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FEMA may not pay for Packery Channel repairs

Posted at 3:37 PM, Mar 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-10 20:15:47-04

The city could be stuck with a multi-million dollar do-it-yourself repair job at Packery Channel because the Federal Emergency Management Agency may not help cover repairs.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the city estimated repairs to Packery Channel could run as high as $15 million. The city applied for FEMA assistance, which it hoped would cover the bulk of that expense, but those funds may not be coming.

City officials aren’t sure where they’d get the money that FEMA doesn’t chip in, which could delay the repairs further. That could have disastrous effects for the channel and Padre Island.

"The tidal surge came in, and the biggest damage occurred when the tidal surge receded," said Padre Island resident John McClary, about the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.

McClary uses the jetties daily to either fish or surf. He's watched conditions deteriorate since Harvey blew through -- and it’s only getting worse.

"If that’s not repaired, over time, what will happen, is it will deteriorate to the point where the jetties will no longer be usable," McClary said.

Part of the problem is that the city says the channel wasn’t built right in the first place. There are plans to repair and upgrade the channel, which comes at a price tag of around $14 million. FEMA had given the city indications it was on board with providing public assistance, but seems as things have changed.

"FEMA is rethinking that, and they’re not quite sure," said Assistant City Manager Keith Selman. "At this point, they’ve not put in formal writing exactly what the amount of public assistance will be."

Selman said the questions have to do with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who built the channel, and whether or not the city can get assistance from another federal agency.

Meanwhile, those who use the jetties predict doom and gloom if something isn’t done soon.

"Corpus Christi, and specifically North Padre Island, is going to lose millions of dollars of tourist revenue," McClary said.

Selman said the city should hear from FEMA soon on how much public assistance its offering once the city knows that it can explore alternate financing options. One idea would be to extend the life of TIRZ No. 2 past 2022.