Corpus Christi Asks $ 222 Million Loan For Desalination Plant
The city of Corpus Christi plans to get $ 222 million in loans to pay for its first seawater desalination plant.
City council on Tuesday allowed its staff to ask the Texas Water Development Board for the money.
The funds, if approved, would cover the costs of designing and constructing the facility in the Inner Harbor of the Port of Corpus Christi.
“This is another step in this quest for an uninterrupted water supply,” said Mayor Joe McComb.
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The money would come from the loan program of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas, or SWIFT.
Desalination has been under study by the council for several years.
Proponents have promoted desalination as the key to consolidating a reliable and sustainable water base for future economic development and jobs in the region.
Several opponents suggested that taxpayers would end up subsidizing, through their utility bills, a project that would not only be expensive, but would also benefit industrial companies.
A coalition has formed, seeking to secure enough petition signatures to bring the desalination plant proposal to voters in November.
City Councilor Gil Hernandez cast the only dissenting vote against the request.
He questioned the costs to taxpayers and expressed frustration that the city had not considered other funding options.
“All we did was be on that train to build this (factory)… and nothing else was done, although I made a lot of comments about how we were exploring. other routes, “said Hernandez, a member of the District 5 council. “I saw no other movement except in this direction.”
City manager Peter Zanoni said the desalination plant would also be the first of two potentially considered by the city. The other site being considered is the LaQuinta Canal in San Patricio County.
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The state’s population is expected to grow to 34 million in less than 10 years and 51.4 million by 2070, potentially straining its water supply if changes are not made, according to data from the Water Development Board.
Corpus Christi, a regional water supplier to various communities, was one of the first cities where seawater desalination feasibility studies were conducted by the Water Development Board in 2002.
In 2015, the Texas legislature passed bills authorizing the use of seawater desalination for industrial purposes.
The state then created a water body that included seawater desalination as a water management strategy.
The city received $ 2.75 million in SWIFT funds in 2017 to help finance a future seawater desalination project.
Gabriel Ramirez, the city’s deputy director for water quality and treatment, said drought surcharges would cover two-thirds of the loan. He expected “minimal impact” on customers for the remainder, as some of the previous debt service is expected to expire soon.
The city received 22 letters regarding the proposal ahead of Tuesday’s council meeting, city secretary Rebecca Huerta said. Seventeen opposed the plan, three favored it. Two asked the council to drop the measure.
City staff are expected to return to council with more details on the funding in August.
Chris Ramirez writes about energy, commerce and all things business. Support local coverage like this by checking out our subscription options and specials at Caller.com/subscribe