PISB Navigation District projects continue apace

Special to the PRESS

January 29, 2015

The Port Isabel-San Benito Navigation District (PISBND) held its regular meeting on Thursday, Jan. 22, to discuss various items of business, including ongoing dredging projects, Port security concerns, and the upcoming election.

Port Director Steve Bearden presented the Director’s Report, informing the board that the District should be receiving more funding for dredging. “It looks like we’ll be getting some money for our hot spots,” he said. “We’re moving forward on dredging – it’ll probably get us back to 36 feet but that won’t happen until Brownsville finishes its levees,” he said, referring to the Port’s normal project depth. That 36 foot depth qualifies the Port as one of just a dozen deep water ports in the state. Bearden also stated that an ongoing erosion control project is 98 percent complete.

The board also discussed the need to rebuild the guard shack at the entrance to the Port. Board members debated whether or not to rebuild the shack in the same location or next to the road.

Chairman Victor Barrera recommended putting it on a new pad situated to the side of the road so it wouldn’t need to be done again. Bearden expressed concerns about safety and security due to tourists, namely Winter Texans, driving through the area. “The best scenario would be (to rebuild it) on the side to deter traffic, as we have lots of Winter Texans driving through to take pictures,” he said. Via conference call, Secretary Manuel R. Garcia added some levity by joking “let’s put up a toll booth and charge admission!”

Though there were no drawings of the facility, a motion was made and carried to rebuild according to previous specifications and to preferably build on the side. The cost of the new guard shack will be approximately $3,300, including the installation of electrical connections and new security cameras. The wireless cameras used previously have since rusted and fallen apart and no longer function.

Talks also focused on the upcoming election to be held on May 9. Current board member Bob Ostos’ position as Place 3 Canal and Navigation Commissioner expires this year, opening up the position for election once again. Ostos says he will seek re-election for a third four-year term. The election filing deadline runs from Jan. 28 through Feb. 27.

The board also agreed that the election map for the District is correct and are currently looking at bids for their precinct location. The Navigation District has to enter into a contract for their place by March 5. A motion was made and carried to enter into a contract by that date.

The board tabled discussions on an agenda item regarding the Port Isabel Logistical Offshore Terminal (PILOT) layberth sublease agreement pending consultation with legal counsel. Layberths typically are berths used for idle ships, or berths in which no loading or unloading takes place. The board then went into executive session to consult with PISBND’s counsel to gather advice about another legal issue regarding the Master Lease Agreement (MLA) and related contracts between the District and PILOT. Board member Ostos recused himself from the discussion, citing a possible conflict of interest.

At the end of the meeting, the board also briefly discussed whether or not the port director should attend the Texas Port Association Legislative Reception Feb. 2 in Austin. Port Director Bearden said, “I don’t think we need to send anyone. We don’t need to spend the money, as we don’t have any business pending.”

Ultimately, the board left attendance of the reception up to Bearden’s discretion. ” I’ve got too much going on here trying to keep the Winter Texans from driving into restricted areas,” he said.

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