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City takes lead as canal project moves forward

Posted at 5:30 PM, Dec 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-11 20:34:21-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — North Beach residents are flooded with emotion after Tuesday's unanimous city council vote to move forward with the proposed canal project.

It's the first step toward solving the drainage problems there, and while there's still a very long way to go, the project can move forward with clear guidelines.

“It is a vote of confidence that Corpus Christi can do great things,” said developer Jeff Blackard.

North Beach residents applauded the council's decision to move forward with the canal.

“This is a great start and we feel that council has listened to our complaints, finally after a decade,” said Carrie Meyer of the North Beach Community Association.

The canal was the centerpiece of Blackard’s vision for a “Riverwalk”-style attraction on North Beach, which spurred the push for redevelopment and a drainage solution.

“It's the backbone, it's the freeway,” said Blackard of the canal. “Once you put the backbone in everything else can come to it.”

However, the City Manager warns there's still lots of work to do before a canal can be dug.

“We need to get information to see if we can afford it,” said Zanoni. “What's the timeline? Can we get it approved by the environmental agencies and other regulatory agencies?”

The approved ordinance officially gives the city control of the canal project. That was important to Zanoni as the $41.2 million canal moves forward, because it's the city and its citizens paying for it.

“We owe it to them to get the best information, we don't want to embark on something that's going to cost twice, three, four times more than what we had been saying,” said Zanoni.

The canal won't be finished for another five years, and it also won't solve North Beach's drainage problems alone. The city still needs to look at elevating the streets as well as the proposed breakwater islands, but residents feel like they can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“If you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and you can see that a solution is in the works, it's much easier to take,” said Meyer.

Assuming the ordinance passes next week's second vote, the next step is for the city to start looking for an engineering firm for a more thorough assessment. That process should start... Shortly after the new year. If that assessment says the project will cost more than $41.2 million, yhe council would have to vote to amend the ordinance to approve any additional money.

If that were to happen, it could be a completely different city council that debates that question. In the meantime, Zanoni says there will be plenty of chances for public input to gauge how much the community is willing to spend.