Desal permit hearing ends

Two judges have until June 21 to issue a recommendation on whether the Port of Corpus Christi should be granted a permit to discharge desalination plant wastewater into ship channel waters off Port Aransas.

The hearing before State Office of Administrative Hearings judges in Austin began on Monday, March 14, and concluded on Friday, March 25.

The port has applied for a permit for a proposed desalination plant to discharge an average daily flow of up to 95,600,000 gallons of water treatment wastes into the Corpus Christi Ship Channel, just northeast of the ferry landing on Harbor Island.

If it is granted, the permit would come from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

Among those who have been in court opposing the request have been a citizens group called the Port Aransas Conservancy, Audubon Texas and several individual Port Aransas residents.

The judges ruled about a year ago that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) board should deny the wastewater discharge application by the Port of Corpus Christi.

The matter then was set before the TCEQ board, which had the power to grant or deny the application.

The board next sent the case back to the judges, saying that they should, among other actions, take additional evidence on whether the proposed discharge will hurt the environment and recreational activities and commercial fishing.

Scientists from the University of Texas Marine Science Institute and Texas A&M University Corpus Christi have testified that the proposed discharge spot would be a bad location from an ecological perspective.

Port representatives have argued that the outfall will be diffused enough to prevent it from hurting the environment, and the agency has its own experts who have testified to that.

The discharge is targeted for a spot not far from environmentally sensitive areas that marine scientists have said are crucial to the reproduction and overall health of important species such as redfish and blue crab.

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