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Why doesn't the port want a new marina in Port Aransas?

Posted at 3:19 PM, Feb 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-10 20:28:33-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The City of Port Aransas and the Port of Corpus Christi are at odds once again.

This time they’re bickering over Port A's plan to build a new marina. For decades the City of Port Aransas has had permits on file with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a potential new marina. Last month, the Port of Corpus Christi sent the city a letter saying it no longer supports those permits.

Port A Mayor Charles Bujan says there are no immediate plans to build a new marina, the permit simply needs to be renewed every five years; but to build it, the city has to cross Port property in the ship channel.

“Anything that's on it like a pier, some sort of industrial thing that sticks out in the water has to be approved by them,” said Bujan.

In a letter to the Corps of Engineers, the Port says the city hasn't approached them about a new marina, and they haven't agreed to dredging on port property. Mayor Bujan says the new marina isn’t the issue as much as the proposed oil export terminal for Harbor Island.

“At no time has the city objected to that," said Bujan. "The only thing we've asked them to do is abide by our laws and our ordinances."

Part of Harbor Island is owned by the Port of Corpus Christi, but the island is inside Port Aransas city limits. In response to a 60-day development moratorium last August, the Port filed suit, and told the city that it was voiding the lease on Port A's marina.

“That would kill tourism in Port Aransas, period,” said Bujan.

Meanwhile, those involved in the tourism industry are hoping for a quick resolution.

“We just want to keep our fishing community a fishing community,” said Glenn Martin, owner of Woody’s Sports Center.

Martin is familiar with the marina from his time as Port Aransas’ mayor. He says the city and Port have always had a good relationship, and he's surprised by the Port's sudden objection.

“Whenever we need anything, the Port has always been there,” said Martin. “They support the schools and everything, it's just this issue is paramount.”

Mayor Bujan says if the city and Port can't resolve their differences, then Port A is ready to take its case all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the Port of Corpus Christi says it has tried to amicably resolve the dispute. In a statement to KRIS Communications, the Port alleges that Port Aransas has "engaged in unproductive barrages of public rebukes and attacks" against Port Commissioners and staff.

Statement from the Port of Corpus Christi:

The Port of Corpus Christi has made numerous attempts to amicably resolve the matter of its redevelopment of Harbor Island, including multiple in-person attempts to resolve all issues between the parties and the Port’s invitation to voluntary mediation. In each and every case, the Port Authority has been rebuffed.

In spite of the Port’s efforts, Mayor Bujan and City Manager Dave Parsons choose to engage in unproductive barrages of public rebukes and ad hominem attacks targeting individuals on the Port Commission and Staff, as well as its attorneys, in an effort to create unnecessary drama. We’re hopeful this dispute can be resolved amicably and without further harm to the goodwill we have established over the long relationship between the Port of Corpus Christi and Port Aransas.

A simple chronology of the facts:

  1. In 2014, the City agreed to the Port’s use of Harbor Island as a marine terminal;
  2. In 2018, the City confirmed its support for re-development of Harbor Island as a marine terminal when it entered into a new marina lease agreement, an agreement the Mayor and all City Council members unanimously approved;
  3. The City’s decision to restrict the Port’s development on Harbor Island, all while industrial operations continue on the properties adjacent to the Port’s property, have triggered the automatic termination of its marina lease. The Port has repeatedly offered to enter into a new lease, which the City has yet to show any interest in; rather the City chooses to litigate.
  4. After a settlement meeting between the parties was held at the invitation of the Port, the Port drafted documents to finally and fully resolve the lawsuits, but the City refused to even respond to the proposed settlement terms as were discussed in the settlement meeting, a meeting both Mayor Bujan and City Manager Parsons attended;
  5. The City’s refusals required both parties to seek relief in the courts, and Judge Galvan has, therefore, ordered that “the City of Port Aransas will not interfere with the Port of Corpus Christi Authority’s work on Harbor Island;” and
  6. Yet again, the Port recently offered to mediate (to resolve) the case, but the City responded by saying: “Port A is not interested in mediating now.” (1/30/20)

Quote from Chairman Zahn:

“Our invitations to resolve the matter outside the courts still remain. However, it seems the City prefers a path to litigation, which the Port will also pursue in the spirit of protecting its interests if left no other option,” said Port of Corpus Christi Chairman Charles Zahn.

The city of Port Aransas also wants a seat on the Port Commission.

Mayor Charles Bujan says he and the city council don't feel that Nueces County's representatives on the commission are serving the town's best interests.

And he says it makes sense for Port Aransas to have someone appointed by the city sitting on the Port Commission.

“We're the entrance to all of this,” Bujan said. “It passes through a waterway that is the lifeblood of our bay system here, all of our fish come through here.”

Bujan says the Port Aransas City Council will discuss the matter at its Feb. 20 meeting.