Stormwater Task Force
The Lower Rio Grande Valley TPDES Stormwater Management Task Force is a joint program between the Research, Applied, Technology, Education and Service (RATES) and various municipalities all across the Rio Grande Valley to educate and improve how cities and civil engineers plan for stormwater management, as a joint effort to develop a proactive regional approach to stormwater management. Task force goals are to reduce stormwater pollution, protect the natural environment and benefit the community.
In 1998, at Texas A&M University – Kingsville (TAMUK) ,founded by Andrew Ernest and Javier Guerrero, a coalition of thirteen (13) Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) local governments joined to form the LRGV TPDES (Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) Stormwater Task Force (Task Force) in a joint effort to develop a proactive regional approach to comply with the TPDES Phase II Municipal Separate Stormwater Sewer System (MS4) rules. The Task Force developed a regional stormwater management plan (SWMP) adopted by the membership. The SWMP includes Best Management Practices (BMPs) that are required as part of the six (6) Minimum Control Measures (MCMs) of the State’s TPDES program. Today the TASK FORCE is comprised of twenty four (24)) local governments sharing one regional SWMP. Organization and Mission of the LRGV TPDES Stormwater Task Force. The TASK FORCE project idea was born from a 1998 local stormwater brainstorming round table held in La Feria, Texas. Several preliminary meetings continued at various cities until the coalition was formally organized. Local government officials and qualified professionals representing various communities in the LRGV region attended these meetings. The group agreed to develop a way to achieve a regional SWMP to comply with the TPDES regulations. The group formalized the organization by contractually empowering TAMUK to facilitate the group and by developing a system of by-laws that included election of board members and officers. The TASK FORCE uses a unique, collaborative regional approach to involve various levels of government, including the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in developing cost-effective solutions that will achieve compliance with the TPDES rules. The TASK FORCE project embodies the spirit of the mutually beneficial relationships between local governments and embellishes this relationship with academia and regulators. After nineteen (19) years, although the impact of this organization has translated into a regional collaboration movement not seen anywhere else in the State, the overall impact of this organization has yet to be fully realized. The primary goal of the TASK FORCE project in 1998 was to develop and implement a regional SWMP to comply with Phase II regulations. In 2002, TASK FORCE participants began entering into local government interlocal agreements with TAMUK, which outlined the desire to address stormwater quality issues on a regional basis and named TAMUK as its facilitator. In executing these interlocal agreements, emphasis was placed on developing programs that study existing successful programs, addressing community goals, providing technical assistance and training, and promoting regional approaches. In 2006, the TASK FORCE modified its mission to include stormwater quality management approaches to address broader water quality and watershed issues, particularly those associated with the Arroyo Colorado Watershed Partnership (ACWP), a local Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL)-related organization. The TASK FORCE project has already enjoyed side benefits of increased communication and cooperation, and created a collaborative process for discussing water quality issues in the LRGV’s four-county region. In addition, this collaboration and others like it, has enabled the participating communities to successfully secure many grant funding opportunities since the TASK FORCE’s inception. Academic researchers and faculty provided facilitation and management assistance for the TASK FORCE project, initiating this effort through a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, other grants, and from annual membership fees collected from the memberlocal-governments. The funds provide resources for staff to facilitate the group’s efforts in formulating TASK FORCE project goals and developing TASK FORCE programs.
In September 2016, the TASK FORCE decided to move its operation from TAMUK to UTRGV, a move that will be complete by July 2017. Moving the operation to a more local venue assures daily availability of resources and support to the TASK FORCE from the College of Engineering & Computer Science, the Civil Engineering Department and the UT System. With locations in Brownsville and Edinburg, UTRGV is poised to assist the TASK FORCE to achieve higher levels of success. In January 2019, at its annual retreat, the TASK FORCE opted to pursue becoming a non-profit agency promoting not only its compliance requirements, but education, research and community engagement. RATES, Inc., an existing research institute, founded in 2005, and the TASK FORCE agreed to merge and become RATES, Inc. dba RATES/RGV. Today, RATES/RGV is becoming a rapidly growing research institute in the Lower Rio Grande Valley that looks forward to promoting educational events, awarding scholarships and providing much needed professional training.