San Benito wants Wetlands as Wildlife Sanctuary

By J. NOEL ESPINOZA
Special to the NEWS

Biodiversity –
Pictured is the railing found at the wetlands project location.
(Staff photo by Freddy Jimenez)

A San Benito wetlands project completed last year could someday become a fowl paradise for folks who enjoy bird-watching and nature.

Officials said the city has added ecotourism features to the project, located at the site where a dozen sewer ponds were situated off 20 Line Road and Williams Road.

In 2005, the state hit the Resaca City with nearly a $3 million fine for emitting improperly treated sewer water in the Arroyo Colorado stream. In order to avoid the fine, the city agreed to convert the ponds into wetlands and the state decided to waive the fine.

The project, which took more than a decade to complete, includes observation decks to draw eco-tourists to the area, officials said.

In 2018, the City Commission discussed the final payment of $29,738 to Saenz Brothers Construction for the wetlands to be completed Dec. 31, 2018. The money was part of a state grant to turn the old sewer ponds into a 40-acre wildlife sanctuary. Commissioners tabled the payment after Mayor Ben Gomez complained railing piers were crooked and the wooden floors appeared decrepit.

Planning and Development Director Bernard Rodriguez said the city is still working on pursuing another grant to make the wetlands a nature sanctuary.

In order to make the place a wildlife sanctuary, Rodriguez said they would need to add the infrastructure for people to visit the area.

“We need to add restrooms,” he said. “We need to have a water source in case someone is thirsty and needs to drink some water.”

Although the objective is to complete it as soon as they can, Rodriguez said he could not give a timeline as to when people will be able to visit the wetlands.

“We’re applying for grants right now and I don’t know whether we’re going to get it or not,” he said.
However, Rodriguez said the city already fulfilled its commitments with the state.

“We already met our obligations,” he said. “TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) mandated at one time that we needed to do something. Now we just want to enhance it.”

Editor’s note: This article has been edited for length. To read the full story, click here or make sure to grab a copy of the Jan. 10-16, 2020 issue of the NEWS.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.sbnewspaper.com/2020/01/10/san-benito-wants-wetlands-as-wildlife-sanctuary/

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