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Port VLCC project on schedule despite new environmental study

Posted at 5:17 PM, May 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-23 19:57:34-04

There’s a battle brewing between the Port of Corpus Christi and a Port Aransas environmental group.

The battleground is Harbor Island, located across the ship channel from Port Aransas.  At issue, is the Port’s proposed crude oil terminal on the island.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently asked the port for a new Environmental Impact Statement for the next phase of the Port’s proposed dredging of the Ship Channel to 75 feet deep.  Opponents are hoping that means a lengthy delay.

The Port Aransas Conservancy feels it finally has a win in its efforts against the Port’s plans for Harbor Island.

“We’re starting to feel like that voice is being listened to,” Conservancy member John Morris said.

Conservancy members believe the Corps of Engineers request for an EIS delays the deeper dredging project, and the proposed very large crude carrier, or VLCC terminal by about two years.

“Looking at other projects, the typical time it takes to get a full EIS done, that level of complexity,” Morris said.

Port of Corpus Christi officials have a different take.

“The Corps (of Engineers) will be held to the 24-month requirement that was established by President Trump’s executive order back in 2017,” said Sean Strawbridge, Port of Corpus Christi Chief Executive Officer.

Executive Order 13807 states environmental reviews and authorization decisions for major infrastructure projects should be finished within two years from the application date.  The Port applied for the deeper dredging project in January, so Strawbridge expects a decision by 2021.

“It took us 29 years to get dredgers in the water, that’s much too long,” said Strawbridge.  “It should not take that long for us to execute on these much-needed projects.”

Strawbridge says the Port will carry on with the VLCC Terminal project. Even if the 75-foot dredging isn’t approved.  VLCC’s can be filled to three-quarters capacity in 54 feet of water, a smaller tanker would load the rest of the oil offshore.

Members of the Port Aransas Conservancy say they were not aware of the Executive Order 13807.