Around the Island
September 21, 2017 | Issue #701
The Fall Equinox is coming – everyone run for your very lives!
Summer 2017 says adios this Friday, at 3:02 p.m. to be exact, and fall slides right in behind. Technically speaking the equinox marks the moment the Sun crosses the Celestial Equator – that imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator – from north to south. But it marks a bit of a different milestone for we Islanders, more like the time the last of the tourists cross the JFK Causeway from south to north leaving behind a state of Celestial Bliss. As the night and daylight hours even out The Island takes a deep breath and slides right into the sweet spot of our season.
It has been a strange summer hereabouts and leaves the two ends of our little sandbar in very different places. What a difference a mere fifteen miles made when Hurricane Harvey came calling. Homes on canals on the Padre end came through a six-foot surge tide with little damage to show, while many homes on canals in Island Moorings in Port Aransas had water across their floors. In some parts of Port Aransas the wind-blown tide reached over ten feet as evidenced by waterlines on walls leaving behind destruction not seen since Hurricane Celia in 1970.
Our friends in Port Aransas turned out to pack Giggity’s on Tuesday as State Representative Todd Hunter brought officials from various relief agencies help the recovery process. We have entered the time now when the tragedy in Houston and the full recovery in Corpus Christi have moved the plight of Port Aransas from the ready consciousness of the public mind. There is a palpable feeling in the air that Port Aransas, and the people still struggling to dig out, have moved to the back pages and are left to their own devices now. This is the time when those of us who got lucky need to help out. Port A businesses are still struggling to reopen. Last Thursday the Port Aransas City Council revised their ordinance in order to make it easier to clean up piles of debris on private property around town and by Friday the crews were hard at it. Progress is being made but there is still debris piled along most city streets and Garbage Mountain on the south side of town grows larger by the day.
The town may never be quite the same and city leaders face some monumental choices as residents make the stay-or-leave decision. Small clauses buried in insurance policies will determine the fate of many long-time Port Aransas residents as they can make the difference between having enough money to rebuild or being forced to sell what’s left and move on. In many cases insurance policies that pay enough to rebuild what was there before are not enough to pay the cost of rebuilding at new codes which require nine feet of clearance above sea level. If residents are forced by circumstance to move off The Island they will likely sell to non-residents who will pay the full load of property tax, since they won’t homestead their Island property, but who will not put their kids in local schools cutting back on state funding, and who will not pay much in the way of the Sales Tax which makes up a large portion of the city budget. The town could move towards becoming less of the vibrant community it has always been and a weekend town. Port Aransas faces big decisions in the coming months that will decide the future of the town and its four-thousand souls.
Tax raising season
One thing that never seems to change though is the Tax Raising Season at the Nueces County Courthouse and Corpus Christi City Hall and it kicked into gear this week as County Commissioners voted 4-1 to raise taxes by 2.5 percent. The lone no vote came from our own County Commissioner Brent Chesney who kept his word to voters when he ran two years ago with a promise not to raise taxes.
Over at City Hall on Tuesday council members have not taken a final vote but scheduled two public hearings which are required only if taxes are raised more than 3 percent. They kept the Tax Rate the same while property values increased meaning they will take more money out of taxpayers’ pockets next year - a tax increase. It seems not even a hurricane can stop the upward march of taxes and, barring a change of heart at city hall, we Islanders will take the tax hit even as we dig out from Hurricane Harvey. Maybe the bright side is that the hike looks to be under 4 percent rather than the full 8 percent allowed under state law without a tax rollback election which was the regular bite of the previous council.
It seems we dodged three of the Four Horses of the Apocalypse…the White Horse of Conquest, the Red Horse of War, the Black Horse of Famine, but once again we are sideswiped by the Pale Horse of Higher Taxes.
Hang in there everybody, and say hello if you see us Around the Island.
September 7, 2017 | Issue #699
What a week it has been. In the past two weeks our Island was inundated on one end with six feet of floodwater and on the other with ten. But here we are almost dug out and moving forward. The most severe damage in both Port Aransas and North Padre was to homes facing west where the brunt of the storm came from. Harvey was the most destructive hurricane to hit out area since Hurricane Celia in 1970 and is a reminder we live in a precarious place here on out little sandbar.
The difference in the damage between Padre and Port Aransas, just about fifteen miles apart, is palpable. The only home destroyed on Padre was due to a fire at a house on Cruiser, while in Port Aransas the area the area between 6th Street and Alister Street took the brunt of the storm with multiple homes destroyed or inhabitable.
Thank you to power crews
The crews from AEP who came to The Island to restore power deserve a big thank you from residents, especially in Port Aransas where only a week ago the power lines and poles were mostly down or destroyed. As of this writing power is resorted to most of Port Aransas and the cleanup is well underway.
Port Aransas water
Water service to Port Aransas was disrupted by a break in the main line feeding the city which runs from Padre Island northward up State Highway 351 and was broken by rushing water just north of Packery Channel.
Initial water service was restored using the supply from the million gallon tank along State Highway 361 until the repairs on the line were in place Tuesday and things are now back to normal.
