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Future Use for Harbor Island

Recent issues of the “Island Moon” indicate Harbor Island will not be used for a VOCC supertanker dock.  The final resolution was a good outcome for all concerned.  However, the question remains “What will be the future use for Harbor Island?”  Before the Port bought Harbor Island it was the site of an oil storage tank farm.  As a result, the water table under Harbor Island contains oil from previous tank leaks. The Port has remediated that oil to the degree possible with current technology.  Harbor Island is suitable for other oil and gas facility use but cannot economically make suitable for residential or light commercial use with the present technology available.

Because of its location on the ship channel and Intracoastal canal, that site would be ideal for a petrochemical plastics plant.  Several existing local plants produce large quantities of petrochemical raw materials that are liquid and could be transported to Harbor Island by pipeline.  The plastic products are a solid pellet and could be shipped to market through the Intracoastal canal to the Mississippi River Valley states.  It could also be shipped through the ship channel to all global markets in Asia and Europe. Such petrochemical plastic plants cost from about $2 billion to $3 billion.  What would that size addition to the tax base do for Port Aransas city government and the school district?  Most cities that size would die for such a plant.

Petrochemical plastic plants use towers, vessels, and lots of piping and to a layperson may look like a refinery.  They are not.  The petrochemical plastic process is very environmentally clean and odor-free. Such a plant would be a huge asset to Port Aransas residents and the local area economy.  It, too, would be the best resolution for all concerned.

Ship Channel sites at the Port are scarce. Neither the Port nor the local economy can afford for that site to remain unused.  During the recent dispute, Port Aransas was concerned about fire protection for the planned VLCC docks.  Fire protection for a new petrochemical plastics plant would be provided by the Refinery Terminal Fire Company which is a Cooperative funded entirely by its members.  The Port also has a marine fire fighting barge staffed by Port firefighters for ship and barge fires.  Port Aransas would have no responsibility or cost for fire protection.

The plastics plant would have its own security staff and would require no police services from Port Aransas.  The plastics plant would provide a huge new tax revenue source to Port Aransas and the school district and require no city services.  It would bring thousands of high paying craft jobs during construction and hundreds of high paying permanent skilled jobs.  By comparison, typical tourist industry jobs pay minimum wages of $7.25 per hour.  During the current pandemic, most tourist industry jobs were lost while no petrochemical jobs were lost.

Author; Ralph Coker

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