Local, Federal officials respond to El Paso infrastructure damage following flash floods

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The Borderland continues to face infrastructure damage following recent heavy rainfall as monsoon season carries on.

Earlier this week, East El Paso was hit hard with thunderstorms and flash floods that caused damage to buildings, roads, and other local infrastructure.

KTSM 9 News spoke with the City of El Paso and the White House about plans to repair and improve the Borderland’s infrastructure. 

The Streets and Maintenance Department provides El Paso with street infrastructure maintenance and traffic engineering to expand and enhance the City’s comprehensive transportation network.

“Basically, the monsoon is upon us,” says Harold Kutz, Harold Kutz, Assistant Director of the Streets and Maintenance Department. “It’s been raining throughout the City at different intensities, which have caused localized problems on top of construction sites, road erosion because of high-intensity flows, and potholes that cause larger distresses.”

Kutz says that intermittent repairs are currently being done, with the final repaving of some damaged roads in town scheduled in the next few weeks. 

During storms, he says, the Department takes action as quickly as it can.

“We’re out clearing debris and hazardous material, and we’re also out keeping traffic signals functional during power outages,” says Kutz.

While El Paso was spared from the massive power outage that occurred earlier this year, the City has recently experienced outages pursuant to monsoon season that the Biden administration says is an example of the need to pass its Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework

The plan was announced at the end of June, and is a $1.2 trillion bill to “build back better.”

According to the White House, the plan will make historic and transformative investments in infrastructure, as well as clean water, remediation of legacy pollution, and resilience to climate change.

Part of the plan is to repair and rebuild roads and bridges across the country with a focus on mitigating climate change, and ensuring resiliency, equity, and safety for users.

This applies directly to El Paso.

“One of the very important pieces that’s being negotiated in Congress right now is funding for communities to be more resilient,” Jennifer Granholm, U.S. Secretary of Energy, tells KTSM 9 News. “It is amazing how much money the United States spends every year to clean up after these extreme weather events.”

Sam Snead Drive in East El Paso, for example, continues to face a number of challenges at the cost to monthly users. El Paso Water Utilities reported the initial cost was about $7.3 million, then increased to about $8.4 million after the City saw heavy flooding at the end of June.  

Kutz says that some of the biggest impact El Paso has seen from recent storms are debris.

“Cobbles, rocks, sand and gravel, and landscaping has been displaced,” he said.

The debris coupled with rapidly accumulating water have caused a great deal of damage to local vehicles, complicating already strained community members as they travel to-and-from.

“We had a lady come in with a brand new Chevrolet Cruze that now has a busted engine,” Sam Gomez, a mechanic at Westside Pros Automotive Repair. “She’s a frontline worker and now has no way to get to work.”

An additional component to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan is to improve conditions for minority communities like El Paso. 

“It’s the communities that are disproportionately negatively impacted by extreme weather events,” says Secretary Granholm. “Those are the communities that the Biden administration will see as the first investments.”

She says that 40 percent of the investments in the bill will be directed to frontline communities.

Until then, Kutz recommends El Paso residents call 311 anytime they see weather-related damage that his Department should address in order to keep the community safe. 

“We handle the emergent, the larger hazardous conditions first, and we’re going to be catching up over the next 60 days — cleaning, sweeping,” he says. “And it can change and all come undone after another storm, but we want everyone to be patient and cautious.”

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