The sound of silence
When disaster strikes and power goes out many of us keep a battery powered radio handy as a lifeline. In most cases the sole source of information for those in the stricken area is AM radio. But in our case that source was for all practical purposes non-existent. The two local talk radio stations went off the air for several days and the only station attempting to provide vital information was FM station 89.5 KLUV which remained on the air but had scant information for those digging out of the storm. The sole source available in blacked out areas was an AM station out of Houston, 740 on the dial, but as the storm shifted northward their emphasis, understandably, shifted with it leaving the Coastal Bend at a loss for vital information in the first crucial days after the storm.
Maybe by the time the next storm hits us we can have a low power station in place to provide workers and residents information on where to get help, road conditions, and other things vital to coping with the aftermath. What we learned from Harvey is that we cannot count on the existing local stations, or an emergency broadcast network to do that. During blackouts and in times of crisis when the only power available to many residents is in their vehicles is when AM radio, the most basic element of mass communications, can shine. In our case they failed causing a black hole of information in the hardest hit areas at a time when it was needed the most.
Hang in there everybody. We have a cool front blowing through that hopefully will signal the end of Hurricane Season 2017 for us, and we’re still here.
Say hello if you see us Around The Island.
August 30, 2017 | Special Edition Issue #698
As we sit here in the sunshine and light breeze on Tuesday afternoon it’s striking to remember that less than eighty hours ago we were wondering if we would still have houses.
Most of us on North Padre still do, many of our friends in Port Aransas don’t. On the Padre end of The Island we dodged a bullet, but Port Aransas didn’t, the town took a direct hit from the eyewall of a Category 4 Hurricane and has the destruction to prove it.
The wind blew for seven hours from the southwest, 90-100 miles per hour on Padre and 135 miles per hour in Port Aransas where structures facing directly into the onslaught showed the effects. The record will show that Hurricane Harvey put seven and a half feet of water over Port Aransas, but the southwest wind piled the water up behind the back of the dunes and property owners reported a foot of water in buildings that were nine feet above sea level.
On North Padre decks facing the Laguna Madre took the full force of the storm losing roofs and patios but the bones of the structures remained. Those who hunkered down in the North Padre homes got a look at their destructive force first hand, a reminder of why next time they need to leave.
In Port Aransas a couple of dozen hearty souls rode out the storm, some climbing onto the counter tops in their homes to escape rising water, and in some cases holding saws to cut through their attics onto the roof if need be. On Sixth Street former Mayor Claude Brown and Precinct 4 Constable Bobby Sherwood were riding out the storm in Brown’s house which was held down by straps running over the structure and secured to heavy equipment on each side.
“If it weren’t for those straps we would dead,” Sherwood said Sunday. “The house was bouncing and the refrigerator was walking across the floor. (Former Island Cop) Chris Hooper, in the CCPD command center downtown was texting us every fifteen minutes asking us if we were still alive.”
Others tell similar stories. Over in the marina the Polly Anna with three people aboard broke loose and raked across the back of Virginia’s coming to rest hard against the bulkhead at the Coast Guard Station where Sunday afternoon a workboat was trying vainly to pull it loose. The backside of the condos bordering the marina along Cotter Street were a pile of rubble mixed with boats. Everywhere the raw power of the wind and moving water was evident.
For those of us who call The Island home it is a tale of two cities and a reminder of how arbitrary Mother Nature can be. By Sunday afternoon North Padre had power, in Port Aransas police were not even letting residents into the city. If the eye of Hurricane Harvey had shifted just a bit to the south our Island would be destroyed from one end to the other.
As it is those of us on North Padre, to whom much was given, now much is expected. We have been inundated with reports of people in Port Aransas, some we know and some we don’t, who literally have nothing but the clothes on their backs; their cars, homes, and possessions washed away in one afternoon. Clean out your closets, your store rooms, your attics, contribute funds, labor, your vacant bedrooms, whatever you can find in your heart to share and get it to our friends in Port Aransas. They have taken a hard hit.
Pitch in any way you can, and say hello if you see us Around The Island.
August 17, 2017 | Issue #696
Hurricane Franklin decided to go ashore down Mexico way late last week but managed to push water a couple of steps up the Michael J. Ellis Seawall. The storm didn’t even bother to blow the palm trees flat on our little sandbar but by Sunday afternoon the wind was blowing hard enough it could lift a beach tent tied to a MINI Cooper, well, at least according to one eyewitness who also reported that the wind blew so hard there were whitecaps in her swimming pool. She had us going for little bit there but then, as storytellers often do, she went too far and claimed that the ants were using toothpicks to surf. Toothpicks are round, not even an ant can surf on a toothpick.
August is National Golf Month and according to the press release that means you get three Mulligans per round, so we got that going for us.
Our friend Sharon took her little dog Jack to a vet OTB last week and when she went to pick him up it turned out they had given him to another owner! Seems like Jack would have said something, or at least the Stoopid Human what got the wrong pooch. Jack is a good boy and maybe the trade in was a PITA and the owner was going for an exchange. All the more reason to go to Dr. Christi, her office knows which dog goes with which human.
