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City of Corpus Christi and Port at odds over desalination

City leaders say the port gave conflicting information
Port desalination.jpg
Posted at 6:16 PM, Apr 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-20 19:54:28-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — On Tuesday, the Corpus Christi City Council approved a resolution asking the Port of Corpus Christi to withdraw its application for a nearly $500 million loan from the state of Texas, and any attempts to be a water producer.

The loan application made to SWIFT — the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas — was filed Feb. 1 to build a desalination plant on Harbor Island.

City leaders said they knew nothing about it.

The application also lists The City of Corpus Christi and Nueces County Water District 4 as customers. City leaders said they knew nothing about that, either.

“The Port of Corpus Christi made no effort — did not ask the city of Corpus Christi, 'Were you interested? Would you be a customer? Where are you or anything else,” said District 4 councilman Greg Smith during the meeting.

Smith said the city has been the region’s water supplier for a century.

Guajardo said the port has no experience in neither water treatment nor water distribution, and that the city is the only entity that has that authority.

The port and the city have applied for seawater desalination permits separately.

“Everything that the City of Corpus Christi has done in regards to desalination has been done in those council chambers, in the open, very transparent, and so we would expect the same thing for our partner who is calling themselves our partner,” said Mayor Paulette Guajardo in an interview Wednesday.

When KRIS 6 News interviewed Port of Corpus Christi CEO Sean Strawbridge in May 2021, he was asked if it was port’s goal to sell water.

Strawbridge said its objective is to procure an uninterruptible, sustainable water supply -- the same as in the 1990s, when he said the port authority started the wheels turning on the Mary Rhodes Pipeline.

"It was not the city (of Corpus Christi)," he said. "And it was because, back in the '90s, the port authority recognized that we did not have enough water and the city was not in a position to act upon that, so the port took the initiative to do that, and then handed that to the city."

When asked whether the port intends to sell water, Guajardo said the answer hasn't been clear.

“The information or the communication is always conflicting," she said. "One thing is said, and then we find out — like the application — about another thing that they are initiating.”

Guajuardo said because city council is elected, it is their responsibility to protect the ratepayer.

“The Port of Corpus Christi their responsibility is not the to protect the ratepayer,” Guajardo said. “It is to make certain they are in the business of imports and exports.”

KRIS 6 News reached out to the Port of Corpus Christi on Wednesday for comment but has not received a response.

When we asked Guajardo if anyone from the port had reached out to city leaders after Tuesday's meeting, she said 'no.'