Corpus Christi Coalition Vies for Votes on Desalination

By: Trevier Gonzalez, 9:08 PM July 30, 2020

Local group vies for votes on desalination plant, delivers ‘thousands’ of signatures amid pandemic

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Though the Corpus Christi Seawater Desalination Project has been met with contention since it was introduced, an organization is pushing for its fate to be decided by voters via a charter amendment with the City of Corpus Christi.

Thursday morning, a small group from For the Greater Good delivered what it described as thousands of signatures — boxes of them, altogether spelling “Let Us Vote On Desal” — were delivered in a wheelbarrow to city hall.

Isabel Araiza, a co-founder of For the Greater Good, wheeled that barrow to the city secretary’s office. She said during the pandemic, it’s been difficult for herself and others to actually be heard.

“We’re getting maybe a minute to do a call-in to voice our concerns,” Araiza said. “You get 1000 characters in an email.”

She later said that those emails aren’t actually read out to the public.

“Desalination has the potential to impact the entire community, and so the entire community should have a say,” she said. “That’s all we’re asking for — we want the citizens to be able to vote.”

The desalination project currently is nearing the end of Phase 2, which includes outreach. Phase 3, which includes procurement, design and construction, is set to take place from 2020 to 2025.

City of Corpus Christi Water Resource Manager Esteban Ramos said the city has been transparent with its plans from the beginning. Citing its website, he said those with concerns should try to learn more about the project.

“We’ve taken the steps to do a very due-diligence process where we meet with different organizations, from environmentalists to community groups to businesses, and educate them and communicate with them about this project,” he said.

Corpus Christi City Secretary Rebecca Huerta said charter amendments filed in her office require 5 percent of registered voters within the city, or 20,000 — whichever is smaller.

While it’s uncertain how many signatures were on that petition, Araiza and others are also pushing for city councilors to vote on the issue as well.



Let the People Vote! TCE and Allies Deliver Thousands of No Desal Petitions

Kathryn Cargo
July 31, 2020

(Corpus Christi, TX)  A group of area residents wants voters – not the Corpus Christi City Council – to decide on a charter amendment to restrict desalination plants.

Two desalination facilities are being considered for the region: one within the city limits, the other in San Patricio County.

The project would cost taxpayers $1.3 billion, according to a news release from a coalition calling itself Save the Bay for the Greater Good. 

The group hosted a virtual protest Thursday, opposing the desalination projects. Afterwards, coalition founder Isabel Araiza delivered thousands of petitions to City Hall.

“It is irresponsible to expect the entire community to bear financial and environmental burdens for the (Port of Corpus Christi) and heavy industry’s interests,” Araiza said. “These desalination projects aren’t even for the people or local businesses.

“At the very least, the mayor and City Council should let the people vote on whether or not the city pursues desalination.”

Desalination has been in consideration of the council for several years.

The city plans to seek permits for a facility that would draw as much as 186,000 acre feet of water per year — 166 million gallons per day — from La Quinta Channel, and as much as 93,000 gallons per year from the Inner Harbor, or 83.1 million gallons per day.

Documents show other permits would propose discharging as much as 68 million gallons per day into the Inner Harbor, and as much as 91 million gallons per day into the Inner Harbor.

Representatives from several governmental entities have said new water sourcing is necessary to support future economic development and jobs in the region.

Several coalition members turned out to a City Council meeting Tuesday and spoke against the desalination plants for the area. They argued the facilities would unduly burden taxpayers.

More:City to submit desalination permits, local groups protest

The city is pursuing a $222.5 million-dollar loan with a plan to begin construction on the first of the proposed projects. The combined estimated cost for the city’s desalination projects was nearly $1.3 billion in 2018. Those expenses would be paid for by public bond funding, according to the coalition.

“The city’s plan for desalination will hike water rates for Corpus Christi residents to pay off a $225,000,000 loan from the Texas Water Development Board for this behemoth,” said Jim Klein, of the Coastal Bend Sierra Club.

The Corpus Christi Taxpayers Association unanimously supports a public vote on these proposed expenditures, according to the news release.

Together, the plants would discharge 131 million gallons of brine concentrate every day into Corpus Christi Bay, according to the coalition.

The coalition includes:

  • Dr. Isabel Araiza, For the Greater Good
  • Dr. Jerry Sansing, Corpus Christi Taxpayers Association
  • Eddie Canales, South Texas Human Rights Center
  • Brittany Garcia, Texas Campaign for the Environment
  • Love Sanchez, Indigenous Peoples of the Coastal Bend
  • Dr. Jim Klein, Sierra Club Coastal Bend Group
  • Joy Miller, Clean Economy Coalition
  • Errol Summerlin, Coastal Alliance to Protect our Environment

Kathryn Cargo follows business openings and developments while reporting on impacts of the city government’s decisions.