Corpus Christi City Council Agrees to Construct Navigable North Beach Canal
Feature Illustration (above): Concept of the North Beach Canal and the future surrounding development that might result. Source: YouTube Video Corpus Christi TX North Beach Project.
by Adolfo Pesquera
Corpus Christi (Nueces County) — City Council agreed in principle to the construction of a navigable canal on North Beach, something the residents and developers have campaigned for over several years.
The unanimous vote held Tuesday evening on a substitute ordinance happened after months of debate and several closed door sessions with attorneys and staff. The substitute ordinance replaced a version that exposed the city and its representatives to liability and was publicly objected to by the City Attorney Miles Risley, who cited 10 issues in the language that were not legal.
Some of the concerns that had to be addressed included the possible indefinite expenditure of municipal obligations; the unlawful excavation and placement of fill; illegal rebates; the transfer of land not owned by the city; incurment of obligations “so indefinite as to undermine a potential municipal public purpose.”
The substitute ordinance removed any mention of Blackard Global and its affiliates and partners. Blackard Global and Lynn Frazier have been the primary developers–not the only ones–pressuring City Hall for a navigable canal, a project they consider essential to the success of their seaside residential community and hotel projects, respectively.
A public notice of the City Council meeting, addressed to North Beach residents via Facebook flyer, with concept illustration of a future navigable canal.
The ordinance as passed is cautiously worded to account for the possibility of delays. However, the canal must be navigable and substantially in the same footprint as proposed with the the exception of the location of the channel connecting the Navigable Canal to Corpus Christi Bay.
Its construction is subject to funding appropriated by City Council, the determination of suitable title, completion of a citywide public input process, completion of required permitting, and all pre-design and design.
The canal price tag cannot exceed $41.2 million and the goal is to complete construction on or before Jan. 1, 2025.
A broad array of funding sources are to be considered, including revenue bonds; hotel occupancy tax funds; tax increment redevelopment zone funds (the council recently created a North Beach TIRZ); the pending Seawall Fund, to the extent is it allowed by ballot language; Storm Water Capital Improvement Program; grants; and unassigned interest earned from the operating and capital budgets. The city also expects financial assistance from the Nueces County Commissioners Court.
Future steps begin with the selection process of an engineer and the award to same of a design contract. The city manager is also authorized to negotiate with Nueces County to secure their participation in the procurement of all environmental studies, “Phase 1 and Phase 2, if necessary, and permits as may be required to support construction.”
Urban Engineering has already conducted a feasibility study on drainage solutions. Of the options presented, City Council and North Beach residents focused on a refined version of Option 3. An earlier version of the canal had several outlets to the Gulf of Mexico, but the site plan is now restricted to one drainage outlet to the sea.
The canal itself, while still within the right of way of an abandoned railroad line, narrows and widens along its 1.2-mile length. A promotional YouTube video of the canal and the commercial potential it could provide suggests that it should include several bridges for pedestrians and vehicles.
Council Member Greg Smith cautioned the public that, as stated by civil engineer Chip Urban, the canal project would not solve all of the island’s flooding problems. It will improve drainage, however, North Beach, which is at or near sea level, remains vulnerable to high tides and storm-cause tidal surges.
Mayor Joe McComb commended Urban for his honesty.
“When asked will this solve the drainage problem, he said no. ‘It will go a long way, but it won’t solve the drainage problem.’ Don’t be buying the illusion that this will solve the drainage problem, you still may be walking to work in ankle deep salt water,” McComb said.
McComb also cautioned that much depends on other government agencies and how they respond in the permitting process.
“If the agencies approve it, good. It they don’t, we’re back to square one,” he said. He then addressed North Beach developer Frazier’s criticisms about council dragging its feet on the canal issue, stating he hoped the city’s effort works with his project deadline.
“If it doesn’t, that’s a business decision that he’s going to have to make. But … we’ve done everything we possibly could, humanly, to reach the goals that we wanted.”
Frazier and Blackard were not the only North Beach developers on McComb’s mind. As the crowd made its way to the exits, he yelled to get the attention of Dennis Patel, who has been working with the city on zoning for a 52-room beachside hotel. VBX reported on this project Nov. 22.
“Alright, I expect you to be down there filing a permit request to build a hotel over there next month,” McComb said.
Patel laughed and said he would.
“Yeah, I want performance. I don’t want promises,” McComb said.
Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.