Aransas County Navigation District commissioners, at their regular meeting Monday, July 20 heard reports from Harbor Master Keith Barrett and Chairman Malcolm Dieckow, covering a wide range of topics.
Barrett said construction of the annex building (at the entrance to Rockport Beach) and the building (that will be leased by the district) at the entrance to Cove Harbor South are almost complete.
He said the Blevins Channel project is out for bid, and the Leggett Channel project is in engineering.
Those two projects are Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance (PA) projects, which provide funding to bring something back to the condition it was before Hurricane Harvey, versus a FEMA Hazard Mitigation project, which is designed to provide additional protections to prevent future damage.
He also noted when Texas beaches are closed, and Rockport Beach is open, “people come here.”
Barrett said, “With that comes high (portable toilet) expenses.
He also noted the district needs more notice before Rockport Beach is closed.
“Please, don’t do it on a Thursday,” said Barrett. “People have weddings planned, etc.”
He noted the district is at full staff, even if the beach is closed to vehicular traffic.
Barrett said ACND staff answers more than 200 calls per day (when the beach gets closed).
“The three ladies (in the office) are on the phone all day long,” he said. “(Tourists are asking for the schedule) and local businesses call to complain that everyone is cancelling reservations.”
Barrett said it’s important the ACND stays “out in front” with its messaging.
Commissioner Judy Vlasek said Fulton Harbor was on “trash overload” after this past weekend.
Barrett said, “We need to have a real heart to heart talk with Fulton (officials) about trash.”
He noted the 2021 budget will include about a 20 percent increase for trash handling.
Dieckow noted Aransas County has 91 “official” cases of COVID-19, adding, “And that’s not true. We have many more. We all know people (who have it or have had it and were never tested).
“I know businesses are suffering, and anxiety is high, (but this virus is serious).
“We will do the best we can for the health and safety of our people.”
He also said the district is very concerned about Aransas County’s proposed Fulton Beach Road Flood (FBR) Hazard Mitigation Project, which was the subject of a public meeting July 15, at which FBR property owners aired their displeasure with the plan.
“(Last) Wednesday (at the meeting) there was a level of concern that can’t be not recognized,” said Dieckow.
Commissioner Judy Vlasek said FBR is not on ACND land, but the planned barriers offshore are on ACND property.
Commissioner Tommy Moore noted there is a better, and cheaper way to stabilize the shoreline, such as using materials similar to those along the shoreline of Mesquite Bay, in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.
With new people arriving at Monday’s meeting, Dieckow went back to the “citizens to be heard” portion of the agenda to allow members of the audience to speak.
Still focusing on the FBR project, Dieckow said, “I know the primary issue is the original 2012 permit doesn’t cover what they’re now trying to do.”
“Right now it’s stalled because we haven’t signed the interlocal agreement (with the county),” said Moore. “This is not going forward under (the existing plan).”
Charlie Bellaire of Bellaire Environmental, the company that has worked extensively with the ACND, said, “The (original) permit does allow for articulated matting (along the shoreline). It doesn’t allow breakwaters (as it is currently designed). Engineers are seeking amendments for the original permit.”
One of the biggest concerns aired by FBR property owners at the July 15 public meeting is that they didn’t know about the project.
Bellaire noted that current property owners may not have received the required notice from the Corps of Engineers if the Corps used names and addresses used to inform property owners about the original 2012 permit application.
Bellaire said another concern of his is the engineer noted the FBR project includes two phases, and the one addressed at the July 15 meeting is only Phase 1.
“The Corps of Engineers does not like piecemeal projects,” said Bellaire.
He also noted there are many reasons the Corps would ask for public comment, versus making changes administratively (as they are now being asked to do).
Scott Hime, the most vocal opponent to the FBR project as proposed, thanked the ACND for setting up the July 15 meeting.
“The ACND was the only entity that allowed us to talk publically (about the FBR project),” said Hime.
At the end of the “report” portion of the agenda, Dieckow and Vlasek announced they will both seek third terms, but it will be the last time they will run for office.
Both commissioners noted the amount of work remaining to do since Hurricane Harvey.
“In times like these I can’t think I can jump ship,” said Dieckow. “I’m not perfect in any way. The ACND is beholding to all residents. I’ll do my best to represent Pct. 3, but we represent everyone.”
Vlasek said there are “many projects on the line” that she would like to see through to completion, or at least see started before she leaves office.
“The new bulkheading at Cove Harbor is so important,” she said. “We need to protect that asset. It provides a lot of good jobs.”