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City council gets update on desalination project

Posted at 9:08 PM, Sep 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-25 23:34:44-04

Work continues to bring a drought-resistant water supply to Corpus Christi. Today, the city council received an update on the project to construct and operate desalination facilities.

The consulting firm, Freese and Nichols, has been hired to work with city staff. John Wolfhope, a division manager with the company, told council members that the team has already taken important steps in the critical first phase of the project. He identified three major tasks in this phase.

“Facility siting, obtaining permits and implementing the communication and outreach program,” Wolfhope said.

When it comes to potential sites, he told city council that the team has already met with some key landowners and will next identify and screen locations.

“Then we’ll select and evaluate up to five candidate sites. And ultimately, we’re going to recommend…two preferred sites for development of desalination facilities,” Wolfhope explained.

Consultants and city staff also told council members that they’ve already met with several state agencies that will have to approve the necessary permits for this project. That includes the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas General Land Office and Texas Parks and Wildlife. Many council members say this is a crucial step because it will lead to an actual return on the city’s investment.

“This isn’t really a study. You are providing us with permits. We’re getting something for our money,” said Greg Smith of District 4.

Mayor Joe McComb adds that although this project is happening with the city’s long-term water needs in mind, the timing is good.

“The best time to be talking about solving a water problem is when you have water, not when the gun’s to your head so you can make good, rational decisions,” McComb said.

The mayor believes that this decision to venture into seawater desalination will position Corpus Christi as more than just a regional water provider.

” I think we’re going to be shipping water all over the state because we’ve got a resource that nobody else has.”

The project team plans to identify the preferred sites by summer of next year, and have either obtained or applied for all the permits by the end of 2019. Members plan to update the city council on their progress every three to four months.