Despite pleas from several environmental groups, the Corpus Christi City Council approved $450,000 to pay for permit fees for two proposed desalination plants. The 7-2 vote came at the council’s meeting December 17. Members Gil Hernandez and Rudy Garza Jr. did not vote for approval of the plants, which are slated for the Inner Harbor and the La Quinta Channel.
Protestors spoke against the plants, pointing to potential environmental problems and noting the move would draw even more industry to the area.
“We do not want to become Texas City or Port Arthur or Houma, Louisiana,” said Jim Klein of the Clean Economy Coalition. “Desal plants are part of the reckless rush to industrialize the Coastal Bend.”
Neil McQueen, vice chair of Surfrider Foundation Coastal Bend, called for a different approach to increasing water supply.
“We’ve got to stop thinking about the bay as a toilet,” he said, referring to discharge from the plants. “We’re all in favor of jobs, but we also need to think about diversification of the economy.”
New sources of water will be essential, not just for industrial use but also for residential, answered Mayor Joe McComb, adding that the water will be potable.
“If we are going to continue to grow and create jobs and expand Corpus Christi, we have to have a dependable, uninterruptible water supply,” McComb said.
Questions also were raised about ratepayers footing the bill for industry, another allegation McComb said was not true. According to city staff, the plants would be funded through industrial surcharges.
As for the environment, council member Greg Smith assured those at the meeting that new technology has made the plants more efficient and environmentally sensitive.
“We’re very concerned about what happens to our area and, in particular, the environment,” Smith said. “We’ve been working on this for six years, and I would not support anything that damages our bay system.”
The city’s two desalination plants are not the only ones proposed for the area. The Port of Corpus Christi is seeking permits for two plants on Harbor Island, while the city of Ingleside is involved in a private-public partnership to build one as well.