As Lake Waco flooding damages infrastructure in the area, Rep. Bill Flores, R-College Station, said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has the money it needs to maintain the Lake Waco Dam and will be able to secure any extra money needed to respond to flooding.
Flores said the corps has access to $6 billion, up a little more than $500 million from past budgets, and his office has a history of securing tens of millions of dollars for McLennan County.
Heavy rainfall caused a 4-foot-deep and 300-foot-long section of the earthen dam surface to slide downhill last week, and the Corps has the money to make repairs and maintain the dam’s integrity, Flores said.
He said repairing the dam is his top priority in dealing with Lake Waco. His second priority is addressing flood damage leading to structural issues, and his third priority is to rebuild boat ramps and picnic tables.
“That said, we will work on all of those issues to try to help find the money to help for the Corps of Engineers to work on those things,” Flores said.
It is unclear whether the Corps will provide emergency funding for flood-related repairs around Lake Waco, Randy Cephus, a Fort Worth-based Corps spokesman told the Tribune-Herald. Cephus said no extra money from the Corps’ general budget is available for recreational repairs.
He was unavailable for further comment Thursday afternoon.
Cephus has said parks surrounding Lake Waco could be closed for months, including during the popular Fourth of July holiday.
Flores said the Corps’ budget is meant to cover many of the costs associated with recent heavy rains, and it should be able to secure more money if necessary.
“They’ve got the money to address issues like this, particularly the dam issue,” Flores said. “But to the extent they need extra money because of the flooding, it shouldn’t be difficult to obtain. If you look at history we’ve had since I’ve been in office, in an environment where we haven’t had earmarks, we’ve still been able to get tens of millions of dollars for McLennan County.”
He said his office has secured much-needed federal funding for communities in the area, including Mart, West and Bellmead.
McLennan County Judge Scott Felton said Flores was instrumental in helping the city of Mart secure a grant to repair infrastructure and was supportive of Lake Waco funds.
“I’d hope if they qualify, if it’s a natural disaster, and there’s funding for that, I hope that they would qualify and get access to those funds,” Felton said.
Flores also said he supports Gov. Greg Abbott’s request to President Barack Obama for a Major Disaster Declaration for recent severe weather and flooding. Abbott’s disaster declaration request does not include McLennan County, but it could be added.
“The step we have to take is to get the funding allocated to McLennan County for all these various purposes related to this disaster declaration,” Flores said. “That’s not a big deal. We’ve done that in the past.”
No Trump endorsement
Flores also told the Tribune-Herald on Thursday he plans to vote for Donald Trump for president, but he has no plans to endorse him. Recent racist comments by the presumptive Republican presidential nominee dissuaded him from offering an endorsement, Flores said.
“In the last few days, he was critical of a judge based on the judge’s ethnicity, and I think that is a very inappropriate statement to make,” Flores said. “I think it’s inappropriate to even think that way. I would never criticize a federal judge, particularly if I had a court case in front of him, but you would certainly never, ever criticize them based on their ethnic background.”
At a recent rally, Trump called Gonzalo Curiel, the federal district judge presiding over two class- action lawsuits filed by former students of Trump University, “a hater of Donald Trump.”
He then implied Curiel could not perform his duties because of Curiel’s Mexican ethnicity and Trump’s plans to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. Curiel was born in Indiana.
“He’s a member of a club or society very strongly pro-Mexican, which is all fine,” Trump said on CBS's “Face the Nation” this week. “But I say he’s got bias. I want to build a wall. I’m going to build a wall.”
Trump said Curiel has treated him “in a hostile manner,” and went on to say a Muslim judge could not fairly preside over the case because of Trump’s policy that would ban Muslim immigration to the United States.
Flores said Trump’s comments were racist.
“What I’d like to see Donald Trump do is start talking about his vision for leading the country and the policies that he would propose that would help hardworking American families who have struggled through the last few years and then also to differentiate himself from Hillary Clinton,” Flores said.
David Schleicher, a former Democratic Party chairman in McLennan County, said Flores delaying a Trump endorsement is “like saying, ‘I’ve got bronchitis but decided not to cough.’ ”
Flores is chair of the Republican Study Committee, which includes more than 170 House Republicans.
“Before I, as the chair of the largest conservative caucus in Congress, add my name as an endorsement and add credibility to a Donald Trump presidency, he’s got to start talking about vision and quit the trash talk,” Flores said.