This question has always been and always will be a mind game we all play. When something bad has happened we want to figure out who’s to blame so we can make them fix it. Human nature says it wasn’t me, it was you. You need to fix it and you need to pay the price to fix it. It seems that whoever yells the loudest and longest wins the blame game and the stakes are high. Most often the truth is hidden in the shadows of time and unless the bad affects us individually we don’t care anyway. Sometimes the bad is so bad that we do care, and we roll back the shadows of time to search for facts that lead to the truth as to “who done it.”
So, here we are in 2021 and the bad is the condition of our bays and harbors. Our eyes have witnessed the decline in the quality of the very thing that attracted us to come here in the first place. There is a lure of the sea that makes us want to live here and enjoy what God has given us. There is something about the sound, sight and smell of the sea that gives us a sense of peace and tranquility. But, when those things we love change, we cry foul and play the “who done it” game. Because the bad is so bad and the cost to fix it is so high, we are all forced to take sides and accuse the other of creating the problem.
Let’s look at the sides in this mind game of “who done it.” The Aransas County Navigation District (ACND) takes the lead and says it is the City of Rockport and probably Aransas County that has drained their dirty, polluted water into “their bays and harbors.” They have created the problem and they must fix it.
The City of Rockport and Aransas County are saying that water runs downhill and will get to the bays and harbors despite our best efforts. We have treated the water and directed its flow downhill to minimize damage to people and property. So, who’s to blame?
Let’s look at some facts that are so important in this discussion. First, the bays and harbors of this great county do not belong to the ACND. They belong to “We the People.” The elected ACND board is only caretakers and servants of “We the People.”
The City Councils and Commissioners’ Court are all caretakers and servants of “We the People” and elected to protect the health, safety, and welfare of those they serve.
We say to ourselves, “this is going nowhere because I want someone to blame.” So, who is to blame? Most often when we point our arm outward with our index finger pointing to blame someone, we have three fingers pointing back at us.
The truth is “We the People” have created the problem as the lure of the sea has brought us all here. Growth and development along our bays and in our city have created the down flow that runs into our bays and harbors. Remember, water flows downhill and will get there anyway.
Remember the comic strip Pogo, back in 1970? On an anti-pollution Earth Day poster, the caption read, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” “We the People” have created the problem and “We the People” need to fix it. Instead of drawing lines and pointing fingers, we need to work together.
Let’s roll back the shadows of time to explore our history. The ACND was created in 1925, basically to improve, preserve and conserve the inland and coastal water for and in aid of navigation. Every duty they are given under the Texas Constitution and Water Code is directly tied to the navigation of inland and coastal waters. Their first commissioners were J.S. Peter, A. C. Glass and A. L. Bruhl. These are men that grace the pages of our local history and were men of honor. By the way, this word “honor” has been lost in the pages of time.
The City of Rockport and Aransas County were founded in 1870 and 1871 and were created to serve “We the People.”
In the mid 20s we did not have drainage or water quality problems. The population of the County was 2,064 people. Most made their living on the water and the 1919 storm had just destroyed our community. Citizens worked to be better prepared for the next storm. Breakwaters were built and harbors were planned. The City of Rockport built the first bulkhead in 1920 and the ACND opened Rockport Harbor on July 4, 1940.
The beach park and ski basin did not exist. Bay waters rolled freely to the shore in what are now the southbound lanes of Business 35. There was not a water quality or drainage problem because Aransas Bay brought fresh seawater to the shore with every wave. There were few boats in the harbor, and they were small.
On May 5, 1955, the ACND hired Lockwood and Andrews (engineers) to develop a long-range plan for a small boat harbor and storm basin in the Little Bay region. That became a reality in 1958 as the area we call the ski basin was developed. It was not developed for skiing or for a beach park, but it was developed as a small boat harbor and storm basin in aid of the navigation.
The northbound lanes of Business 35 were constructed and half of Little Bay was “blocked” from the waves that brought fresh seawater to our shores. In the May 5, 1955, meeting of the Navigation Board they stated their intent to exercise their option to purchase Frandolig Island (which is now Key Allegro). They did exercise that option and later sold the island to Carl Krueger. Mr. Krueger was a man of vision and in 1961 he purchased Frandolig Island and started developing Key Allegro. Key Allegro put the Rockport/Fulton area on the map and people flocked to the sea. With that development that brought us prosperity, it also prevented the waves from Aransas Bay from rolling onto our shores.
All the drainage from the ridge of the peninsula that runs downhill could no longer be diluted by fresh seawater and Little Bay began to die. The ducks disappeared, the sea grass that provided a home for the fish, crabs and shrimp began to die, and here we are today, Nov. 21, 2021, to figure out “who done it.”
The answer lies at the end of our outstretched arm on our hand, pointing at someone else. “We the People done it.” Anyone who has come here for his or her piece of paradise on the Texas Coast in our county has a share in the blame.
So, what is the answer? The first answer is to stop the pointing and start the embracing. We all need to start working together to solve the problem we all helped to create. There is a saying that “If we always do what we always have done, we will always get what we always have got.” I am one that is tired of getting what we always have got. We are a community that is “smarter that the average bear” and we can do better.
Second, we can figure how to bring fresh bay water into Little Bay to dilute the bad water that will always run downhill. We also need to figure out how to better limit the bad water flow and to detain as much as possible upland to recharge our groundwater aquifer and benefit our trees and wildlife. Unless we want to drink saltwater, we need to figure out how to capture and detain the freshwater God provides for us.
Third, we all work together to bare the cost of the cleanup. The County, City and Navigation District all have smart technical people working for them and those groups need to combine their efforts to solve the problem. We need to keep the politicians out of that process until we need to figure out how to pay the bill. There is not room for egos when we are problem solving, and in the words of Dr. Edward Deming, “In God We Trust, all others must bring data.”
The Bible teaches us that knowledge comes from man, but wisdom comes from God. We all need to pray that God will give us the wisdom to be better stewards of what He has given us. May God bless us all, and our efforts moving forward.