Harbor Island Town Meeting

Harbor Island Update as of November 21st, 2013

The city council meeting went well, and I was impressed with the showing of local citizens to make comment on the Harbor Island Refinery situation. The parking lot was full and last minute guests had to park a block away.

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City Hall meets re: Harbor Island

In a unanimous decision and a smart move towards better land use designation for Harbor Island, the city put a moratorium on issuing permits for this property which prevents the landowners from building anything. It’s the best move they could make at this time. The next step is for the city to go through the re-zoning process which can take 60-90 days normally with public notice given 3 times. But they also have to decide what type of land use the property will be re-zoned for such as tourist & recreational use, or residential use, etc… One citizen suggested using the property as a cruise ship terminal. My vote is for the land to be designated for tourist and recreational use which a lot of it is used for those reasons currently.

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Packed outside and inside

With the cruise ship idea I admit that I am not fond of the thought. Mostly because of the sizes of the ships, and imagine that in addition to the recent increase in oil industry marine traffic, it could be a catastrophic situation as well. Port Aransas is only a medium sized pass from the Gulf. It would be a tight fit to say the least.

Bigger underlying negative effects of such large ships (and its happening now) is that these massive ships cause an enormous amount of water displacement. In our area, tides are moderate but a single passing tanker ship can change the direction of the tides. It disrupts the natural ebbs and flows of the tides and the water exchange process is certainly influenced. These extreme underwater effects can cause natural vegetation to be uprooted, and even in specific places shoreline erosion is extreme and has to be abated by the installation of new bulkheads, rip-raps and other modern methods to prevent excessive erosion.

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Charlie’s Pasture already takes a beating from big commercial ships. This is a sinkhole that has formed behind the bulkhead.

Of course erosion naturally occurs but normally at a much slower pace, and as the habitat changes, the animals that live in it also adapt. If the change in habitat is too fast, then the animals that live there cannot adapt fast enough and they will either leave, or in some cases if they cannot leave the area quickly enough, the organisms can perish.

So we don’t necessarily want cruise ships in here too, We have already started to have more large commercial traffic now that Corpus Christi is exporting oil as well as importing oil. This move has made a noticeable increase in marine traffic in Port Aransas.

Additionally interrupted are the many runs of marine life that occurs in an inlet setting. These “runs” are where many species of baitfish and gamefish move between the nurseries, marshes, tidal wetlands and open Gulf through the Aransas Pass Jetties as a part of their natural life-cycles and feeding cycles. If any of you have observed large ships or barges running the inlets, channels or passes, you might also notice a flock of birds following the vessel.

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Warning Sign
Metaphorically & Literally

They are most certainly feeding on baitfish that is dislocated along its path or wounded from the turbulence and props. While this may seem like a minor consequence, but it is also proof that a large amount of water is being stirred up, from the very bottom of the channel where depths can reach 70ft, all the way to the surface over a wide area. This extreme exchange of water tables result in extremely differences in environment variables such as oxygen, temperatures and pressure. When the environment variables so drastically swing over short periods, it disrupts the natural flow of marine life in those areas. The marine life depends on a certain amount of water exchange, but too much is also detrimental to the ecosystems.

The Port of Corpus Christi undoubtedly wants to sell the 250 acres. It is up to the City of Port Aransas to determine what it can be used for because the property is within City Limits. Hopefully it will focus potential buyers from a better more eco-friendly industry such as tourism or maybe even the State of Texas will find good use for it as a park.

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South Bay Lakes & sloughs with matted floating widgeon grass where redfish were prowling.

Our city’s leaders are still faced with practicing good stewardship and principals of the resources here, and will determine the outcome and future for the Town of Port Aransas and its culture and community. Quite everything that Port Aransas currently has to offer to the people who live here and visit here is hanging in the balance of the re-zoning proposal.

Ideally, seeing this valuable land become an eco-park or similar would be certain reprieve from how the land has been treated and abused over the past history by other heavy industries. In the meantime lets enjoy our time fishing and digging shells around what we currently know as Harbor Island and hopefully one day we will see “Welcome” signs instead of “Keep OUT – DANGEROUS” signs.

Keeping the hooks sharp,Captain Ken Jones
Kenjo Fly Fishing Charters
Port Aransas, Texas