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Mixed reaction following granted permit needed for Port of CC desal plant

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on Thursday granted the port’s application for a permit to discharge effluent water, or water that isn't wastewater.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Mixed reactions come as the Port of Corpus Christi moves one step closer in the permit process to develop a desal plant on Harbor Island. 

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on Thursday granted the port’s application for a permit to discharge effluent water, or water that isn't wastewater.

The goal is to help alleviate the strain on existing water resources during times of drought. 

RELATED: After EPA consultation, TCEQ grants Port of CC a permit for desal plant

“With the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approving the issuance of the discharge permit for a proposed seawater desalination facility on Harbor Island, the Coastal Bend is one step closer to securing a drought-proof water supply, which will ensure an ecologically healthy and prosperous future for the region,” said Sean Strawbridge, Chief Executive Officer for the Port of Corpus Christi. “We thank the TCEQ Staff and Commission for their thorough review of the permit application. We also commend the State Office of Administrative Hearings for their rigorous process, which assures the integrity of this permit, and future permits in Texas.” 

This comes two weeks after the TCEQ allowed a contested hearing to take place. It was at that hearing that local environmental groups spoke out against the proposed plant.

"It's disappointing, but we are not going to stop fighting because there's too much at stake here," said Isabel Araiza, founder of For the Greater Good organization. 

The group has been challenging the proposed plant for the the last six years. They believe it could have harmful impacts on Corpus Christi Bay. 

"It takes up a lot of energy to run those plants, then there's a lot of pollution associated with them, some of that will go to the dump and some of it will be dumped in the bay," Araiza said. "Our salinity levels are already high. Its just going to be making it saltier faster."

Meanwhile, Corpus Christi city councilman Roland Barrera is hopeful that the Port's approval will serve as a good sign for the city, which is wanting to build its own $200-million desal plant.  

"Candidly I feel we are much more advanced than they are, they may be ahead of us with regard to permit application, but all the science we put together, I think our permit is more attractive," Barrera said. 

With a growing population paired with growing industry, city officials said another reliable water source is desperately needed. 

"Had this great information that Tesla is considering a plant in Nueces County. We already got an arrangement with the South Texas Water Authority," Barrera said. "It's contractual we would have to provide water, as that level expands, we get to these trigger points, that we are going to need other resources and if we want to continue to attract industry to the coastal bend its important we have other sources of water."

As for the Port, it will still need to get a water rights permit from the TCEQ. The city's hearing in Austin is scheduled in two weeks.

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