Funding method for desalination plant gets preliminary approval

Posted at 10:26 PM, Aug 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-28 23:40:49-04

For decades, the city has considered desalination as a solution to bringing a sustainable water supply to Corpus Christi. Now, some of the city’s largest water users are stepping up to try to make it happen by putting their money on the line.

The city council voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve an amendment to the drought contingency plan that would create a new fee only for industrial customers that use 100,000 gallons of water or more everyday.

As Steve Ramos, Water Resource Manager for the City of Corpus Christi explains, “They would pay 25 cents per thousand gallons on their bill, in addition to their usage.”

The revenue generated from that fee would be used only towards the development of a drought proof water supply. Desalination is a big part of those plans.

KRIS 6 News has previously reported that officials from the Port of Corpus Christi are already exploring two potential sites for a desal facility. One is located near Gregory, and the other is on Harbor Island.

Mayor Joe McComb says this amendment would add a key component — additional money to pay for it.

“So if you’ve got permit in hand, site location, funding mechanism in place, this is a giant step toward getting us an uninterruptable, non-curtailable source of water,” McComb said during Tuesday’s council meeting.

That would be a big change to Corpus Christi’s current status as a surface water-based supplier.

“That means we’re dependent upon the rainfall in our area to fill our lakes to provide water to our customers,” Ramos says.

That dependence on weather has been a long-term concern for many big industrial companies. Many of them believe the additional fee would be money well spent.

Roger TenNapel of Flint Hills Resources, who addressed council members on behalf of the city’s five largest industrial water users, said, “The city is committing to take care of that concern and to allow us to focus on keeping our businesses operating well without having to worry about water being available.”

Utimately, city leaders believe a future drought resistant water supply could attract new industry to our city.

“I think they’ll look back and say this was a turning point in the future of the City of Corpus Christi,” McComb said about Tuesday’s vote.

The new fee is not mandatory. However, if large-volume industrial customers choose to opt out, they would be subject to significant increases for their water usage if the city enacts drought restrictions.

Council members will have to vote on the amendment another time before it takes effect. If it’s approved, the new fee would take effect in early October.