By ABBEY KUNKLE
Special to the PRESS
After the busy summer season, many water recreation-related issues were highlighted by the large influx of visitors to South Padre Island. At their regular meeting Monday afternoon, the Shoreline Task Force addressed many of these concerns including water quality, public access and enforcement on the bay, and continued availability of restroom facilities on the beach.
The University of Texas Pan American (UTPA), soon to be University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) Coastal Studies Lab came to the task force with a presentation covering water quality testing on the beach and bay. Due to the high levels of bacteria found on the upper Texas coast this year, Coastal Resources and Parks Administrator Reuben Treviño recommended the lab provide the task force with an update on current findings. According to the presentation the water, which is tested weekly during peak seasons, has generally been low in bacteria levels and is considered safe to swim.
Up next, the committee considered options for increasing public access, specifically boater access, to the Laguna Madre Bay. The item has been up for discussion in recent weeks and City Manager Bill DiLibero, along with the help of consultant Peter Revella, have been investigating opportunities for land purchase to submit an application with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). TPWD has a yearly grant in the amount of $400,000 available with a 20 percent match by the City to aid in land acquisition for increased boat access, and the City is considering four potential areas in which to invest resources and create a public marina.
The areas being considered include properties near Polaris Street, Corral Street, Amberjack Street and Kings Court. Based on specifications of each property and area for available parking, the task force recommended that City staff apply for the grant with Corral Street as the proposed area of improvement. Initial estimates put the project, including the land purchase, building demolition, as well as boat ramp and dock improvements, in the range of $2 million.
In addition to the proposed project to improve bay access, the task force discussed enforcement capabilities on the Thompkins Channel, where many residents and visitors participate in water activities, and recommended discussion for their next meeting about further annexation into the bay toward the northern city limits.
Finally, the task force agreed to support the program for year-round restroom facilities on the beach and recommended that City staff request a budget amendment in the amount of $40,000 to continue and improve the project.
To prepare for next year, the task force approved a budget which included $343,000 in grants for continuing beach access improvements and dune restoration. In addition, Task Force member Rob Nixon will be sponsored by the City in the amount of $2,500 to attend the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) annual fall conference in New Orleans during the month of October along with Mayor Barry Patel, Mayor Pro tem Alex Avalos, City Manager Bill DiLibero and Treviño. Near the end of September, Chairman Paul Munarriz and member Virgina Guillot will be sponsored to attend a conference sponsored by the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M Corpus Christi.
Due to conference travels, the next meeting for the Shoreline Task Force has tentatively been rescheduled for October 22.
Want the whole story? Pick up a copy of the Port Isabel-South Padre Press, or subscribe to our E-Edition by clicking here.