The night of Sept. 18, 2014 was an unforgettable monsoon day for residents living in the Pico Norte area, especially for those along Bywood Drive, Escarpa Drive and Pico Norte Road.
The seasonal rains were so rapid and heavy on that particular evening, three drivers and their cars were swept into a nearby storm pond, along with hundreds of trash and recycle bins. Thankfully, the El Paso Fire Department safely rescued the drivers. Since then, El Paso Water has been working to improve flood control in the area.
“We invested $1.9 million in the first phase of Pico Norte Stormwater Pond improvements,” said Alan Shubert, Vice-President of Operations and Technical Services. “The pond can now receive a lot more water from flooded streets.”
The first phase included excavating and expanding the pond, improving the pond slopes and drainage structures and installing a new rock wall perimeter with wrought iron to replace the chain link fence that was swept away by the strong currents.
With the improvements completed by EPWater in 2016, the City of El Paso was able to complete a hydraulic study and a Letter of Map Revision (LOMR) application with FEMA.
As a result, over 1,100 properties were officially removed from the FEMA flood zone.
“Phase one will take the water from the streets, but what we are working on now is adding drain lines and drop inlets to pick the water up before the streets flood,” Shubert said.
Phase two of the project will now improve the Sam Snead Storm Drain from Pico Norte Road to Lee Trevino Drive. This is an additional investment of $6.3 million. Completion of the construction is estimated for Fall of 2020. Phase three will improve the Bywood Drive drainage system.
“This project demonstrates our stormwater fees at work,” said Gisela Dagnino, Stormwater Engineering Division Manager. “Our most important goal is to provide public safety, and this project is a perfect example.”