Port of CC Comissioners want to raise water rates in South Texas

Port Commissioners David Engel, Rajan Ahuja, despite being city appointees, are leading full scale Port Commission attack on the Corpus Christi City Council’s role as regional water producer that will increase water rates in South Texas. In a 7-2 vote with only Port Commissioners Wes Hoskins and City appointee Gabe Guerra voting against, the Port Commission passed a “white paper” resolution to continue their water desalination project against the City Council, who has already told them in a unanimous resolution, to stop trying to be a water producer and sell us high priced water. Under the Port’s water desalination plan, our water prices will more than double.

It was Port Director Sean Strawbridge who led the charge in the Port Commission “special meeting” against the City by attacking City Manager Peter Zanoni and City Councilman Roland Barrera, basically called them both liars and said the two had misrepresented their meetings with him. It was Port Commissioners Wes Hoskins and Gabe Guerra who called out the serious problems with the Port’s desalination, including the fact the Port staff does not have a budget, financial model, and does not have a water customer for desalination. Port Director Sean Strawbridge responded with, “we aren’t there yet.” Who goes into a new business without a budget or a customer?

It was clear to our loyal Crónica readers that it was Sean Strawbridge who was lying at the Port “special meeting” and not Peter Zanoni or City Councilman Roland Barrera. During the meeting, Sean Strawbridge also said the Port would be using the Carlsbad, California desalination model. Public documents online show the San Diego Water Authority buys water under contract at $2,710 per acre foot, which means they are buying water for $8.31 per thousand. This is more than double current Corpus Christi rates and this price was set more than five years ago.

What was very interesting is that only two speakers spoke in favor of the Port. One of them, IDE Technologies, even spoke about an Israeli desalination plant that just recently reopened plant tours. Is the Port trying to use a visit to IDE’s Israeli Desalination Plant to hide their “bucket list” trip to Israel and the Holy Lands? Are they going to sign another Memorandum of Understanding, “MOU” with IDE Technology to use their “exclusive” system, without going out for competitive bid and fully vetting contractors, the way public agencies are required to do? Is the Port actually going to sign a desalination “MOU” against the City of Corpus Christi, the water provider?

It is well known that Port Director Sean Strawbridge is attacking the City Council with the full permission of Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales, who appoints Port Commissioners. Port Director Sean Strawbridge is paying her “husband” Doug Allison almost a million dollars and he was hired after Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales was elected and appointed her friends. Barbara Canales, Doug Allison, and Sean Strawbridge are known to socialize together like “family.” It was lawyer Doug Allison that was paid by Strawbridge to bash the city desalination sites to the State of Office of Administrative hearings. Now Port legal expenses are skyrocketing and the Crónica wonders how much money is being paid to Doug Allison and going straight into the household of County Judge Barbara Canales?

Port Director Sean Strawbridge is facing a financial disaster with more than fifty million dollars of losses at Harbor Island, where he faces 20,000 desalination objectors. It was City Councilman Greg Smith who spelled out all of Port Director Sean Strawbridge’s Harbor Island losses at the last City Council meeting. The people of Port Aransas and their allies now number 20,000 objectors and that includes the entire Corpus Christi City Council. For their part, the City Council has taken a stand, only they are the water producer, and they will look out for the water ratepayer.

City appointed Port Commissioners David Engel and Rajan Ahuja are failing to represent the City. The Port was told by the City in 2018 that they would not support the Harbor Island desalination. Yet Port Commissioners Engel and Ahuja are allowing Port Director Sean Strawbridge to lie about the City to state and federal agencies, telling them the City has agreed to buy their water. This is a complete lie. The Port vote to move forward desalination is against a unanimous City Council resolution telling them to end any and all attempts to become a water producer. Port Commissioners David Engel and Rajan Ahuja have acted dishonorably against the people of Corpus Christi and the seven county region by voting against the City Council that appointed them. For this, David Engel and Rajan Ajuha should resign or be removed from office.