CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — For more than three hours, dozens of people spoke out against a proposed seawater desalination plant at Tuesday's Corpus Christi City Council meeting.
Specifically, they didn't want the council to approve a budget item that would provide $10.1 million for permitting, planning, and studying the impact such a plant would have on the community.
“We must defund desalination," one of the speakers said over the phone. "That’s what we’re asking.”
With the Delta variant of COVID-19 driving up novel coronavirus case and death numbers, the majority of the public commenters chose to forego appearing in-person in council chambers and spoke via teleconference.
Others put that fear aside, including a lone speaker who waited until the item in question was before the council -- well after the public comment period had ended.
“There were 48 public comments today against this funding for desalination, asking all of you to remove this funding," he said.
That speaker said all of the commenters share the same concerns about desalination plants.
They include possible pollution of Corpus Christi Bay with the byproduct from a plant -- brine -- being returned to the bay.
They're also concerned about how much a plant would cost to build, and how much of that expense would be passed down to water customers.
Council members debated the issue, but, ultimately, approved the funding in next year's budget on a 6-3 vote.
“I agree with it 100 percent," Corpus Christi Water Utilities Chief Operations Officer Mike Murphy said. "I think (council members are) doing a great job.”
Murphy said the city has looked at alternative water sources such as ground water and water re-use.
Even after those considerations, he said desalination plants are needed.
“I’m in favor of it," he said. "We’re looking for a drought-proof source of water."