Judges rule in favor of permit for port proposed desal plant


A pair of judges in on June 20 issued a ruling recommending approval of the Port of Corpus Christi’s request for a permit to discharge wastewater from a desalination plant that has been proposed for Harbor Island.

The ruling was handed down by Rebecca S. Smith and Cassandra Quinn, administrative law judges with the State Office of Administrative Hearings.

The matter next was to go to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Board, which was to make a decision on whether the permit should be granted.

The judges’ ruling came after they presided over a hearing on the permit matter from March 14 to 25.

Contacted for comment, a Port of Corpus Christi spokesman issued a statement after the judges’ ruling:

“While still evaluating the recommendations by the administrative law judges, the Port of Corpus Christi is pleased with this ruling. But there is still much more to be done in moving toward a drought-proof water supply. The Port Authority will continue to work closely with the TCEQ and other compulsory agencies throughout this process.”

A citizens’ group, Port Aransas Conservancy (PAC), had been fighting the port’s efforts to obtain the permit, saying the discharge plan, as designed, would be bad for the environment.

PAC was disappointed with the judges’ decision.

“It’s unfortunate, and I disagree with it, but if you really read (the ruling), they agree with our science,” said James King, president of PAC.

The judges made a recommendation that the permit would require that waters more than 100 feet beyond the discharge point not increase in salinity by more than 2 percent, King said.

The port is “going to have a really hard time doing that,” he said.

The judges also recommended that waters be monitored to ensure salinity levels don’t rise too much.

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