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San Benito gets wetlands piers right

January 8, 2019

SAN BENITO — For weeks, the wooden railings across the long piers over the city’s wetlands appeared “warped.”

Now, the job’s finally passed inspection.

After four months, the city has finalized a project to renovate two wooden piers to serve as part of an observation deck aimed at drawing eco-tourists to town.

That’s after Mayor Ben Gomez said the original renovation project left the pier’s railings appearing “crooked.”

So city commissioners have finally approved a payment of $29,738 to Saenz Brothers Construction in Donna after the company re-worked the piers’ alignment.

In August, the city awarded the company a contract to renovate two old wooden piers to serve as the foundation of a 13-foot by 13-foot observation deck running along more than 200 feet along a wetland area.

After the company completed the job in October, Bernard Rodriguez, the city’s planning director, described the piers as “structurally sound.”

However, Mayor Ben Gomez said the company’s work was “unacceptable” because the railing appeared “crooked” and “wrapping.”

“ There was an alignment issue,” Rodriguez said yesterday.

In November, City Manager Manuel De La Rosa met with company officials to express the city’s concerns.

As a result, the company re-aligned the piers, Rodriguez said.

As part of the job, steel mesh lines the sides of piers’ railings.

“ It’s a safety measure so they’re not open,” Rodriguez said.

Late last month, commissioners approved the payment that came in the form of grant from the Texas General Land Office.

“ I think it’s an excellent project,” Rodriguez said.

Meanwhile, the city is planting native plants to serve as wildlife habitat.

Now, the city plans to apply for grants to fund construction of restrooms, required before the city opens the area to the public, Rodriguez said.

The city does not have a completion date for the project, which was launched more than 10 years ago.

Big turnaround

At the site of the city’s old sewer plant, the city continues to work to turn 10 old sewer ponds into a 40-acre wildlife sanctuary.

“ As a result of the amenities that the wetlands project will hold — native plants and a water source — it’s huge for the ecology and will create a very unique and pristine eco-tourism destination that going to make a huge impact on wildlife, Rodriguez said.

The city launched the project as a response to warnings of a severe fine.

How we got here

In 2005, the city was fined $3 million for discharging inadequately treated sewer water into the nearby Arroyo Colorado.

As part of an agreement, the city launched the project in exchange of the fine’s waiver.

State officials have hailed the project.

According to the GLO’s website, the project “will restore the remaining 10 ponds at the 165-acre water treatment property along the arroyo and utilize them to water and treat nearby agricultural runoff before entering the Arroyo Colorado.

The project will also impact the Laguna Madre’s ecosystem.

“ Evaporation and utilization by vegetation will reduce the amount of water impacting the seagrass ecosystem in the Laguna Madre,” the GLO stated.

fdelvalle@valleystar.com

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