CCA Texas Advocacy Update

Shane Bonnot | CCA Texas Advocacy Director
CCA Texas Advocacy Update

Some developments are unfolding on various items that have strong potential to influence fisheries and habitat, some at a snail’s pace and others seemingly moving at lightspeed. CCA Texas remains vigilant, actively monitoring crucial matters impacting the sustainability of our coastal resources. We would like to take this opportunity to spotlight some key issues currently on our radar.

LNRA Water Use Permit – WRPERM 13728

The Lavaca-Navidad River Authority (LNRA) has applied for and received a draft permit to divert 30 billion gallons of water annually from a designated reach on the Lavaca River for industrial, municipal, and mining purposes across several counties within the Lavaca River Basin, as well as the Colorado-Lavaca and Lavaca-Guadalupe Coastal Basins. The permit would enable the LNRA to construct and maintain a dam and reservoir impounding 240 acre-feet of water on the Lavaca River and grant authorization for the use of the bed and banks of the Navidad River (Lake Texana) to convey the diverted water and/or store it in a proposed 16 billion gallon off-channel reservoir. CCA Texas has requested that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) provide the public with a comprehensive overview of the permit by holding a public meeting. This meeting will be instrumental in presenting detailed insights into the environmental and ecological impacts expected from the proposed activities.

In addition to the request for a public meeting, CCA Texas has filed a contested case hearing request on this permit to address grave concerns that the LNRA and TCEQ have not identified and adequately addressed the full scope of the proposed appropriation and draft permit. Concerns include but aren’t limited to the amounts, timing and diversion point or points of the proposed appropriation, the diversion dam, the off-channel reservoir on the freshwater inflows to the Lavaca Bay, and the freshwater/saltwater interface, and have not meaningfully addressed the resulting impacts on fish, oysters and other aquatic species dependent upon the Lavaca River, Lavaca Bay and the associated coastal ecosystems.

In addition to the CCA Texas contested case hearing request, there were 62 hearing requests submitted to the TCEQ, including requests from the National Wildlife Federation, Matagorda Bay Foundation, Lavaca River Ranch, Hilcorp, and San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper. To date, this permit application has received 118 public meeting requests, including requests submitted by State Senators Kolkhorst and Huffman, and State Representative Lozano. Click on this link if you would like to view all comments submitted to TCEQ on this permit.

Matagorda Ship Channel Improvement Project

The Calhoun Port Authority and Max-Midstream have been pursuing a project to address issues with the Matagorda Ship Channel. Constructed between 1962 and 1966, the Matagorda Ship Channel is an approximate 26-mile-long deep draft channel from the Gulf of Mexico to Port Lavaca. This project will address the channel’s insufficient width and depth, which limits vessel size and increases the potential for pilot error during times of high winds, waves, and shoaling. (Shoaling occurs when the channel naturally becomes increasingly shallow through the build-up of sediment.) In addition, the width of the existing turning basin also limits vessel size. The objectives of the Matagorda Ship Channel Improvement Project are to: Increase port efficiencies and reduce transportation costs; utilize dredged material beneficially to protect and/or restore significant ecological and historical resources; and reduce risks to life safety and local infrastructure. This will be accomplished by extending, deepening, and widening the channel to varying depths and widths.

CCA Texas has issued a statement on this project and is advocating for the wise use of dredge material for beneficial projects within Matagorda Bay to enhance fisheries, habitat, and coastal resiliency. Should the MSCIP move forward, dredge material should be used to provide ecosystem benefits on a landscape scale in Matagorda Bay. The USACE should utilize a suite of environmental restoration and creation features including in-bay marshes, beach nourishment, shoreline protection, oyster reef creation, and nesting shorebird habitat that will offset the negative impacts of this project.

