By ABBEY KUNKLE
Special to the PRESS
With recent and upcoming fishing tournaments being held on the Island this summer, including the Shallow Sport Tournament that brought in over 200 boats and 1,000 anglers, the issue of the lack of public bay access and specifically boat access to the Laguna Madre has come to the forefront of the South Padre Island Shoreline Task Force’s attention. At a previous meeting, the Task Force began to discuss ways to address this lack of access.
During Monday’s meeting, Task Force members reviewed ideas for the City to sell available street ends — including Aries, Kingfish and Red Snapper streets — which could be enclosed by single property owners as sort of subdivisions within the City. Members considered how to use the funds from those transactions towards increasing public access to the bay. The Task Force reached a consensus to use funds to purchase land and create infrastructure for a large public marina that would include ample parking, multiple boat ramps, bathrooms, fish cleaning stations and more. However, according to state law as interpreted by City Attorney Paul Cunningham, the funds from the sale of streets must in turn go towards street right-of-way improvements.
The group is interested in pursuing action to broaden the use of that money at the state level, but as the state legislature meets only every two years, it will be almost another two years before this task can be addressed. Members are hopeful that in the future, the legislature will approve the change easily.
Seeking alternatives for funding the project, the Task Force along with City staff have begun looking at other possible sources starting with the application for a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) grant which can be used towards land acquisition for increasing parking, as well as other facilities and amenities. The application deadline is in October. Meanwhile, they intend to continue working on the project until then with updates at each meeting.
Another ongoing project overseen by the Task Force and carried out by City staff is the Beneficial Use Dredge Material project. The project makes use of sand dredged from the Brownsville Ship Channel during routine maintenance and places it on the beach to combat the continuous erosion problem. According to Coastal Resource and Parks Administrator Reuben Treviño, the City is on track to receive 600,000 cubic yards, which is two to three times more than usual, to be placed this fall.
Treviño also gave an update regarding the recent placement of portable toilet units on the beach. With the high traffic on the beach in the summer, the units are seeing lots of use and are being cleaned daily. They are also switched out regularly to prevent any odor. Some issues have arisen concerning the timing of the cleanings, as well as the vehicle often getting stuck on the beach. This has caused Treviño to question the pilot project. He and staff will continue to work out the logistics and take in data for future improvements.
Finally, the Task Force approved a Beach and Dune Construction Permit for Isla Grand Beach Resort to construct an elevated walkway from the seawall to the line of vegetation and recommended that the resort adjust the plans to include an eight foot wide walkway to improve accessibility for wheelchairs.
The next meeting for the Shoreline Task Force is scheduled for July 27 at 3 p.m.
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