U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz has received his new subcommittee assignments on Capitol Hill and local leaders couldn't be happier.
For the 111th Congress, Solomon Ortiz retained his seat chairing the Readiness Subcommittee of the influential House Armed Services Committee, which authorizes a $160 billion budget and oversees military training, logistics, base realignment and closure and military construction.
"Our military bases serve as an economic engine in South Texas and I am honored to continue my service as chairman of a Readiness subcommittee," Solomon Ortiz said in a prepared statement. "This will ensure for continued infrastructure improvements and new construction at the bases."
It is his new assignments on the Highways & Transit and Water Resources subcommittees that have local leaders excited about the potential impact he can have on infrastructure projects in the area.
County Judge Loyd Neal said the congressman's new roles could prove to be beneficial for projects in the county, particularly those dealing with drainage.
"This is very good for us, not only for transportation issues, but for Nueces County to get some grants and coming up with funding," Neal said. "This really is good timing."
Precinct 3 Commissioner Oscar Ortiz, who is the younger brother of Solomon Ortiz, said the congressman would need the cooperation and unity of the county and other governmental entities in order to help the area get anything done.
"As you know, seniority counts for a lot in Congress," Oscar Ortiz said. "We have to clear any obstacles for getting any projects realized.
"It's important that we speak with one voice so that we can be able to help our congressman in achieving our local goals."
In terms of any improvements dealing with the county's proposed master drainage plan, Oscar Ortiz said seeking federal funds may be a good option, since a proposed countywide drainage district has been met with opposition from cities like Robstown and Port Aransas.
"There's different ways of dealing with the issue and some of it is maybe doable with federal funding," the Precinct 3 commissioner said. "Ultimately, it's going to have to be the local communities that are going to be responsible for maintaining these waterways and outfalls."
The drainage situation, which is something county leaders have grappled with for decades, is something that needs to be seriously addressed, Oscar Ortiz said. Having someone on the federal level provides a prime opportunity for the county to do just that, he added.
"If not on this particular plan, maybe we need to modify how this drainage situation is going to be resolved," Oscar Ortiz said. "If it's not going to be a countywide (drainage) district, then maybe we need to look individually at the different waterways that are causing a problem, (such as) some funding for Oso Creek, and going individually to those collection points."
Neal said he would also like to see projects sent to the congressman, such as the stalled County Road 52 project in Calallen and the construction of a new Harbor Bridge, to be included in President Barack Obama's proposed infrastructure improvements package.
One of the biggest problems with that idea is time, as in how fast the proposed projects can get started.
"We're going to have to get him projects that can be done (quickly), and right now, neither one of those fits into that category," Neal said.
Despite that, Oscar Ortiz said he is optimistic that the congressman's new assignments will pay off for the Coastal Bend.
"The assignments are going to be important to the area," Oscar Ortiz said. "We've got a bleak economic outlook and it'll be important that we have a voice (dealing) with those funds to help out in these hard economic times."