Work will soon be getting underway to develop the first master drainage plan in Nueces County in more than 20 years that will examine areas prone to flooding.

Nueces County Commissioners last week approved a contract with Naismith Engineering to help design and execute a master drainage plan for the county.

Naismith is currently overseeing the completion of projects at the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds, such as the Equestrian Center, which opened its doors in January.

Project manager John Michael said engineers will now gather all of the data that is available, but he added there might be a slight problem since the last master plan was done in 1984 and is only available in a paper format.

Also, that plan seems to have just been put away after it was finished, Michael said.

"The problem with things being cumbersome is people don't use them," he said. "We don't want this to get done and then just put away. We want it to be implemented."

Naismith's job will include extensive research that will require documentation from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Texas Department of Transportation, U.S. Geological Survey and various local municipalities. Michael said it will help that the cities of Robstown and Corpus Christi already have done their own research into their respective drainage situations.

Public Works Director Glen Sullivan said in November that it would be beneficial and likely to take existing infrastructure, such as drainage for the cities of Corpus Christi and Robstown, and include it within any design or plan.

"Current drainage will need to be incorporated into the county drainage plan," Sullivan said. "(Planners) will need to decide where major channels need to be in the future and what size they need to be."

Michael said all 830-plus acres of the county's land will be looked at, but added it would be impossible to think every problem area can be helped.

"The benefits would need to outweigh the cost of those improvements," Michael said.

The county currently doesn't have a drainage district or collect drainage fees, unlike Bishop and Robstown, both of which have drainage districts.

The one-year contract with Naismith is set to cost $991,996, with about 80 percent coming from federal monies through TxDOT and 20 percent from the county, which is about $200,000.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Betty Jean Longoria said she is glad work is moving forward on a plan to address drainage issues in the area.

"This is much-needed work that needs to be done," Longoria said. "It is long-overdue for someone to put a (drainage) plan together for the county."

Naismith is scheduled to present a final plan to the court by February 2009.

Longoria said it would be up to future county leaders to actually make use of the master drainage plan and not have it "just put on a shelf."

"This will allow them to decide what section that they want to address," the commissioner said.