Then there is this. We Moon Monkeys hit the Angry Marlin for happy hour last week and somehow left Scoop Craft locked in the car. Those child safety seats are a booger folks. All came out unscathed but with a good story to tell. Those signs along the highway don’t warn you about leaving a human locked in a car but maybe they should. Or maybe a cocktail napkins, “Did You Leave a Human Locked in Your Car?!!”
ISAC in August
The monthly meeting of the Island Strategic Action Committee was last week and there was some good news for boaters. There is money to address the sandbar known as the last 600 feet of the Packery Channel, less than four feet deep and causing boats to hit bottom. City staff reported that there is $4 million available for the job and District Four City Councilman Greg Smith has instructed the city staff to start the paperwork for dredging the canal, hopefully by the end of 2017.
The problem arose after sloppy language in the last two dredging projects in the Packery failed to specify exactly where in the channel the 300,000 cubic yards of sand should come from. The contractors, absent specific instructions, simply dredged from the beach line landward without touching the last 600 feet of the channel. The last dredging was done after Hurricane Ike deposited a large amount of sand in the channel in 2008 and the normal tidal flow was enough to remove it. Boaters this summer have been reporting dangerously shallow water inside the jetties near the mouth.
City staff told ISAC members that the permit to dredge the channel expired a year and a half ago without anyone noticing, but they believe a new one can be had in short order. The challenge for 2017 is that the window to dredge is between the end of turtle nesting season, around October 1, and Spring Break in mid-March so if the permit can’t be done in time for this October the sand can’t be removed until October 2018 meaning another summer of boat busting in Packery Channel. Or as one boater put it, look at it this way, a couple of trips out the Packery will save you the cost of a bottom job. Now friends, that a boating optimist. But the problem is on the ISAC radar and will get dealt with ASAP.
We sign off with a tip of the hat to lost Islander Patsy Jones who would have been 77 this week. She wrote the quintessential Island song That’s My Island and her hat still adorns the Moon office. You are missed Patsy.
Say hello if you see us Around The Island.
August 10, 2017 | Issue #695
We played chicken with Tropical Storm/Hurricane Franklin this week and came away clean. As of this writing Wednesday afternoon it appears Franklin is Veracruz bound with the possibility of some good surfing along our shores but not much else.
An item on the agenda of the Tuesday city council meeting mentioning the proposed water exchange bridge on The Island, started the phones ringing. Here is what we know.
Park Road 22/SPID Water Exchange Bridge
A decision on the future of the Park Road 22/SPID Water Exchange Bridge seems to be coming down to the wire. The $11.5 million project, first approved by voters at $1.2 million in 2004, is the lynchpin in a planned 3200 foot-long Beach Walk which is at the heart of the $550 million project which includes the water park, a marina on Lake Padre, and the retail and commercial space that would line the canal. The Beach Walk would be the signature feature on the Island if/when it is completed, but will not happen without the bridge to link the existing Island canals to Lake Padre.
Previously the council had earmarked $7.5 million in money left over from 2008 bond projects to fund the bridge, which when combined with up to $4 million from the Island Tax Re-Investment Zone, would fund the bridge. However, city staff is now under orders from the council to find funds for pre-design work on projects to be included in an anticipated bond election in 2018 and according to the agenda item for last Tuesday’s meeting $5 million in funds for the bridge in on their radar.
The money for the bridge has been in place for several months and the bid to build the bridge was opened in March and remains in effect. What has been lacking is the political will to pull the trigger on the project, which would require council action to turn the money lose. However, based on the item on the Tuesday agenda it appears the staff may be moving to let the bid on the bridge expire and use $5 million of the bridge money to pay for pre-design work on the projects in the 2018 bond package, including $52 million for “improvements to North Beach related to the new Harbor Bridge.”
As we have reported before the holdup on the bridge project stems from two sources: First, the situation surrounding the financial problems at the Schlitterbahn waterpark (see the story in this issue) and; Second, the last 300 feet of the canal on the west side of SPID which needs to be dredged to connect the canals dug three years ago around the Schlitterbahn site to the salt water Island canals. Those two problems have understandably made the political class weary of funding a “bridge to nowhere” and as it is an unalienable political truth that money does not stand idle for very long in city accounts without someone trying to take a bite out of it.
Paul Schexnailder has said for several years that his permit with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Requires him to dig the canals on both sides of the roadway leading to the bridge site and construct bulkheads, but a lack of a formal Memorandum of Understanding to that effect has yet to be forged with the city and the guarantee in the corps permit does not provide the council with the certainty they want to turn lose the funds for the bridge. No council person wants to be part of funding an $11.5 million “bridge to nowhere” and this understandable.
So here we are. The will to move forward with the project in the face of the related problems at Schlitterbahn is not there and it appears the ownership issues with the water park will not be resolved until late 2017 at the earliest and by that time the bid on the bridge will have expired, unless it is extended. That creates a perfect storm for $7 million designated for the bridge to disappear into the mist leaving the fate of a major island project hanging in the balance.
