Community Member

Reinvent Harlingen Drainage

Harlingen, Texas

Flooding in Harlingen, Texas.

The reasons why Anthropocene Alliance members get involved in flooding issues in their communities are many. Sometimes it’s because their homes have flooded. Sometimes it’s a scientist who becomes immersed in the cause. In Harlingen, Texas, it’s J.V. Garcia, who is a licensed civil engineer. He loves his community, but sees development exacerbating flooding, and is afraid Harlingen will become another Houston.

The Rio Grande Valley has experienced five federally declared flood events in the past five years. The locals refer to the one in 2018 as the “Great Flood of June 2018.” That flood devastated the region with an average of 15-inches of rain. In 2002, it was 12-inches.

“As a civil engineer, I will never say stop building. I am pro-development. But let’s build in a smart way that isn’t going to flood our neighbors and isn’t going to be detrimental to our citizens,” Garcia said in an interview.  Garcia sees this as a multi-city, multi-country, multi-district, and even state and national problem. “It’s a regional problem that needs regional solutions.”

JV Garcia of Reinvent Harlingen Drainage speaks with Rosalinda Taquilas about the flooding issues in the Tio Cano Lake area in Harlingen, TX.

The problem stems from drainage ordinances, which are outdated and ineffective for the current weather patterns that the Rio Grande Valley contends with. Garcia is experience with drainage ordinances as a civil engineer and feels that Harlingen’s ordinances are the most inadequate of the entire valley.

City officials are proposing to raise drainage standards from a 5-year mitigation plan to a 25-year mitigation plan, but Garcia and other residents see very little change in the two plans. He wants to reach higher. “We are trying to encourage them to do something more, something better. At a minimum standard, adopt what the City of McAllen and Hidalgo County has, which is like the Gold Standard,” Garcia said. “Even the City of San Benito has a better drainage policy than Harlingen.”

J.V. Garcia has been working hard throughout 2020 to educate his neighbors and city officials with public events and interviews, because he knows that citizen action can make a difference. He is advocating for an LID (low impact development) plan that will slow water down, filter and clean it, and reduce community flooding. The funding is there and all the city needs to do is prioritize the flooding crisis to address it once and for all.

Illustration of what implementing a canal in the community can do.

Reinvent Harlingen Drainage is advocating for:

1) An updated drainage policy (minimum standards across the valley). 

2) Year round maintenance of drainage systems in the country

3) Utilizing the newly created Cameron County Flood Control District, which is the flood and drainage jurisdiction.

4) Creating a Regional Flood Authority, similar to the RGV MPO. @Reinvent Harlingen Drainage and CASA Engineering LLC. are working diligently to introduce legislation regarding the RGV Flood Control District. County leaders need to support this via resolutions. 

5) Voting for pro-drainage candidates and true public servants.

Written by Michele Gielis


$5 million awarded to Harlingen for flood plan study, Valley Central Local 23, December 18, 2020

RGV: Texas Water Board Helps Fund Flood Control Projects in Harlingen, Weslaco, Virtual Builders Exchange, December 8, 2020

Harlingen to enact unpopular drainage standards following majority commission vote, Valley Central Local 23, October 8, 2020

Podcast: Garcia: City of Harlingen’s proposed new drainage ordinance falls short. By Mario Muñoz, October 6, 2020

Harlingen community rallies for flood awareness ahead of drainage proposal vote, Valley Central Local 23, October 4, 2020

Watch: Trail of Floods event being held in Harlingen on Saturday, Rio Grande Guardian, October 3, 2020

Major flooding in the Rio Grande Valley as Hanna moves into Mexico, Space City Weather, July 26,2020

Thousands of Texans remain without power in the aftermath of Hurricane Hanna, Texas Tribune, July 27, 2020

Agency Seeks Public Comment on Alternatives to Improve the Flooding Capacity of the Arroyo Colorado in Harlington, Texas, Texas Border Business, June 23, 2020

Harlingen flooding aftermath, CBS 4, June 26, 2019

Major flooding, power outages in Harlingen, FOX 29 San Antonio, June 25, 2019

Great June Flood, The Sequel (June 24, 2019), Weather channel, June 24, 2019

Flash flood emergency in parts of coastal Texas from over a foot of rain, Washington Post, June 20, 2018

Michele Gielis

Michele Gielis

Michele has spent the last decade helping nonprofits raise their voice for change. She looks to make action meaningful by connecting people to the technology and messages that bring resonance and resilience. Michele is proud to support the Anthropocene Alliance working to get communities to #HigherGround


JV Garcia

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