Monday, January 28, 2008

Draining the Valley

An arroyo, according to the Spanish English dictionary that we bought here in the valley, is a stream or a brook. But in the desert areas of the US and Mexico, I most often find it to refer to a cut or wash thru the otherwise flat desert or farm fields.

When it rains here, there are fewer storm sewers that drain the water off of the streets and land, like we are used to in the Northern part of the US. Even in our rural farm areas we have ditches that drain things back to a stream. Large washes or swaths to a river up North, seem more full of vegetation and not as gulch like.

So with all that said, we here are on the Llano Grande Lake. This lake stretches back into the State park by the same name. This is a park that can be hiked and birded, and is a favorite past time of the winter Texans. The lake drains into the Arroyo Colorado.

But where does that go? It starts over West of Mission and comes thru here and goes over to Harlingen. It is the drainage ditch. It drains all of the fields as they are irrigated. It receives the run off water of all the storm sewers and rain collection systems. And the municipal waste treatment plants empty into it as well.

It crosses South of the main area of Harlingen and is quite wide. But it seems to have only a small creek at the bottom of a wide swath of deep uninhabited gulch. But we went over it the other day when it was raining quite hard, and it had about three or four times as much water in it then. It is the Valley's drain.

Over East of Harlingen, there is a Port. Port Harlingen is where barges of many commodities are unloaded. Where do these barges come from? The inter coastal water way of course. And they come from the Ocean up the Arroyo Colorado.

I am also told that the barges are loaded with raw brown sugar from the sugar cane plants, and are shipped back out to the Gulf of Mexico. All on the Arroyo Colorado.

Town of Rio Hondo

Fifteen miles East of Harlingen is the town of Rio Hondo. It is a sleepy burg of 2000 but it is on the Arroyo Colorado. Curiosity got the better of me so I went there. Not much to see, but at the end of the street you can see a bridge. A draw bridge. The whole deck raises. Straight up.

Draw Bridge

This is of course, so the barges and tugs can go thru. It was Sunday and there was no traffic on the river or arroyo. So if we irrigate the fields and flush the toilets, there will enough water for the barges to bring you some sugar for your iced tea.

Navigation ChannelThe channel goes to the sea thru an area called the Laguna Madre. This is a long shallow bay area along the intercoastal water way between South Padre Island and the Texas Coast. Mother Lagoon in Spanish.

This is a big political football. The university is testing water quality, and bacteria constantly, so there is no end to the information about the bad part of this system. If you just try to find out how the Arroyo Colorado works, that info is much harder to come by.

So we are on the edge of the Valley's drainage ditch. That is why we have a large levee all the way around the South part of the park. The neighbors to our left, have been coming here for fourteen years, and yes they have seen the arroyo flood and were very glad that the Levee was there to do its job.

As we have gone farther down the Rio Grande towards the ocean, we have observed that the river seems to become smaller and smaller. And when we were out in the estuary where the river meets the sea last week, there wasn't much to see. Except the boarder patrol.

The river drains back into the sea after we use it. By way of the Arroyo Colorado.

It reached 71 degrees yesterday and was still 60 after midnight. Today is to be warmer yet so here is hoping your weather will be nicer too.

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