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Corpus Christi councilmen express concern for plans regarding proposed desalination plant

The council will discuss the Port's half billion low interest rate loan application in executive session and will try to figure out where to go from there.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Port of Corpus Christi has submitted a low interest loan application with the State of Texas for its Harbor Island Desalination Plant Project. 

The cost of the project is estimated to be half a billion dollars. 

The Port is hoping to get its permit sometime next month to be able to have the plant built on Harbor Island. 

However, the new information did not sit well with at least two city council members. 

According to Port Chairman Charlie Zahn, the five page loan application helps give an extensive idea of what the project will look like from a financial standpoint. 

"That application gives the Texas Water Development Board an idea of what kind of infrastructure project that you may be seeking funds for the approximate cost of that," Zahn said. 

Councilman Mike Pusley said he's actually the liaison between City Council and the Port commission and says he didn't even know about the application.

"It's very disappointing when you hear that they have gone and applied for this loan and I didn't get a phone call from anybody," Pusley said. "When I called my representatives, the City's representatives on the Port Commission, none of them knew about it."

Councilman Roland Barrera is also upset about the half billion dollar application. He's not only mad that no one informed the city that the paperwork had been filed, but he's wondering about how a project that large is going to be paid off.

"I'm a little disenchanted at the prospect of having this half billion dollar liability that basically could disrupt or create our rate or make our models more volatile," Barrera said. 

However, Port commission Chairman Charlie Zahn said the Port is not going to build a desal plant, but would leave that job to either the City of Corpus Christi or a third-party.

"I have been a port commissioner for 11 years and I've probably made 100 speeches in 11 years," Zahn said. 

"I've probably said 100 times in those speeches that the Port Of Corpus Christi is not going to build, own, or operate a desalination plant, and I can't get that through the head of nine people over at City Hall."

During Tuesday's City Council meeting Mayor Paulette Guajardo issued a resolution requesting the Port end any and all attempts to become a water producer or distributor.

According to Barrera, the Port and the City are not in unison regarding the issue. 

"It seems that the Port Of Corpus Christi is operating independently and not in support of the entire region," Barrera said.

The Port is hoping that the state will approve the permit for its Harbor Island Desal project next month. In the meantime, Zahn told 3News that Port staff are working on a white paper report to give to the City after it's tried a number of times to meet face to face with City leaders.

"We've tried and there's a trust issue there," Zahn said. "And we believe by the white paper. We're hopeful that we're going to show what our intent is and not what people perceive our intent is."

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