Tensions builds as Harbor Island Project Moves Forward

Birds enjoy a pond of water near the Bryan Mound
Strategic Oil Reserve which is operated by the Department
Of Energy (Matt Briscoe)
Matt Briscoe
Managing Editor/Publisher
The Southside Light

A small group of area residents near Port Aransas are finding themselves at odds with the Port of Corpus Christi over the changes that are happening out at Harbor Island. There is dredging and construction happening almost everywhere and while most people in the area agree that the project is necessary for further economic development around the region, some do not so much agree—at least in principle.

The biggest concern is likely less environmental as much as it is cosmetic. The Port Aransas Conservancy (PAC) has without a doubt been the largest opponent to the development project yet. And while it seems that the group is out of political options, the only place left turn is the courts and that is an action that is obviously still on the table.

“When you have no argument left, you go to the courts,” says environmental expert Trace Bradshaw. “The lawyers can pitch whatever case ideas they want but the arguments will likely never hold up.” 

While both sides of the argument present very convincing cases for their respective sides, the overall consensus is that economic development will end up prevailing.

“What’s really making the PAC look bad here is the fact that they keep leaning towards an offshore option,” says Kent Hanley, a Houston based environmental consultant. “Most experts agree that the offshore buoy system poses equally as much risk as a land based facility.”

Experts have also pointed out that the facility will have two fairly large tanks and plans show that the overall footprint will be fairly small, especially for a project of this size.

But why then have all of the fuss?

“This thing will be massive and will destroy critical environmental habitat,” says Debbie Carter, an environmental activist at GreenPeace. “Again, this is Texas business people caving into big oil and that is disgusting.”

Carter points out that the noise, light and environmental pollution will be more than enough to disrupt the natural balance of things.

“Look at Freeport LNG at Quintana Beach near Freeport,” Carter says. “What was once a small and peaceful neighborhood is now a busy industrial facility.”

Carter points out that prior to the liquified natural gas facility being placed along a small swath of land near Freeport, the area was home to various species migrating birds that have since left the area and altered their existence. However, biologists say that record keeping showed little to no impact on migratory bird species.

“They can deny it all they want,” says Carter. “But we all know the truth.”

Mary Brown, who once owned property on Quintana Beach near Freeport says that she can relate to the objections of the Conservancy.

“We were told the same line about how Freeport LNG was not going to disrupt our lives all that much,” Brown says. “But now look at the place.”

Brown claims that she’s heard every line in the books about safety and environmental quality measures being taken by industry wonks. But to her, she says that she sees the proof and stands with her friends who live just down the road near Port Aransas.

But Brown also admits that the environmental groups never took those who lived near Freeport very seriously. She says that part of that reason was the residents argument and support of alternatives, many of which posed an even greater environmental and human threat.

“An offshore buoy system is dangerous on nearly every level,” says environmental engineer Christopher Daniels. “It’s unmanned, it poses security concerns and there is no immediate emergency response option. That is a recipe for disaster.”

Daniels points out how he feels that local advocates are campaigning not so much for the environment but for themselves.

“Trafigura knows that their idea was not chosen because of significant security and environmental risks,” Daniels said. “But they feel like they can secretly get people to stand beside the PAC and stop the progress and take us back to square one.”

Trafigura, the international company who initially proposed the offshore buoy idea  has had little to say except that they are “actively observing the situation” on Harbor Island.

But despite objections and counter objections, progress on the new terminal is ongoing and barring a major development, the project will up and running bringing stable revenue into the area before you know it.

“This is good for Corpus Christi, good for Texas and good for us all,” says Daniels. “And it is  only bad for a selected few.” And that is because he says it’s all because minds closed long before reason came to the table.


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