The Port of Corpus Christi Commissioners and CEO Sean Strawbridge amps up the threat to our redfish bay sanctuary at Harbor Island, marching forward with a $1 billion desalination plant that will spew salt water into the sacred redfish bay. Over the fierce objections of 20,000 environmental activists and residents from Harbor Island, the City of Port Aransas, and the City of Corpus Christi, Strawbridge and the Port Commissioners are attempting to build a water desalination plant, asking the state for the permit on environmentally protected, Harbor Island. The question becomes, why?
The Crónica has learned that Sean Strawbridge and his buddies on the Port Commission appear to be trying to hide tens of millions of dollars–some say up to $100 million dollars in lost Harbor Island expenditures. What’s the kicker? It’s a little fishy that a large majority of these lost expenditures are to pay vendors outside the Coastal Bend and the State of Texas.
Sean Strawbridge’s massive failures on the Port’s most important deals in decades continues unchecked by weak Port Commissioners led by Port Chairman Charlie Zahn and committee head Rick Valls, who interestingly enough the Crónica is hearing a whole lot about these days. Ricky Valls appears to have his own personal business at the Port of Corpus Christi, yet remains on the Port Board. The Crónica is very interested in this situation believing this may be a conflict of interest. We are learning more about the secret insider dealings of Port Commissioners doing business at the Port, votes taken, and more conflicts of interests. The threesome of Zahn, Valls, and Strawbridge are also presiding over hours long executive sessions during public Port Commission meetings. The Crònica has learned that these secret executive sessions could be violating state law and the Texas Open Meetings Act.
The continued decision by Sean Strawbridge to hide the failed Harbor Island contracts from the public is still a major interest to the Crónica. The Port has a duty to the public to explain how Sean Strawbridge has presided over so many business losses and what’s in these contracts they are committing us too. What happened to the $11 billion secret chemical plant? What about the $1 billion dollar super tanker Carlyle deal? Will anyone at the Port ever explain the March termination of the terminal operator, another billion dollar deal down the tubes? The Port continues to want to put a crude oil terminal on Harbor Island to the objection of the City of Port Aransas. What is this new “green” energy initiative and why is the oil and gas Port of Corpus Christi getting into a costly solar energy deal? The Crónica is going to be keeping a close eye on the solar project, including if they go to RFP or not, who ends up being the lawyer on the deal, who represents the solar energy provider, and what political contributions are made. The Crònica wants to know exactly what politician’s family or friends is making money on these big local Port of Corpus Christi deals.
The really hot political issue is how can the Port of Corpus Christi Commissioners continue to tell the Corpus Christi City Council, their appointing authority to pound sand, refusing to stop their desalination project. The City of Corpus Christi is the water producer and supplier for the region, holding the industrial agreements. The City of Corpus Christi is not building desalination on Harbor Island, they are permitting sites next to industry. Why do the Port of Corpus Christi Commissioners want to compete with the City of Corpus Christi and become the water producers? The Port staff has no water experience, they have no ultimate customer base other than the City of Corpus Christi’s customers, and they have no pipelines. A Port of Corpus Christi desalination plant would raise Coastal Bend water rates dramatically!
The Port has been given less than 30 days to correct their many errors to the Office of Administrative Hearings who identified fatal flaws in their permit application and modeling for desalination. The TCEQ has remanded their permit twice. Sean Strawbridge and the Port of Corpus Christi Commissioners continue to bully local municipalities, making enemies of powerful area Mayors, and reprehensibly are brazenly trying to compete with their client base– the powerful interests in oil and gas. It is becoming more and more apparent that Strawbridge and the Port Commissioners want Port industries to pay for their failed projects and are already lobbying behind the scenes to raise their rates exponentially.
While Port industries can defend themselves, what the people from Coastal Bend really want to know– is the Port of Corpus Christi going to get away with dramatically raising our water rates and build desalination at Harbor Island killing off our local redfish population in the process?