The November meeting of the Lower Rio Grande Citizens Forum was a progress report on the status of efforts being made by responsible government agencies on both sides of the Rio Grande to comply with requirements of the 1944 Water Treaty, to which both Mexico and the United States are signatories. Representatives of the United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC), and officers of Mexico’s Federal Water Entity (CONAGUA) were present for the well-attended meeting. The quarterly meeting was held in the agency’s public conference room at the Mercedes main headquarters.
Additionally, the challenge of stopping illegal dumping on the border was addressed by officers of the Hidalgo County Constable’s office.
Citizens Forum Co-Chair, Omar Rios, got the meeting underway with a welcome and introductions of interested citizens present and members of the press. This public meeting attracted a room full of involved attendees from such diverse fields as environmentalists, park rangers, police officers, farmers, and city managers–all with deep concern about law enforcement, flooding and the availability of water for their needs.
Sergeant John Sauceda, representing Precinct 1 of the Hidalgo County Constable’s office, was the first speaker. Sauceda praised the decision by the USIBWC to declare the levees “off-limits”for all civilian traffic. “That shuts down the opportunity for illegal dumping and illegal activities of any kind,” he said, “and it makes our job easier and safer for everybody. ‘Remember,’ he said, ‘Illegal dumping—it’s a crime.”’
He highlighted the problem and challenge by citing statistic showing that there have been 102 illegal dumpings reported since January of this year. Each one could face fines of up to $500 and confinement in jail if found and successfully prosecuted. “We desperately need the help of alert citizens who will pick up a phone and identify the violator, describe his vehicle and give directions to the dumping,” he said, then added: “Call 956 447 3775 with your information—it will be a real public service.”
Next on the program, Billy Finn, Chief of Water Accounting, USIBWC, spoke on the status of the Binational Solution to Assure 1944 Water Treaty Compliance and Better Predictability and Reliability in Future Rio Grande Water Deliveries to the United States. In that treaty Mexico is required to deliver water into the Rio Grande from six tributaries during five-year cycles. Among those Mexican rivers are the major rivers: Rio Conchos, Arroyo las Vacas, Rio Alamo and Rio San Juan. They all deliver water upstream of the Amistad and Falcon dams.
He said his agency is working with CONAGUA, the corresponding Federal Mexican water entity and with new, state-of-the-art software tools to assure compliance with international laws.
Anyone wanting more information about these matters or the time of the next Public Forum, can call USIBWC at 956-565-3150 or email Lori Kuczmanski@ibwc.gov.