Two separate projects
It is important to note here that the Schlitterbahn waterpark and the proposed 3200-foot Island Walk project are two separate entities. While linked in the public consciousness they are owned and operated by two (mostly) separate groups of partners and the Beach Walk can/will move forward no matter the outcome of the dispute among the Schlitterbahn partners. But without the bridge boat passage from the current Island canals to Lake Padre, and on through Packery Channel to the open Gulf of Mexico will be impossible. If the will to build the bridge, and therefore the funding, dissolves what The Island will be left with is a low, water-exchange only bridge which would not accommodate boats. If that happens the Beach Walk and the auxiliary development will turn into something much less and a great opportunity for the future of The Island will have passed.
Schexnailder said this week that he will have crews at the site on the west side of SPID by the end of this week digging the last of the canal, minus a small plug that will be left in place until the bulkheads are finished. Whether that development will be sufficient for the council to fund the bridge without work starting on the bulkheads is still up in the air and it is safe to say that at this point the future of the Water Exchange Bridge is hanging fire.
Stay tuned, and in the meantime say hello if you see us Around The Island.
August 3, 2017 | Issue #694
They dug up Salvador Dali this week to see if he is fathering children from beyond the grave and found that nearly thirty years after his death his trademark mustache is still intact.
“It is still like the clock hands at 10 past 10, just like he liked it,” said the embalmer who dug him up from under the museum Dali designed in Figueres, Catalonia. He was disinterred after a 61 year-old fortune-teller made claims she was his only child Not friends, that surreal…
A report this week from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration claims that manure and fertilizer from the beef industry flowing down rivers is leading to a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico roughly the size of New Jersey- 8200 square-miles. Insert punch line here.
Here on our little sandbar things are much more mundane. The Dog Days of Summer wind down next week but the onslaught from late summer Island visitors meant that weekend traffic moved about as fast as Dali’s mustache, staying in a semi-permanent state of atrophy, backed up all along The Island.
Ferry lines in Port Aransas peaked at well over two hours Sunday as the line snaked all the way around Cut-Off Road to Alister. Ferry workers reported that the heat combined with lack of air conditioning in cars stuck in line coming into Port Aransas from Aransas Pass caused the death of two dogs in waiting cars. On Padre Island the traffic was in permanent snarl from the top of the JFK causeway to the traffic light at Aquarius as the traffic didn’t’ have time to clear between red signals.
Traffic backed up on State Highway 361 to the Port Aransas/Corpus Christi city limits from both directions. We are in the late throws of the 100-day summer season when uplanders realize they are running out of time to make a last of the summer blitz to The Coast.
Sign of the times
You can’t drive anywhere in Port Aransas these days without seeing a Help Wanted sign. As the tourist season heats up and traffic to and from Port Aransas becomes more problematic the lack of workers keeps reminding us that affordable housing is needed.
Word came from the bankruptcy court in San Antonio this week that a hearing has been set for 10 a.m. on Monday August 28 on the case of whether the Schlitterbahn waterpark on The Island will go into Chapter 11, reorganization, bankruptcy. At a hearing this week the firm which lent money on land surrounding the park, AXYS, was granted permission to begin notice of foreclosure on the land pending the August 28 hearing in which they are seeking the court’s permission to sell the land.
The Henry family, owners of the Schlitterbahn company and owners of two-thirds of the interest in the local park filed a petition on May 1 to force the local park into involuntary bankruptcy. That petition, along with the foreclosure request by AXYS, is the focus of the August 28 hearing.
No matter the outcome of the hearing operations at the park are not expected to be effected and the park will remain through the scheduled season. Statesboro Review, a New Braunfels based band made up of local players is scheduled for a concert at the park on Labor Day Weekend, Saturday, September 2.
ISAC, Monday, August 7
The August meeting of the Island Strategic Action Committee will be on Monday evening, rather than the normal Tuesday. It will be held at 5:30 at the Veranda at Schlitterbahn and is open to the public. The ISAC is an advisory committee to the Corpus Christi City Council on Island matters.
We will see you there, and in the meantime say hello if you see us Around The Island.
July 27, 2017 | Issue #693
We get our daily Heat Advisory just before dawn. Each day this time of year the National Weather Service cranks out the advisory and it reads “The combination of hot temperatures and high dewpoints will result in dangerous heat index values this afternoon across portions of South Texas. The worst conditions are expected across Duval, Jim Wells, Kleberg, and Nueces counties where heat indices of 110° to 115° are expected.“
Local Weather Wonks could pretty much take vacation from June until September and just leave behind one taped weather report, “hot, dry, sticky, and windy in the afternoon. If it rains for more than ten minutes run for your very lives – it’s a hurricane!” Here on our little sandbar we just say it’s too hot for snakes and leave it at that. Mother Nature gave us the heat but she also gave us a beach, so we got that going for us.
The Tourist Season this year has been a little different than in years past, we didn’t have the drop off we usually have between Spring Break and Memorial Day, they just kept coming from OTB and as the Dog Days of Summer wind down (The Farmer’s Almanac list the last Dog Day as August 11) our beaches continue to be door to door on the weekends and not much less during the week. Our little sandbar is a popular place.
