stormwater projects working, others still to come

EL PASO, Texas - Last week's rains provided a peek at what's working in El Paso when it comes to the new Stormwater Utility and what still needs to be fixed after hundreds of homes were destroyed during Storm 2006.

One project the Stormwater Utility is pointing to that worked well during last week's downpour is Northeast El Paso Channel No. 2, located off of Sun Valley and U.S. 54.

The Stormwater Utility was hoping projects like the new Gateway Pond off I-10 would keep the freeway from flooding again, as it did during Storm 2006. It overflowed, however, flooding the freeway anyway. But many other Stormwater projects worked well.

No area of town was spared from damage during Storm 2006. The Stormwater Utility hopes to prevent that from ever happening here again, but as seen last week, some projects have been completed while others haven't.

"You can point out an area of the city where it's not working that great, but there are a lot of areas that we fixed that are working fine," El Paso Water Utilities President John Balliew said. "One of the things we like to talk about is Northeast Channel No. 2 where we have a lot of runoff that comes down the Franklin mountains."
Northeast Channel No. 2 was a $12 million project that residents in the area said they were glad to have, pointing it made a huge difference last week.

"In 2006, it was all flooded and those two homes over there were completely gone," said Cecilia Guerena, who still lives in the neighborhood. "Last week, it was smooth, no real bad flooding. I'm very happy they did work on it. They did the work there and it kept our homes safe and the water out. Quite a difference."

"There were a number of homes, hundreds of homes, that were protected by that particular structure," Balliew said. "It's working great."

Other areas where Stormwater projects helped last week include on Lee Trevino near Interstate 10 and over in the Government Hills area where the Government Hills drainage ditch was built.

"We put in a lot of improvements there to get the water off the street and into that ditch and that's working great," Balliew said.

ABC-7 asked Balliew if there's a project that is planned that he wished was already built.

"I wish we had a big pump station down at Texas and Piedras," he said.

That $30 million pump station, which would help keep I-10 from flooding in the Central area of town, which it did twice last week, won't be built for several years.

"That would have helped us considerably," Balliew said.

According to Stormwater officials, the average homeowner pays just under three dollars in Stormwater fees per month. That raises about $15 million a year for the Stormwater Utility, but $4 million of that comes out for debt service, another $7 million for operations and maintenance, $1.5 million for City of El Paso open space projects, leaving only about $2.5 million a year for new Stormwater projects.

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