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2nd Terminal Proposed for Harbor Island, Port Aransas

An inbound LNG tanker had a close call with the Texas 361 ferry, which evacuated as tugboats managed to steer the giant vessel clear just in time. The incident occurred August 12, just hours before a public meeting with the Port of Corpus Christi to discuss building an oil and gas terminal with two ship docks on Harbor Island. Two days later, another company, Axis Midstream, announced it also plans to build a similar terminal, also with two docks. Courtesy photo from video footage

A second oil and gas terminal has been proposed for Harbor Island in Port Aransas, an announcement that came two days after a contentious public meeting about a similar project planned by the Port of Corpus Christi. Also, on the same day as the August 12 public meeting, ship traffic in the Corpus Christi Ship Channel endangered the Texas 361 ferry, forcing passengers to evacuate. A collision was avoided thanks to tugboats successfully guiding the inbound LNG tanker away from the ferry.

According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Axis Midstream corporation plans to build a series of facilities and pipelines from Taft to Harbor Island with infrastructure in the Corpus Christi Ship Channel. Facilities include two ship berths on Harbor Island and a staging facility. Two pipelines will bundle fiber-optic cables, gas, and crude oil. Pipelines would run across the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and Redfish Bay. The site is located on land west of the Gulf Copper facility.

The Port of Corpus Christi, in partnership with the Caryle Group, plans to build a similar terminal with two ship berths on another part of the island. The ship channel is currently being dredged to facilitate the larger tankers that will load at the terminals.

On Monday, about 300 people attended a RAPPORT with Port Corpus Christi meeting in the Port Aransas Civic Center to discuss the terminal proposal. The event was organized by port officials.

“There is a wall of crude coming our way,” said Port of Corpus Christi CEO Sean Strawbridge, referring to the growing amount of oil and gas being pumped in both the Eagle Ford and Permian Basin shale plays. Multiple cross-state pipelines are under construction to carry oil and gas from those areas to Corpus Christi for export. The port has become known as the nation’s energy port since Congress lifted the ban on oil exports to foreign countries in December 2017.

After presentations to the audience, Strawbridge took questions.

Calling the area an ecological hot spot, one participant asked why the port decided it would be OK to build there. Strawbridge pointed out that the port would use modern building methods and follow tough government regulations in operating the site. The port is committed to protecting the environment, he said.

“We’re not going to do this willy-nilly,” Strawbridge said. “We’re going to do it in a responsible way.”

Opponents pointed to the environmental threat to their community, which depends on tourism and recreational fishing to survive. Any damage to the environment could damage the community’s economy. Others noted the near collision of an LNG tanker and the Texas 361 ferry.

“In our community, there are only two ways to get off of and out of Port Aransas,” Rockport resident Tom Strubbe said. “If your VLCC wrecks that ferry system, there is going to be panic.”

Strawbridge was presented with a petition against the terminal signed by more than 15,000 people. According to Port Aransas City Council member Beverly Bolner, more than 90 businesses in the city oppose the terminal as well.

Opposition has been building in the community. On August 5, the city filed a contested case with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality asking for a public hearing.

On August 7, the Port Aransas Boatmen voted to go on record opposing the port’s plans for Harbor Island, including the dredging project. The group plans to draft a formal statement at a special meeting August 21, which will be sent to the port, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Texas General Land Office, among others.

The deadline to request a public hearing on the newly announced Axis Midstream project is September 9, which is also the close of the public comment period. Comments and requests should include the proposed project’s file number SWG-2018-00789 and be submitted to:

Corpus Christi Field Office

Regulatory Division, CESWGRD R

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

5151 Flynn Parkway, Suite 306

Corpus Christi, TX 78411-4318

The phone number is 361-814-5847. Emails may be sent to SWG201800789@usace.army.


CORRECTION: This story was updated to reflect a correction. The Port of Corpus Christi has partnered with The Caryle Group on the Harbor Island Terminal, not Phillips 66 as originally reported. The Phillips 66 partnership is for two pipelines and two single-point mooring systems as reported in an earlier story on ccbiznews.com.

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