The national water, irrigation and drainage service (Senara) and the national emergency committee (CNE) plan to rehabilitate the Nosara river levee to reduce the risk of flooding that hits this Nicoya community every year.
Since El Niño entered the country in November 2018, meteorologist Luis Fernando Alvarado of the national meteorology institute (IMN) said that rains will probably start in Guanacaste in August.
Time is working against rehabilitating the levee, but the institutions say that they have moved forward with preliminary designs and determined a budget of ¢650 million ($1.06m) for the job.
The CNE board of directors will give the final approval when it approves the budget and blueprints, a process that must be done this February. The next step is to hire a company to complete the job in three months under Senara’s supervision.
But Senara wars that if Nicoya doesn’t maintain the levee, the repairs won’t withstand another overflowing of the river and the communities will be flooded again.
The institution proposes rebuilding two key sectors of the levee, one in Santa Marta and the other by the airport. En These are the spots where last year’s rain flooded homes and left isolated neighborhoods such as Hollywood, Santa Marta and San Carlos.
District housing more than 260 people in three shelters
The repairs include protection walls, rebuilding the concrete and sand covering on the walls of the levee and bigger gutters that will let water flow out to the river quicker.
One of the most critical points of the levee is Rasta bridge, which connects the community of Santa Marta with the center of Nosara. Here, the river currents form a bottleneck that weakened the levee walls last year and ended up flooding nearby communities.
In this sector, Senara is planning to build a wall almost 13 feet deep under the riverbed in order to protect the levee and halt waters, explained Adolfo Vázquez, one of the institution’s engineers.
The institution will also excavate the river so the flow can handle 40,435 cubic feet per second, a capacity that is about 14.5 percent greater than before. This excavation, on top of regular river maintenance, will impede the water from overflowing again, said Vázquez.
This isn’t the first time that the government has invested in the levee. In 2009, CNE built one that the Nosara river broked in that same year. In 2013, the same institution requested help from Senara to build a new one, which was completed in 2015 and now under reconstruction.
Some residents are worried that the new promise for a new levee that holds back everything is just that, a promise. Resident Adriana Camareno says that the 2018 floods were the worst of the last 20 years and she blames the levee.
Everyone in town has a theory on how to fix the problem. “I think the levee should be the same height as the Rasta bridge,” said Camareno. “They need to dredge it every year,” said Maritza Ruiz, from the neighborhood of San Carlos near the airport.
Senara specialists agree with Ruiz. Senara engineer Adolfo Ruiz said that the excess of sediment is one of the main causes of flooding.
Just last year, the river received over a million cubic feet of sediment from the mountains and ended up in the river currents, the engineer said. This dirt ended up at the bottom of the river and caused water levels to rise. Add a large amount of rain to the mix and the result is flooding.
If the levee does not receive maintenance from the municipality, it is likely to flood Nosara again”, said Vázquez.
Nicoya city engineer Josué Ruiz said they spent ¢8 million ($13,333) in taxpayer money on cleaning and cutting down trees around the levee, but he thinks the city will need at least ¢30 million in order to provide proper maintenance that includes removing sediments from the river.
Director of Senara engineering and project development Marvin Coto explained that, with the new design, the levee won’t be any taller but it will reinforce the sector around Rasta bridge and that they will rebuild the walls of the levee and build bigger gutters.
Coto added that they will meet with residents living near the river in the second half of February in order to hear their concerns and inform them about the new construction.
Rebuilding the levee won’t be a definitive solution for the residents of Hollywood, who live in a zone of constant flooding. The Nosara Integral Development Association (ADIN) is working right now on a project to relocate at least 40 families that live there.
“We are in the first phase of studies to see if the land is apt for building homes,” said president of ADIN, Marco Ávila.
The ADIN has counted the families that live in the danger area and is filing paperwork with the Banco Hipotecario de la Vivienda bank (Banhvi) so that each one can receive a lot and a house, Ávila said.