Active turtle season
This year marked a record for the Kemp’s Ridly turtle count along Texas beaches with 352 nests found so far. This is well beyond the numbers of any previous year and a rousing success for the many people who have worked hard for so many years to get to this point. The releases of hatchling turtes continue down on PINS with the 25th happening this week and more than 14,000 people have turned out to watch. People make special trips down to attend the releases and the attention they bring to our area is a very positive thing. If you have never been to one, get up early and go. They happen around sunup when turtles like to swim. Before you go check the Hatchling Hotline at (361) 949-7163 or the Facebook page Padre Island NS Division of Sea Turtle Science & Recovery to make sure that the release has not been cancelled. If a release is not called off – sometimes the turtles don’t cooperate – by 2 p.m. then the release is on for the next morning. It’s on the Island Bucket List.
Coyotes on Aquarius bus stop
We got word this week that kids waiting for the school bus on Aquarius Street have been harried by a group of curious coyotes who circled them and seem to think they are pets. The kids don’t see it that way and some parents are now driving their kids to school in Flour Bluff. As we reported last week a coyote in Port Aransas attacked a dog while its owner was walking it on a leash and we have had reports of coyotes on streets all over Padre Island.
There are few solutions to the problem. There is no state, county, city, or federal agency that takes direct repsonsibility for keeping them under control. Trapping them and moving them seems a waste of time and discharging a firearm inside the city limits is againt the law. It’s a dogone conundrum is what it is.
Let’s get ready to not rumble!
Since 2013 each October our Island has been a-rumble as a swarm of motorcycle riders make the circuit down the Island Landing Strip between Port A and Padre when the bikefest known as the Roar by the Shore hits town. This would have been the 24th year for the event which started in The Valley and moved here in 2013, but alas it has been called off for this year. The organizers say they want to “re-brand the rally, creating a more robust event that will appeal to a larger cross section of two-wheeled enthusiasts.” They plan to be back next year so we’ll get ready to rumble then.
So long Timmy
We want to say a heartfelt farewell to our old friend and fellow pirate Timothy Alan Flavell who passed away this week. The man we called Timmy was a friend to all and will be missed around here. Another reminder that we are all on borrowed time.
Get out there and defeat the heat everybody, and in the meantime say hello if you see us Around The Island.
July 20, 2017 | Issue #692
Up in Fort Worth they arrested a guy this week for rolling back the odometers on vehicles he was selling. It took them three years to catch up with this mileage desperado.
“What are you in for buddy?”
“Rolling back the miles on used cars…how about you?”
“They got me for littering and spitting on the sidewalk.”
“It’s going to be a long stretch.”
We don’t’ have any intricate crimes like that to report on our little sandbar this week. The sneak thieves are still working the unlocked cars along the beaches but otherwise things are calm hereabouts…with one exception, Island coyotes. The coyote population in both Padre and Port Aransas have been busy of late. One attacked and killed a dog on a leash near the ball field on Beach Street in Port A and there have been numerous reports of coyote sightings on residential streets in Padre Island neighborhoods.
There has been a continual give and take between the Island’s original inhabitants and the later-arriving humans over the years with each side winning a few and losing a few. A few years back an Island resident watched in shock as a coyote came climbing over a six-foot wooden fence into a backyard and snatched up a small dog. About three years ago a girl was walking her dog near Douden Park when a coyote which had swam his way across the canal from a spoil island chased them down the street. When we enter periods of little rain the coyote population pushes into the neighborhoods looking for water and food.
When you factor in the owls that hunt by sound and swoop down on cats and other small animals at night it makes for a treacherous place for house pets. A homeowner on Primavera some years ago couldn’t figure out why the koi fish in the small pond on his patio kept disappearing; where could they possible go? He got his answer one night when he saw an owl swoop in and grab one for his lunch and take off. We would have thought he was crazy but there were a handful of stunned witnesses to bear him out. We know it sound crazy but a few years ago an owl tried to carry away a cat while we watched in shock. We found the owl in the canal behind our house the next day where his soaked feathers prevented him from flying away.
But other than the owls and the coyotes everything is pretty good around here and we pass the middle of the 100 Day Tourist Season so we got that going for us.
Our story here last week on the shallow water in the mouth of Packery Channel prompted several responses from readers. We first reported several weeks ago that a boater had both propellers on his boat damaged and the fiberglass hull caved in when he hit bottom about 300 feet from the mouth of the channel. It was the latest in a series of reports from boaters who have been reporting for about four years that the water depth in the channel was treacherously low. Then we reported last week that a subcommittee from the Island Strategic Action Committee toured the entire channel and found that it is about seven feet deep throughout when the designed depth is ten feet. Further, the last 600 feet of the channel as you approach the Gulf is 4-5 feet and boaters caught on the downside of a swell, like the one whose boat was damaged, are hitting bottom. The problem is that neither of the last two dredging projects in the channel touched the sand in the bottom of the last 600 feet of the channel near the mouth. The plug there catches sand.
