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County commissioners approve funding to prevent deaths on flood prone roads in East Bexar County

Map shows flood prone road in East Bexar County where commissioners have allocated funds for safety improvements
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Map shows flood prone road in East Bexar County where commissioners have allocated funds for safety improvements

Bexar County commissioners approved more than $137,000 for safety improvements to a flood prone road in East Bexar County, where a woman and girl drowned on their way to school in October 2021.

The Bexar County Sheriff's Department reported the 52-year-old woman and five-year-old girl were members of an extended family traveling to school in separate vehicles before sunrise at the time of the incident near North Graytown Road and FM 1518.

The remnants of Hurricane Pamela had dropped heavy rains across South Texas. But the road is also known to flood during smaller rainfall events.

County public works reported the improvements include automatic advanced warning gates at Abbott and Graytown Roads and at Aztec Lane and FM 1518. The gates lower on their own when high water is detected.

The City of St. Hedwig says it cannot afford to install the gate itself or hire public works crews that would be needed to put temporary barricades in place instead.

The intersection of Abbott and Graytown Roads, where the deaths occurred, is near Martinez Creek. St. Hedwig City Manager Maria Hernandez said runoff into the creek from new major housing developments keeps saturation levels high.

Hernandez also told commissioners at their last meeting that the discharge of treated wastewater into Martinez Creek by the San Antonio River Authority along with plans by the Green Valley Special Utility District plans to do the same add to flood prone conditions for the city.

"We have added concerns because a second wastewater treatment plant has been approved that will dump an additional 600,000 gallons into the same creek running through our city," she said. "The ultimate insult is that neither of the treatment plants service the St. Hedwig area."

In a statement to TPR, the river authority said on normal day without rain, the flow from their wastewater treatment plants amounts to a trickle of the flow in the creek.

When rain occurs, the runoff from streets and other impervious surfaces overwhelms the typical very low flows in Martinez Creek, the agency said.

As the area continues to develop from rural agricultural properties to a more urban community, higher volumes of rain runoff will wash into the creek. The USGS flow gage data for Martinez Creek near St. Hedwig can be found here.

Precinct Four County Commissioner Tommy Calvert, who represents the farming and ranching community of 2,400, called for a new comprehensive study into flooding in the area because what flood control there is in place now is not working, especially with new development in the mix.

Hernadez said St. Hedwig is the second largest city by area, not population, in Bexar County, covering 32 square miles. The area produces corn, hay, and cattle.

Calvert said ranchers have complained of cows and ranch gates getting stuck in the mud after rain events. He said ranchers behind stuck gates may not be able to evacuate during floods.

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