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Council approves desalination loan

Council approves desalination loan
Posted at 4:51 PM, Aug 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-25 23:03:32-04

The Corpus Christi City Council has voted 6-3 to accept the first $11.4 million of a $222 million loan from the Texas Water Development Board to build a desalination plant.

The loans come from the TWDB's State Water Implementation Fund for Texas, or SWIFT.

The loan will help pay for a desalination plant in the city's inner harbor along the ship harbor.

It was one of 11 approved for funding by the TWDB out of hundreds of applications from around the state.

Uses for this first installment include design, land acquisition and permitting.

Mayor Joe McComb calls today's vote the next step, in a process that started in 2001.

"These things take a long time, so this is just the normal planning process," said McComb. "We're not going to be spending all the money at one time, it won't impact the rates for several years, and in many degrees, it will have a very minimal impact."

City officials estimate the average rate payer will eventually see a monthly an increase of $1.82 to $3.12 on their water bills to help cover the cost of the desal plant. That's because the city's largest industrial water users are paying in to a fund specifically to help pay for desal.

"We’re just trying to do the best we can, maximize the money we are going to be spending, keep our rates down to where people can afford them without rate shock, and have an uninterruptible water supply," McComb said. "It’s real simple."

Even though industry will help pay for the plant, McComb says the plant will provide water to both residential and industrial water customers.

"This is potable water," said McComb. "It's going to be used for everybody; you can use it to cook with, shower with. You can use it to wash you clothes, wash your car."

Council members Gil Hernandez, Paulette Guajardo and Rudy Garza Jr. voted against the measure. Each voiced concerns about not having enough information to move forward.

"I believe any decision we make, that we're spending taxpayer dollars, we need to know the cost, in this case, of the alternatives to what we're spending today, which is $11.4 million," said Guajardo.

Hernandez has consistently voiced opposition to the way the city has pursued a desal plant. He has concerns that the city is locked in to a "design and build" project, rather than exploring other options.

"I wanted to see other options, all we're seeing is design/build," said Hernandez. "We're not looking at build/own/operate, we're not looking at (private/public partnerships), we're not looking at a lot of things with pricing."

The TWDB set a Sept. 8 deadline to accept its loan offer.

The measure still needs to be approved by the council in a second vote.