The good news is that Island City Councilman Greg Smith, after listening to a briefing on the problem at the ISAC meeting last week, instructed the city staff to begin the paperwork to launch a dredging project there as soon as possible. The matter will likely be on the agenda for a meeting of the board of the Tax Increment Financing Zone set for August. That board, made up primarily of city council members, has the authority to spend money from the TRZ account earmarked to pay for dredging. It looks like there is a solution in sight.
In the meantime look out for the Skinny Water and say hello if you see us Around The Island.
July 13, 2017 | Issue #691
We are almost exactly halfway through the one hundred day Island Tourist Season and so far so good. The traffic has been about what we expect based on previous years, the roads are crowded on the weekends, but as they say, you can’t build the church for Easter Sunday. All in all things are copacetic here on our little sandbar as we charge through the heart of the summer.
Packery channel depth
Those of you who are regular readers of these pages know that the water depth in Packery Channel has been an ongoing topic of discussion. We want to give a big thank you to the members of the subcommittee of the Island Strategic Action Committee who have taken this project on and after years of inattention are pushing for a long- term maintenance plan to keep the channel dredged to a depth that it needs to be.
On Tuesday the subcommittee members boarded No Deadlines, the boat owned by subcommittee member Jerry Watkins and toured the entire Packery Channel from the mouth at the Gulf to the Intracoastal noting the depth all along the way. What they found is what pretty much what Island boaters have been saying for years, with the exception of a twenty five foot deep hole just inside the Packery Bridge the entire channel is five to seven feet deep, except the last one hundred yards inside the mouth where is it four to five feet which is significantly less than the original design depth. When the channel was dug it was dredged to fourteen feet and was to be maintained at ten feet. It is not close to that and in the past two months several boats have hit bottom near the mouth. The shallow depth at the mouth also causes problems when winds are high because it piles the water up at the shoal at the channel’s mouth making it difficult for small boats to pass.
There have been two major dredging projects since the original dredge, the latest being after Hurricane Ike left sand in the channel in 2008. In 2010 $177,000 from the Island Tax Reinvestment Zone was spent to remove 214,000 cubic yards of sand which had accumulated, another dredge is scheduled for 2018.
Devil is in the details
But the devil has been in the details of the contracts that have been used in the past. The terms have been presented to the ISAC by city staff over the years and, as presented, they stipulated the amount of sand to be removed, between 100,000 and 300,000 cubic yards each time, and the time allowed for the job, from mid-September after the sea turtle nesting season until Spring Break in March. The problem has been that the contracts did not stipulate where the actual dredging would be done in the channel. The result has been that the sand that was removed was well inside the channel where a small, and less expensive, dredge could be used and the sand was pumped over the south jetty onto the beach where a significant portion of it quickly found its way back to the bottom or the channel. According to information presented by city staff leading up the last two dredging contracts no dredge work was done in the last 600 feet of the channel just inside the mouth. It is that plug of sand that the ISAC subcommittee members found in their cruise this week. Boaters have been saying all along that the mouth was too shallow for safe passage.
The Conrad Blucher Institute has been contracted since the opening of the channel in 2005 to monitor the depth and report to the ISAC and/or the TRZ Board when dredging was needed. Their findings, based until this year on three annual surveys, generally, have limited the amount of dredging that has been done. Their request that the TRZ board earmark $4 million to monitor the channel over the next four years was denied early this year based on a recommendation from the ISAC subcommittee who reasoned that it makes more sense to use the $1 million per year to dredge rather than fund three studies.
Under the original TRZ agreement property taxes on new development inside the TRZ zone, which includes most of the businesses on The Island, are used, among other things, to keep the channel at its designed depth. The TRZ rules require that $4 million be earmarked in the fund to fund dredging and the money is currently available.
The real question here is why the recommendation has been not to dredge when the channel for years has been less that its designed depth and when the money is available. It is thanks to the ISAC subcommittee that the issue is now being addressed and based on their work so far it looks like things are moving in the right direction. We will keep you updated as things move along.
In the meantime, if you are going out the Packery watch out for the skinny water, and say hello if you see us Around The Island.
July 6, 2017 | Issue #690
What a long strange week it’s been on our little sandbar. Monday turned into Friday and Tuesday turned into Saturday, and Wednesday turned into Monday! The big Island crowd was (the real) Saturday and when traffic backed up all the way across the JFK Causeway and even past Flour Bluff at peak. While local beaches were full they were not jammed to capacity like some holidays. All in all we came through unscathed and have hit the midpoint of the tourist season and are heading straight into the Big Fishing Tournament Season this weekend.
Cue the brushfire
The Annual 4th of July Brush Fire in Kleberg County went off right on schedule Sunday night when someone not as bright as the fireworks they shot up over dry dune grass set fire to about 300 acres of land. It took firefighters until almost noon on Monday to put out the last of the flames which they were able to stop at Park Road 22. The firemen reported that the knuckleheads who started the fire continued to shoot up fireworks even as the firemen battled the flames.
A spokesperson for the Kleberg County Sheriff’s Office said that shooting fireworks on the Kleberg beaches is legal unless there is a burn ban in effect, which currently there is not. So look for the Annual 4th of July Brush Fire in Kleberg County to continue…maybe it’s legal for the firemen to turn their hoses on the cause of the fire rather than the result. Now that would be an Island tradition we could get behind!
