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The North Beach Project

The Corpus Christi City council appointed a task force to recommend a solution to the North Beach Storm Water flooding problem.  The problem is that most of North Beach is not high enough in elevation above sea level for storm water to drain into the bay.  The task force has recommended a solution to flooding, but also has recommended a $1 Billion project to redevelop North Beach.

The concept as presented on the website, is for the city to dredge a canal down the middle of North Beach running North and South and parallel to the beach.  The sand produced by the dredging would be spread over the area between the canal and the beach to increase its elevation above sea level by several feet.  According to the website that area currently varies from zero to 3 feet in elevation.  The higher elevation would force storm water to drain either into the canal or into the bay.  After that the plan calls for private investors to redevelop North Beach into an up-scale resort focused around the canal which the plan calls the “waterway” similar to the River Walk in San Antonio.

There are major unanswered questions about the city’s cost, which would be paid by taxpayers.  The website states the city would spend $40 million to build the waterway.  However, when you drive through North Beach it appears about half the present buildings are built at grade level, not on elevated piers.  If several feet of sand are spread around them, they will be unusable and therefore worthless.  Question #1:  will the city be expected to buy those properties and demo them for the project?  If so, the website states the total appraised value of private property on North Beach is about $100 million.  If the city buys half that property, that’s another $50 Million, in addition to $40 million to build the waterway.  The city would lose about $285,000 in current annual property tax revenues from those properties.  If the development never gets built that would be a permanent loss.

North Beach has several erosion problems from natural bay currents.  The city replaces the sand periodically.  The plan proposes building 10 barrier islands to protect the beach.  Question #2: What will prevent those currents from eroding the islands?  If it does, that solves one problem by creating another equal problem.

Even after the project is completed, the typical elevation on North Beach will still only be maybe 5 to 6 feet.  The 1919 hurricane had a storm surge of 16 feet and the website has pictures showing it completely destroyed all buildings on North Beach.  Hurricane Allen in 1980 had a storm surge of 8 feet at North Beach and recently hurricane Harvey had a storm surge of 7.5 feet at Rockport.  To be safe from potential hurricanes, new buildings would need to be on piers high enough to put the buildings at 16 feet.  Question #3:  Would any private investor or lender risk $1billion on such a vulnerable site?

The plan calls for removing about half the current buildings and businesses that occupy those buildings, creating an empty sand site and starting over again.  That impact will pretty well destroy all businesses on North Beach because they depend on each other to draw customers to the area.  Once gone, it will be extremely difficult to replace them.  Businesses in a separate area such as North Beach, require a certain minimum critical mass of number of businesses and number of potential customers to succeed and thrive.  Once that critical mass is gone, it can’t be recreated by one new business or even a half dozen new businesses.  They can’t recreate a critical mass of potential customers. When San Antonio build the River Walk, they didn’t destroy the hotels and restaurants already there.  They built around them and the existing businesses thrived.

Surely a good civil engineering firm could design a flooding solution that won’t require $90 million of city tax payer money and destroy the existing businesses on North Beach.

Author:  Ralph Coker

Bio:  Ralph Coker is a retired petroleum refinery plant manager.  He writes on business, economic, political, military and social topics