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Council moves forward with desal plans despite protests

Posted at 6:08 PM, Dec 17, 2019

CORPUS CHRISTI — The City of Corpus Christi approved more than $400,000 dollars for water rights and discharge permits from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in order to build a pair of desal plants along the La Quinta Corridor.

The plants would give the region an uninterruptible water supply, but the council saw plenty of opposition to those permits during regularly scheduled Tuesday meeting.

The protests against desalination started early in the morning, before the city council meeting.

“Stop the actions that they're trying to do here!” proclaimed one protester.

“We don't want to pay for the desalination facilities!” said another.

The opposition continued during public comment.

“I really want you to think about the long-term effects of what you're proposing here,” said one speaker, while another said, “It's definitely, without question, for industry and not for the people.”

The city insisted that the plants are for the benefit of the entire region.

“This is for all water customers, it's not for industry in particular,” said Mayor Joe McComb. “This is going to be a potable water supply.”

Opponents believe the citizens will end up paying a steep price for those plants on their utility bills.

“Studies indicate that in communities that adopt desalination, the water rates actually go up,” said Jim Klein of the group Clean Coastal Economy. “It's going to cost the average consumer more for their monthly water bill.”

Others also believe desalination will seriously harm the Corpus Christi Bay ecosystem.

“What we're worried about, of course, is our quality of life,” said Coastal Bend Sierra Club Chairman Eric Rodriguez. “Corpus Christi is known for its bays, especially for fishing. We have tons of tourists that come down here, that's what they're attracted to.”

McComb believes the city needs desalination to meet the region's water demands; both now, and for decades to come.

“This really could determine the future of Corpus Christi,” said McComb. “If we don't have water, we don't grow.”

There’s no timetable for the permitting process, though it is expected to take several months.

Tuesday’s vote was seven for and two against. One of the ‘No' votes was cast by District 5 City Councilman Gil Hernandez who says he’s for desal, but he also wants the city to “do it the right way”. Hernandez thinks potential public-private partnerships are an avenue for the city to consider.