Cedar Port Navigation and improvement District channel deepening project

This project aims to assess the viability and federal interest in establishing a deep-water link between the Houston Ship Channel and a potential forthcoming deepwater terminal at Cedar Port Industrial Park. This initiative seeks to enhance navigation safety and efficiency in both the Cedar Bayou Navigation Channel and the Houston Ship Channel. The envisioned Cedar Port terminal offers an alternative facility to handle projected cargo volumes, mitigating congestion in the upper Houston Ship Channel and averting delays in cargo operations. As the non-federal sponsors under authority granted by section 203 of Water Resources Development Act 2022, Cedar Port Navigation and Improvement District is preparing an integrated feasibility study and environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Cedar Port Navigation District Channel Deepening Project.

During the scoping process for the development of this EIS, CCA Texas submitted comments expressing significant concerns for dredging impacts on fisheries and habitat, and if the project were to move forward, advocated for dredge material to be located within confined placement areas. Click here to view a map with proposed alternatives. Rest assured, CCA Texas will keep a watchful eye on this project and inform our members of opportunities to speak up for coastal resources.

Port Mansfield Container Port

The 2024-2025 TxDOT Maritime Division Texas Port Mission Plan outlines various projects aimed at enhancing global trade opportunities. With a total value of $9.67 billion, these projects include $4.34 billion for inland connectivity needs, $1.67 billion for port infrastructure investments, and $3.66 billion for federally authorized ship channel improvements. Of particular concern to anglers and residents of Port Mansfield is a proposal to repair a bulkhead near a 6-acre quelling yard to accommodate container vessels, potentially altering the tranquil nature of the port. The plan also envisions extending the airport by 1,200 feet to accommodate cargo aircraft and designating SH 186 and FM 1420 as heavy haul routes to support oversize/overweight loads. CCA Texas is closely monitoring these proposed initiatives and will engage with regulatory authorities once permit notices become available.

Gulf Council June Meeting

The Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council (Gulf Council) is scheduled to meet in Houston Texas, June 24-27, 2024 at the Omni Houston Hotel. CCA Texas is encouraging members to attend the event, particularly on Wednesday, June 26th, to provide public comment to the Gulf Council. Be on the lookout for an email with more details.

City of Corpus Christi Desalination Plant – Inner Harbor

Per notice of application and preliminary decision for TPDES Permit Number WQ0005289000, the City of Corpus Christi proposes to operate a desalination facility in the City of Corpus Christi Inner Harbor at the intersection of Nueces Bay Boulevard and East Broadway Street, with a discharge effluent in the Corpus Christi Channel, located within the Corpus Christi Bay ecosystem. CCA Texas opposes TPDES Permit No. WQ0005289000. CCA Texas recognizes that sound desalination technology is crucial in securing dependable freshwater sources for Texas but accepted marine science mandates that the intake and discharge points be located offshore to minimize impacts to the estuary. For any operation to be considered, we offer the following recommendations:

• Intake and Discharge points should be located in offshore waters to minimize the impacts on fragile ecosystems. • If possible, intake piping for any desalination plant should be installed below the seabed via directional drilling.

• Site-specific studies of conditions at proposed locations should be conducted to identify environmental impact and risks to the ecosystem.

Implementing an offshore intake and discharge for a desalination plant offers several advantages, minimizing direct impacts on the ecosystem by avoiding the disruption of sensitive habitats and species within the estuary. Offshore intake also allows for the extraction of seawater from deeper and cleaner waters, and discharging the brine offshore disperses it in a larger volume of seawater, diluting its concentration and mitigating its impact on marine life and water quality in coastal areas. In summary, opting for offshore intake and discharge for desalination plants provides a more ecologically sound solution while still feasibly addressing freshwater needs in Texas.

TAKING ACTION

As industrial development opportunities expand regionally and our state’s population continues to surge, CCA Texas members must remain vigilant to ensure the conservation of fishery resources and maintain access for anglers. Conservation and economic development can progress together, and our advocacy need not be a zero-sum game. We encourage you to actively engage in issues that impact the health and vitality of our coastal resources. Stay alert for updates in your inbox, CCA Texas CURRENTS, CCA Texas social media, and the CCA Texas website for opportunities to get involved. Thank you for being a CCA Texas member; we appreciate all that you continue to do for our coast. Cheers to a summer full of tight lines, big smiles, and good times with those who bring you joy.

 
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