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This time Port Aransas sues Port Corpus Christi

The Port Aransas Municipal Marina has become a battleground between the Port of Corpus Christi and the city of Port Aransas, which leases the property from the port. The city recently filed a lawsuit against the port for terminating its lease in a dispute over development on Harbor Island. Courtesy photo

Tables turned in the battle between the city of Port Aransas and the Port of Corpus Christi. This time, the entity filling a lawsuit in 117th District Court on December 30 is Port Aransas, which asked Judge Sandra Watts to declare a lease termination letter from the port to the city invalid. The city leases the Port Aransas Municipal Marina from the port.

That lease was terminated after the Port Aransas City Council approved a 60-day moratorium in August on approving any permits for industrial development on Harbor Island. In September, the port filed suit in County Court at Law No. 3 to stop the city from further moratoriums.

That lawsuit was dismissed by the judge because it was no longer an issue: The moratorium had expired. Judge Deeanne Svoboda Galvin did warn the city of Port Aransas, however, that further moratoriums would not be a good idea.

“I will not for one second fail to raise this matter again if a similar ordinance passes,” she said in her ruling.

The conflict is centered on two oil terminals and possibly two desalination plants to be built on Harbor Island. A dredging operation has long been underway to provide passage through the Corpus Christi channel to Harbor Island for very large crude carriers, which can carry up to 2 million barrels of oil or gas. The ships will be loaded for export from pipelines and storage tanks carrying oil and gas from the Permian Basin and the Eagle Ford shale plays.

When the Port Aransas approved a moratorium on issuing permits, the port terminated the marina leases based on a provision in the lease that prohibited the city from rezoning or restricting usage of the port’s property on Harbor Island.

The city claims in the lawsuit that it has not violated the terms of its lease, calling the termination “economic extortion.”

The port “is holding the marina hostage as a bargaining chip to force the city’s acquiescence for the (port’s) will,” reads the lawsuit. It also accused the port of seeking to create an “industrial jungle” on the island, which is within the Port Aransas city limits.

The port responded by expressing confidence that “the matter will be amicably resolved between the parties.”

Development on Harbor Island is important to the growth of the Port of Corpus Christi as the nation’s energy port, port officials said. The port plans to invest $150 million, which should generate between $2 billion to $4 billion in revenue, the port reported.

Opponents to that development counter that industry hurts the other major economic drivers for the area: the marina, birding, and fishing. The city recently spent $6.2 million to renovate the marina after it was severely damaged by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

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