Corpus Christi council OKs desalination plant
The Corpus Christi City Council voted 5-3 to approve an application for permits to build a seawater desalination plant. Councilors Paulette Guajardo, Gil Hernandez, and Rudy Garza voted no to authorizing an $11.4 million financing agreement with the Texas Water Development Board for federal permitting, part of a $222 million State Water Implementation Fund for Texas loan the council approved in April.
“For me, there are too many unknowns,” Guajardo said at the Aug. 25 council meeting. “How do I look at someone and say, ‘Your bill’s going to go up, but I’m not sure how much.’”
Utility rates will not be affected by the passage of the desalination resolution Aug. 25, City Manager Peter Zanoni said. The vote is one step in a long process the city must go through before construction can even begin. Mayor Joe McComb, a longtime supporter of the project, agreed.
“In order to get there, you have to get these things,” said McComb, referring to money and permits. “You have to get these permits, and you’ve got to own the property.”
Permits from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for intake and discharge from a desalination plant are expected to be completed by December 2020. If the applications are contested, the process could take longer.
One especially vocal opponent of the project, George Finley III, took a stand against the plant in a guest editorial in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.
“Desal is a trifecta of trouble with its unknown (or undisclosed) actual cost per acre foot of water; environmental impacts from the disposal of the brackish water byproduct; and the staggering (and never ending) costs of engineering, constructing, operating and staffing a plant to manufacture water,” he wrote. “Someday, when there are no other options, seawater desal may be the answer. Until then, having Gulf Coast Aquifer, potable groundwater, delivered to our doorstep is a smart choice and simply too great of an opportunity to pass up.”
Industrial expansion and demand for water drive the quest for a desalination plant, which would be built in the Inner Harbor of the Corpus Christi Ship Channel. According to Zanoni, the city will need to provide millions more gallons of water a day to plants now under construction than will be available by then.
Coming online about the time the city reaches 75 percent of its water supply firm yield (maximum quantity of water that can be guaranteed during a critical dry period) will be the Exxon/SABIC plastics plant in Gregory and the Steele Dynamic steel mill near Sinton.
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