It has been 16 months since Hurricane Harvey parked a group of oil and gas barges on St. Joe’s Island near Port Aransas, and still no word on when, or even if, they’ll be towed away.
6 Investigates crept in close enough, late last year, to get a good look at the barges, which broke loose from their dolphins during Harvey and ended up in the dunes. We traced their registration to Houston-based Kirby Corporation, which acquired the barges after the storm.
We went back out a few days ago to find these 1,600-ton barges have not budged.
Their Vice President of Government and Public Affairs says it’s their understanding the barges are empty, but, concedes that with any oil and gas barge, there could be trace amounts of chemicals, on board.
Captain Josh Garcia of Tejas Charters tells us the barges have not only become a part of the landscape, they’re also becoming something of a tourist attraction.
“Oh, it’s a constant question. It’s just like taking somebody to the lighthouse. We bring ’em over here to see the barges that are stuck up on Saint Joe’s.”
And, while locals understand the barges weren’t put there, on purpose, “It’s nobody’s fault …” Garcia says people still wonder if there’s a plan to remove them.
“Everyone still wants to know why they’re still up there,” Garcia says.
Not to mention, they’re a reminder of a storm that changed everything.
“These things bring back the hurricane. They bring back this surge of water and the sheer force that it took to set those (barges) over there. It was pretty monumental in my life, anyway,” Garcia said. “And, they’re still there.”
And that’s where it gets complicated. The barges are stuck on private property and, because the land is designated an estuary of national significance, both the EPA and NOAA will be paying close attention.
Kirby tells 6 Investigates there is no timetable and that their goal, above all else, is to “do no harm,” to the environment.