Branch pilots appointed for the Matagorda Bay Ship Channel

Captains, from left, Michael Harris and David Adrian, take an oath Wednesday at the Calhoun Port Authority after the port’s board members approved appointing them to serve as branch pilots for the Matagorda Bay Ship Channel. The port’s general counsel Alan Sanders, right, did the swearing in.

Calhoun Port Authority board members discussed hiring a consultant group to assist the port with pipeline relocation for pipelines that cross the Matagorda Ship Channel.

Sixteen pipelines will need to be relocated as part of the project to widen and deepen the ship channel, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers records.

The port is considering hiring Mott MacDonald to provide advisory services for the task, which include identifying and contacting pipeline owners, coordinating regulatory activities and providing management, engineering and project control services.

“Due to the immense amount of work to take this task on, we just don’t have the man power (and) we need the help from Mott MacDonald,” said Port Director Charles Hausmann.

Hausmann said the port has not yet received an actual proposal from Mott MacDonald, but has been told the services could cost $150,000-$180,000.

“This will happen in the next couple of weeks,” he said. “We’ll get it signed soon.”

The board approved authorizing board President J.C. Melcher Jr. and Secretary Tony Holladay to sign an agreement with Mott MacDonald that does not exceed $180,000 with approval of the port’s general counsel.

Port members, who make up the Matagorda Bay Pilot Board, also approved appointments for two pilots to serve as branch pilots for the Matagorda Bay Ship Channel.

Capt. David Adrian was reappointed to the position, which he has held since 2006. Capt. Michael Harris, who has been a deputy pilot for the channel since 2018, was appointed to the branch pilot position for his first time.

Licensed by U.S. Coast Guard and State of Texas, Matagorda Bay Pilots have been driving vessels to and from the Port of Calhoun since 1969. The group has four pilots, including Adrian and Harris.

The pilots are appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott for four-year terms. Those appointments require approval from the port’s board members.

Board members also amended a memorandum of understanding with IDE Americas that grants a six-month extension of the non-binding agreement, which allows IDE to study whether a desalination treatment facility would be economically feasible for the port.

This is the second extension of the original memorandum that was approved in March 2020. A 30-day extension was approved by the board in March.

Desalination is the process of removing dissolved salts from seawater or brackish water to generate additional fresh water sources for residential and industrial use. Hausmann previously told the Advocate that a desalination plant would be important for future industry to grow and thrive at the Port.

Board member Jasper “Jay” Cuellar made a motion to approve the amendment with the understanding that the board expects the extension to be the last extension and wants to see the project move forward.

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Kali Venable is an investigative and environmental reporter for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6558 or at kvenable@vicad.com.

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Investigative & Environmental Reporter

"I am a Houston native and 5th generation Texan, with a degree in journalism and minor in creative writing from the University of Texas at Austin. I care deeply about public interests and the community I serve.”

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