We're a group of long-time Port A residents, home owners, business people and dedicated Port A fans who are concerned to retain as much of the town's unique character as possible while sitting at the entry to the nation's fourth largest port. As anyone who was here for Deeport and the fight over parking barges in Lydia Ann Channel knows, the relationship between between Port A folks and the Port of Corpus Christi Authority (POCCA) has often been less than amiable. At this point we're mainly trying to determine what POCCA and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) have in mind and letting the local folks know. The next step of course is letting local officials and Port authorities know what Port A folks think, though they have a pretty good track record of making that known themselves.
Harbor Island has long been a bone of contention. You may remember in 2013 when Martin Midstream proposed a natural gas processing plant there on the 254-acre tract that POCCA owns. Long story short that project died in litigation. The lingering suspicion--to put it mildly--on both sides does not augur well for smooth sailing going forward.
Case in point: In its annual 2018 presentation POCCA proposed building a Crude Oil Export Terminal on Harbor Island to accommodate two very large crude carrier (VLCC) tankers--the same as the one that squeezed past Port A back a few months ago. Each of these behemoths is 1,050 feet (320 meters) long--almost 100 feet longer than the carrier Lexington--so they'd require a turning basin at least that long. The distance from Roberts Point Park to the nearest point on Harbor Island is just over 1,000 feet. It's hard to imagine this coming to pass without doing some very serious cutting and dredging. The ecological damage--not to mention the major hit on the tourism that keeps Port A going--is not hard to imagine. Who wants to vacation at a giant tanker terminal?
To quickly fuel up these behemoths POCCA envisions 20 million barrels of storage in a massive tank farm with a 1.2 million barrels per day capacity. These would be fed by a new pipeline coming down from Aransas Pass that would bring crude from the Permian Basin and the Eagle Ford shales. The tank farm would be directly in the path of storm surges like the one from Hurricane Harvey that caused such devastation in Port Aransas. This is a major concern for us.
One project that is well under way is the Corpus Christi Channel Improvement Project. This involves dredging the entire channel from Corpus Christi to the Gulf from its current depth of 47 feet MLLW to 54 feet and widening it from 400 feet to 530 feet while adding 200 foot barge shelves on each side of the channel. Funded jointly by the Port and the federal government the project is slated for completion by the end of 2021. While not actively opposing this project the Port Aransas Conservancy proposes to closely monitor the environmental impacts of the project and help ensure that they are addressed and alleviated to the greatest extent possible.
Harbor Island is another matter. At their May 15, 2018 meeting (item 10.b) the POCCA approved a Master Services Agreement and Service Order with Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions "to provide engineering and planning services associated with future development of a crude oil export terminal for loading very large crude containers (VLCC) on Harbor Island." In her memorandum to the commissioners Sarah Garza, the Director of Environmental Planning & Compliance, claimed "there are no alternatives...due to the short window of opportunity, development of the information necessary to start the permitting process now instead of after securing a customer(s) is a critical item to the success of the future terminal." Oh and the Port would pay to deepen the channel from the inner harbor to La Quinta Junction to a depth of 75 feet. USACE seemed to find all of this interesting when I pointed it out to them recently.
Racing to start the permit process the Port Authority laid out a very aggressive timeline for Wood: Project kickoff June 8; draft deliverables July 16; PCCA review July 31; and final deliverables August 10, 2018. Two months from concept to completion--that redefines fast tracking! Any idea of public input is a joke, though having been excluded from the design stage you can be sure the Port Aransas Consultancy will be all over the permit process, which is yet to begin. It didn't have to be this way but presenting the locals with a fait accompli is no way to win friends and influence people--at least not in a way you'll like.
To put things in perspective we don't wish to have an antagonistic relationship with the the Port Authority though their actions and lack of transparency make it difficult to avoid. We do wish the Port of Corpus Christi to continue to grow and prosper as it generates jobs and a better life for all of us. We just need to get them focused on the potential ecological and social collateral damage. We hope to work together with the Port to mitigate any negative impacts in the most cost effective yet environmentally responsible way.