RIO GRANDE FLOODING
Heavy rains forced opening of upstream dams, officials say
Dam releases bring mess and questions downstream
LA GRULLA — A local official said he felt helpless this month while the Rio Grande continued its rapid rise, flooding rural neighborhoods as a dam emptied the equivalent of two Olympic-size swimming pools every three seconds.
Judge Eloy Vera, Starr County’s highest-ranking official, said that when water officials upstream decided to let more water flow from reservoirs, life became difficult for downstream communities such as his.
The Rio Grande hopped its banks and spread to dimensions unrecognizable as a river, much less the lazy boundary between the U.S. and Mexico.
“It is kind of frustrating that we have no input into how much water is released,” Vera said.
Vera, a civil engineer by trade, said he understands the technical reasons for the release. Still, it wasn’t easy to explain that to owners of 130 homes — half in this tiny river community — whose properties became a sopping mess despite a two-week stretch of sunny skies.
U.S. and Mexican officials insist that the flooding earlier this month that inundated South Texas and northeastern Mexico was inevitable, even though much of it followed releases at Amistad Dam near Del Rio and Falcon Dam near Zapata. The waters forced thousands from their homes and closed international crossings.
When hurricane season began June 1, Amistad was at its highest level for that day since 1992 but still below the so-called “conservation level,” the maximum amount water managers are supposed to keep in a reservoir most of the time.
A month later, Hurricane Alex came ashore about 100 miles south of the Rio Grande, dumping heavy rain. That forced managers to begin increasing the flow from reser-
Floodwaters from the Rio Grande surround La Grulla, in the Rio Grande Valley, earlier this month. The Starr County judge said that even though he is a civil engineer, he found it difficult to explain to residents why dams were being opened.