Feature Photo (above): The Lydia Ann Lighthouse on Harbor Island. Image: Google Earth.
by Adolfo Pesquera
Corpus Christi (Nueces County) — A Florida-based private developer and the Port of Corpus Christi Authority (PCCA) are in the preliminary steps of obtaining permits for separate desalination plants to be located near Port Aransas.
The private firm, Seven Seas Water (an AquaVenture Holdings business), signed a lease for a 10-acre site on Harbor Island owned by the Corpus Christi-based Ed Rachal Foundation, and the PCCA is considering a site on land it owns that is also on Harbor Island.
A major difference in the two proposals is that the PCCA wants to get through the permitting process but has no plans to build a plant itself. The PCCA is going through the expense of getting the environmental assessment and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality industrial wastewater permit on behalf of the City of Corpus Christi, the proposed developer.
Both projects intend to deliver the potable water to the City of Corpus Christi.
In June, the Port of Corpus Christi filed a permit to develop a 50-million gallon per day desalination plant. This is unrelated to a second desalination plant permitting process that the PCCA has undertaken on a site in Portland (see VBX report of May 29).
The PCCA site is north/northwest of the ferry docking station to Port Aransas and their proposal is to discharge at a point east of the ferry, 300 feet offshore in the Humble Basin, directly across the channel from Roberts Point Park.
“From this point, the discharge is tidal, and will flow either into the Gulf of Mexico via Aransas Pass or through the Corpus Christi Channel toward Corpus Christi Bay,” the application states. “Construction will impact approximately 33 acres of Harbor Island in a former fuel tank storage area.”
Port of Corpus Christi land holdings on Harbor Island and proposed site (orange) for desalination plant. Courtesy of PCCA.
In 2017, Corpus Christi and the San Patricio Municipal Water District submitted a joint pre-application to the Texas Water Development Board for funding from the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) program for $2.75 million. The TWDB approved the financing July 2017 and it is to cover the cost of “prerequisite planning, organizational development activities, and necessary pre-design elements needed to establish a foundation for future engineering design, permitting, procurement, and implementation of a full-scale seawater desalination facility.”
The TWDB loan states that the design phase should reach completion by Feb. 14, 2021. Construction is anticipated to begin Feb. 14, 2025 and be completed Feb. 14, 2027.
Seven Seas Water
It is unclear at this time whether Corpus Christi would be interested in proceeding with both projects.
According to an August corporate investors statement, Seven Seas Water has been on their target site for months, working with scientists from the University of Texas’ Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas and the Texas A&M Corpus Christi Harte Research Institute.
Both proposals face opposition from nearby residents that are fearful of brine being dumped into channel waters and its potential for being detrimental to local fishing.
Seven Seas CEO Doug Brown said in the prepared statement that the state-of-the-art facility will operate with minimal adverse environmental impact.
“Seven Seas Water has a proven track record of operating in the environmentally pristine Caribbean, where protecting marine life is protecting the local economy. Seven Seas Water is already one of the top providers of desalinated water in the world, with extensive operations in the Caribbean and South America,” the investors statement continued.
Sir Richard Branson, Virgin founder and early Seven Seas Water investor, added to the statement that, “Communities throughout the Caribbean trust and rely on Seven Seas Water to ensure there’s fresh, safe drinking water when they turn on the tap. Importantly, Seven Seas Water is also very focused on protecting our ocean and the pristine marine ecosystem we cherish.”
Seven Seas Water wants to begin at Harbor Island with a reverse osmosis plant that can process 10 million gallons per day, or about 10 percent of the total industrial demand. The Tampa-based firm is a multinational provider of desalination and wastewater treatment solutions, providing more than 8.5 billion gallons of potable water to utilities as far away as Africa.
In 2013, for example, Seven Seas delivered a 2.2 MGD seawater reverse osmosis plant to St. Croix.
Interior view of the reverse osmosis desalination plant that Seven Seas Water delivered to St. Croix. Courtesy of Seven Seas Water.
The Seven Seas facility at Harbor Island will not require any taxpayer money to build, the company claimed.
Corpus Christi issued a Request for Information on Alternative Water Supplies to Seven Seas Water in August and the company agreed to submit a “robust proposal” before the Oct. 12 deadline.
“Seven Seas Water applauds city leaders in Corpus Christi for opening up this process and for having the vision to address future water needs before it is a crisis,” Brown said. “Seven Seas Water is confident we are bringing the best solution for Corpus Christi’s water problem because our Water-as-a-ServiceTM approach aligns the interests of the Coastal Bend with Seven Seas Water. The success of both depends on a consistent and affordable water supply.”
Even though Port Aransas is in Aransas County, most of Harbor Island is within the northeast boundaries of Nueces County.