McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Millions of dollars have been earmarked to clean up a polluted segment of the Rio Grande known as Zacate Creek in Laredo, Texas.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, earlier this month announced $1 million in federal earmarks would go to the Zacate Creek Restoration Project, which includes revegetation and reforestation where the creek feeds into the Rio Grande.
Those funds are part of $8.6 million in U.S. funding that has been culled together for the restoration project by the City of Laredo, Webb County, and the Department of Interior. This includes some land pledged by the city and $2 million pledged by the county.
In addition, Mexico’s federal government recently pledged $81 million to repair a dilapidated sewage facility that it operates in Nuevo Laredo, across the Rio Grande from Zacate Creek, Laredo City Councilwoman Melissa Cigarroa told Border Report.
“They’ve had tremendous collector problems and pipe failures. And so it is to rehabilitate their sewer system,” Cigarroa said Tuesday.
Cigarroa said the cleanup efforts south of the border will greatly improve the creek area that they are trying to revitalize.
“It’s a combination, right? We’re all trying to reclaim this green space and develop it,” she said. “To create these green spaces where people can come and gather and Nuevo Laredo has been incredibly supportive.”
The city also has discussed making it a birding sanctuary.
Cigarroa said the Zacate Creek Restoration Project is a “pilot program” for the binational river park project that leaders from both countries are trying to develop along the banks of the Rio Grande in Laredo and Nuevo Laredo.
In the Zacate Creek area, down river, they want to revegetate the region and reforest the area with native species, clean out the trails, and make more accessible a stunning waterfall.
“It will be revitalized by restoring all that and then also dealing with invasive species and erosion and really trying to draw out the gem. We’ve got a natural waterfall there,” she said.
The nonprofit Rio Grande International Study Center will be helping with the reforestation and revegetation as well as removing invasive species, said Cigarroa, who is former board president for the organization that studies the Rio Grande watershed.
Cigarroa said replacing invasive grasses with native grasses “seems to be incredibly important” following the destruction from wildfires in Lahaina, Hawaii, earlier this month.
“Water is life, and Zacate Creek is no exception,” Cuellar said in a statement. “The Zacate Creek Restoration Project ensures Laredoans will continue to enjoy this natural geographical feature.”
Cuellar, who is from Laredo, earlier helped to secure $2 million in congressional funding for the binational river project.
More funding and projects related to the binational river project are expected to be announced this week at the NADBank Summit 2023 that is being held in San Antonio, which starts on Wednesday.
Border Report plans to cover the Summit and will update with additional information.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com.