A united show of opposition is being organized by folks who are fighting a proposal that desalination wastewater be discharged in waters right next to Port Aransas.
At a court hearing scheduled to begin on Monday, March 14, a pair of judges will consider whether to recommend saying yes or no to a Port of Corpus Christi application for a permit to discharge the wastewater into the ship channel in Port Aransas.
The hearing, which will originate in Austin, is expected to be conducted virtually. Through the Zoom online platform, an opening statement is expected to be read by Port Aransas resident Lisa Turcotte, a permit opponent, as she stands on the front porch of Luke and Willy Dailey’s home at 619 E. Ave. B in Port Aransas.
Anyone who wants to show support for the opposition may drop by the Daileys’ front porch to stand behind Turcotte as she makes the statement, Luke Dailey said.
Folks should show up at 9 a.m. Monday, Fulton said, adding that the statement is likely to be read shortly later.
The hearing before administrative law judges with the State Office of Administrative Hearings in Austin could run through Friday, March 25.
The hearing could be live-streamed, according to folks involved in the case. No URL was available at press time for a live-stream, but it appeared likely that the live-stream would be available on the YouTube channel of the State Office of Administrative Hearings.
Turcotte, Stacey Bartlett, Sarah Searight and Port Aransas city council member Jo Ellyn Krueger are involved in the hearing as pro se opponents of the application for the wastewater discharge permit. “Pro se” means they’re not represented by attorneys.
Turcotte will speak for the pro se group during her opening statement.
Among those also set to battle the port during the hearing will be the Port Aransas Conservancy, a group that has argued that the discharge likely would harm the environment.
A pair of judges from the State Office of Administrative Hearings 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.
The motion said the judges should hear more evidence also on whether the port’s application is complete and accurate.
And, the motion stated, the judges should hear additional evidence on the accuracy of information that has been used in computer modeling presented with the application.
With their earlier decision, the judges said the modeling was inaccurate. That included the stated depth of the channel at the location where the plant’s outfall would take place. The depth could affect the rate at which the plant’s wastewater might become spread out from the point of discharge.
The judges also said the modeling didn’t seem to take into account the proper velocity at which water moves in the channel.
After the hearing this month, the judges will make their ruling, and the TCEQ board then will take up the matter once again.
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.
Port officials have said the port doesn’t want to own or operate the plant but instead would seek to bring in another party to do that if the permit is issued.
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.