PINS entry station moving north
The new entry station at Padre Island National Seashore is north of the first Beach Access Road into the park. Previously the northern end of the park could be reached via the road without passing the entry shack and paying the fee, which will no longer be the case. That access road, known for years as Smuggler’s Ally after federal agents from two different agencies, unbeknownst to each other, got in a shootout there many years ago, leads to the northern end of pedestrian only Malaquite Beach.
Beachgoers can still drive the eight miles down the beach from Bob Hall Pier as long as their vehicles can squeeze through opening at the sticks that run across the beach at the north end of the park, rather than have to turn around and go back down the beach to get back to Park Road 22.
The Deep Sea Roundup is this weekend and the weather looks like it will continue to be too hot for snakes, so at least we got that going for us. Stay cool everybody, we’ll see you at the Ski Basin, and say hello if you see us Around The Island.
June 29, 2017 | Issue #689
The Island blew a fuse Thursday when a problem with the lines along State Highway 361 caused a rolling blackout that stretched all the way from Aransas Pass to the JFK. Most of The Island was back in business by seven o’clock but some Island residents along Windward didn’t’ get power back on until after midnight. We islanders are not strangers to blackouts, we tend to gather at the houses of people with pools and gas ovens (or fireplaces in the winter) to start cooking the stuff that is thawing out. Leave it to Islanders to turn blackouts into parties. Cell phones kept working, but if you are one of the plan-aheaders who has a generator in your house you don’t want to answer it unless you want a house full of visitors.
Ironically there is a connection between dry periods and blackouts as the heavy salt air leaves deposits on lines causing them to get heavy and when they sway in the Island breezes they cause disconnections with cause blackouts. In dry years we used to wonder why the firemen would go around The Island spraying overhead lines with water. When The Island was developed the plan was to bury the lines but that somehow got lost along the way so now we water the lines.
Access Road 3A
This is the first season for the new and improved version of Access Road 3A which provides access to the South Packery area at the end of Windward. The road is great, but not very wide and a steady stream of drivers have been ending up in the soft sand on either side of the road where pedestrians also have to trudge to avoid traffic. A few Sand Crabs have been trying to charge to pull cars out, while other good Islanders have done the job for free. The new road was finished a few months ago with $1.3 million bond money but it is narrow.
Ho Chi Men Trail
With the high tides of late more boaters are braving the shallow waters of the Ho Chi Minh Trail rather than take the long way from the base of the JFK to the canals north of Whitecap. To make the trek from the area around Primavera, behind the spoil islands, to Carlos Fifth Court the “safe” way is it head out to the Intracoastal and up to the canal near the Padre Island Yacht Club. But the quicker way is to get up on plane and bust through the skinny water of what has entered the local parlance as the Ho Chi Minh Trail along the undeveloped land west of the Aquarius extension. The area was dredged many years ago but has now mostly silted in. It’s not a passage for the faint of heart but if you make it sure saves a lot of time.
Car burglars are busy
By this week’s count in the Crime Blotter there have been nineteen car break-ins this week and that’s a lot. When tourist season rolls around and The Island fills up more sneak thieves are to be expected among the crowd. Most of these of crimes of opportunity when we leave cars unlocked and garage doors open but the rate of change this week has been unusual even for the summer season. There have been some anecdotal reports of thieves arriving by kayak in canals, several YETI coolers have been swiped, but the majority of the reports are from cars on the street side. Be careful and lock up.
UBER returns…new ferry option
UBER this week announced their return to the city after a state law took some of the regulatory power away from cities and cleared the way for them to come back to town. Service for all of the ride sharing services has been spotty on The Island but hopefully things will now improve.
In Port Aransas the bus company this week announced a new route to expedite the passage of riders across the ferry by allowing the bus to jump the line. This should help the people who work in Port A but live elsewhere. But it may not do much to lower the blood pressure of a first guy in line waiting to cross with a carful of kids when the bus with one passenger jumps the line. So it goes.
The late Tuesday holiday means it is going to be a long weekend everybody that stretches from Thursday night all the way to Tuesday night when it will be capped off by the Island fireworks show. Go OTB early and hunker down and we’ll see you on the other side. In the meantime say hello if you see us Around The Island.
June 22, 2017 | Issue #688
The first Tropical Storm of the season showed up right on cue this week as TS Cindy pushed water to the dunes along area beaches. Tides were up by two feet at Bob Hall Pier, the beach at Zahn Road was underwater, and the surfers were out in force. The first day of summer on Tuesday saw a record temperature of 100 degrees. It looks like it’s going to be a long hot summer folks and it’s just getting started.
A motorcycle rider was killed last week on the JFK Causeway. The causeway and State Highway 361 between Padre Island and Port Aransas have become raceways in the past few months as the speed demons have discovered that the lack of exits and on-ramps make it difficult for law enforcement to keep an eye on them. From Rodd Field Road to the Island and from Packery Channel to Port Aransas swarms of bikers on whiny bikes have been observed following blocker cars on the lookout for officers before hitting the gas and reaching speeds in excess of 100 mph. They come out of nowhere and are gone before you know it, keep an eye in your rearview. The police are aware of the problem and this week announced concentrated patrols around SPID and Airline.
