Calhoun Port Authority to amass more land for future development

The board of the Calhoun Port Authority was in closed session Wednesday from 9:21 a.m. to 10:11 a.m.

POINT COMFORT – The Calhoun Port Authority Board met in closed session for almost an hour Wednesday to discuss acquiring more real estate for development.

Since 2016, the port has purchased more than 1,000 acres in the Alamo Beach area for about $4 million, according to records the Victoria Advocate obtained via the Public Information Act.

Board member Tony Holladay, who serves on the board’s real estate committee, said the land will be used for future port development with about 200 acres earmarked to hold sediment dredged from the Matagorda Ship Channel. The port wants to deepen and widen the ship channel, but the Army Corps of Engineers and Congress has yet to approve and fund the project.

Corps documents about the project have so far indicated that land would only be used if the sediment was found to contain mercury.

During the 1960s, Alcoa discharged mercury into Lavaca Bay and part of the bay remains on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of the most polluted sites in the country.

Port Director Charles Hausmann said in a previous interview that the port is trying to get that taken out of the Corps documents as the port has an agreement with Alcoa to place any sediment found to contain mercury on an island in the bay the company created and uses for that purpose.

The public won’t know whether the Corps listened to the port until it finalizes the project documents in the fall.

In other business, Board member Luis De La Garza asked about emails.

“I want to air something out. I want to air out some email discussions that are kind of being held behind the scene. Where are we at as a board with emails?” De La Garza asked.

This led David Roberts, the port’s lawyer, to caution the board.

“Let me say one thing. We really need to have a separate device. We’ve talked about that for a long time,” Roberts said. “Then, if you have to produce that, you are going to save a lot of money. It happened to the Port O’Connor MUD and I think they spent $40,000 because they had to seperate the personal phone calls to mama and the kids ...”

Hausmann said the board uses Calhoun Port Authority email addresses.

“OK,” Roberts said, “but I caution you again about the running quorum. You don’t want to be making any decisions (via email). You want to be gathering information.”

When De La Garza clarified that he’d meant to ask about the port discontinuing emailing the agenda for board meetings, Roberts said it wasn’t his idea to discontinue the emails.

De La Garza said one constituent had questioned him about change. Board Member Jasper “Jay” Cuellar said he had talked with Board Chairman J.C. Melcher Jr. and Melcher had agreed to let the board discuss it at a future meeting.

In other business, the board approved leasing 10 acres on the port’s south peninsula to Hexl Asset Management, a 3-year-old domestic corporation from Houston. Hexl plans to see whether the 10 acres is suitable for a facility there, but it’s unclear what Hexl does and what the facility would be.

The lease is for one year and will net the port about $76,500.

The board also approved allowing Great River Industries to park on the port’s property and use some of the port’s space to fabricate, store and load materials without holding the port liable if anyone is injured or killed while working. Hausmann said Great River Industries is working for Formosa.

A Great River Industries representative who attended the meeting Wednesday said its work should be completed in February.

Finally, the board approved going out for bids to switch the dry bulk dock’s power source from a private company to American Electric Power.

The board tabled accepting Matagorda Offshore’s notice of abandonment of a 20-inch natural gas pipeline on the port’s property. The company did not notify the port prior to abandoning the pipeline like it was supposed to so the board wanted to get more advice from the port’s attorney and engineer about what to do.

Jessica Priest reports on the environment and Calhoun County for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at jpriest@vicad.com or 361-580-6521.

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Environment/Investigations Reporter

Jessica Priest has done a little bit of everything since moving to Victoria in 2012. She was a regular fixture in the Crossroads’ historic courthouses, but now slathers on the sunscreen to report on the environment.

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