Fireworks on the 4th
We have had several calls regarding the exact date of the July 4th fireworks show on The Island. That may seem like asking what color was George Washington’s white horse but the holiday this year falls on a Tuesday. We checked with Jerry Watkins who organizes the event and it will be held on the actual holiday, Tuesday July 4, not the previous weekend. The launch site as usual is at the end of Whitecap and the show is visible from anywhere on The Island. Donations for the show can be made to Island Blast, addressed to 14890 Granada Dr. #205, or drop them here at the Island Moon office, 14646 Compass. All the money goes directly to the show.
Island patrol boat
In the last few issues we have been tracking the whereabouts of two patrol boats purchased with money from the Island’s Tax Reinvestment Zone to work in Packery Channel. The current boat is parked behind Fire Station #16 on State Highway 361 but does not have a crew. The whereabouts of the first boat purchased sometime prior to 2009 is still unknown. One report has it at a marina in Flour Bluff, another at a city facility near Choke Canyon Dam. The boat was required during the first two years after Packery Channel was opened and since has continued on the books but how much actual patrolling it did and its future is still up for grabs. How much was paid for it and where the money ended up is up for discussion at the next meeting of the Island Strategic Action Committee.
And speaking of Packery Channel we were still getting questions about its depth until Cindy brought the hide tides in. The Blucher Institute has been monitoring the channel since it opened to raise the alarm when dredging is needed with the latest survey taken in April. There is money available in the TRZ to pay for the dredging and it looks like it will be up the Island Strategic Action Committee to decide when to dredge. In the meantime the warning from the city for boaters to use caution in the channel due shallow water remains in effect.
Islander to the city council
Long time Islander Debbie Lindsey Opel is now a member of the Corpus Christi City Council after her appointment Tuesday. She was appointed to the At-Large seat vacated when former council member Mayor Joe McComb won his race for Mayor. Congratulations Debbie!
Stay cool if you can everybody, and remember half of the fisherpersons on The Island are above average. Say hello if you see us Around The Island.
May 25, 2017 | Issue #684
That rumbling you hear is not your stomach folks, it’s the flatlanders north of Swinney Switch revving their engines getting ready to come roaring OTB to our little sandbar for the big kickoff of the Summer Season 2017. Get ready everybody here they come.
This will be the first big test of the effect of the new traffic light at the Aquarius/SPID intersection and the first Big Test of Islanders’ patience for 2017 after last week’s Beach to Bay warmup. This Thursday is Islanders Day at the Flour Bluff HEB as we jam the isles stocking up on enough grilling material, stress reducing liquids, aspirin, and enough gasoline to get our boats ten miles south of Bird Island and out of harm’s way.
Our Big Island Holidays last year were somewhat subdued due to a beach beer ban in Port A (Spring Break), a phony bacteria scare (4th of July), and a citywide water boil (Labor Day). No such impediments this year as the weather looks like it will cooperate and the high tides and recent high winds mean beach driving lanes are narrow and soft sand is everywhere. Expect a traffic jam from the Port Aransas ferries to the base of the JFK. This is gonna be a big one folks,
Walking paths to PINS
We get regular questions about the progress of a proposed 10-mile walking/cart path between Balli Park and Padre Island National Seashore. The path would cut across the 3600-acre tract in Kleberg County purchased by Nueces County with $1 million in grant money last year. Nueces County Coastal Parks Director Scott Cross said this week the path is part of an ongoing Habitat and Land Use Study to determine how best to use the newly acquired land while maintaining its natural state. Funding for the path would come from federal grants with the cooperation of officials at PINS.
This has proven to be a very popular idea and we will keep you up to date as things progress.
Fourth of July Fireworks
There will once again be fire in the sky on the 4th of July as the fifth Fourth of July Island Blast Fireworks Display is fast approaching. The launch site will be the same as previous years at the end of Whitecap.
As we reported last week Jerry Watkins has everything ready but is about $3800 short of the final amount of funds needed. If you can help out make checks payable to Island Blast, addressed to 14890 Granada Dr. #205, or drop them here at the Island Moon office, 14646 Compass. All of the proceeds go directly to the show. It’ll be here before you know it!
Our friend and resident pirate T-Joe from Port A complained this week that he hasn’t been in the paper in a while so here he is.
As you can see that’s a Tongue Fish he’s got there. T-Joe is the First Mate on the Mustang which drags a net while taking riders for tours around local waters and places the critters in a shallow on-board aquarium for viewing before releasing them back into the water.
T-Joe is achieved icon status a few years ago when word went out that “he broke his arm in two places Saturday night.”
“Oh man, you mean like his wrist and his elbow?”
“No, Shorty’s and The Flats.”
Now friends that’s a Port A story. Hunker down everybody we’ll see you at the Ski Basin. Say hello if you see us Around The Island.