South Padre Island Shuttle Now a Free Ride

All shuttle buses from the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport to South Padre Island are now free.
There are 17 departures leaving the Brownsville South Padre Island airport from 6:15 a.m. until 8 p.m. and 16 return trips from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m.
All shuttles stop in Port Isabel where passengers transfer to South Padre Island’s WAVE, which is also free.  The WAVE then takes riders to their destination on South Padre Island. The WAVE can also take passengers to popular areas of Port Isabel and Laguna Vista at no charge. This offers those vacationing on South Padre Island a little extra value with their stay on SPI.
Valley Metro, which has operated the Airport Shuttle since 2005 previously charge $1, but decided to offer the service at no charge.
Valley Metro’s Executive Director Tomas Logan said the service has been successful from day one, carrying more than 60,000 passengers last year.
“The tremendous ridership on this route continues to grow and now allows us to offer the service at no charge” Logan said.
Metro Connect, a shuttle service that covers the same route is also available at no charge. Metro Connect’s schedule is combined with Valley Metro’s on the Airport’s web site.
The cooperation of several local governments make this service possible including the cities of Brownsville, Port Isabel, South Padre Island, Laguna Vista, Harlingen, and McAllen as well as the Port of Brownsville and the Lower Rio Grande Development Council.
The complete schedule can be viewed online at


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More Land Investments for SpaceX

As the countdown continues towards the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision on SpaceX’s request for permits to launch rockets from a site in Cameron County, Elon Musk’s space exploration firm continues to purchase property at Boca Chica Beach.
The most recent purchases made June 2 come nearly two years to the day when the first purchase of land was made June 6, 2012.
Dogleg Park LLC, on behalf of the California-based Space Exploration Technologies, purchased an additional six lots in Cameron County this month, bringing the total number of lots it owns to 103, comprising about 41 acres of land. This is besides the 56.5 acres that SpaceX has under lease at the location of what would be the world’s first private and commercial vertical launch complex.
Through Dogleg, SpaceX now controls approximately 98 acres of land, in ownership and leaseholds combined.
In another development regarding SpaceX’s plans to develop the world’s first private and commercial vertical launch complex at Boca Chica, Magic Valley Electric Cooperative stands poised to fuel the project.
The FAA’s decision on SpaceX’s request for permits is expected in early July, which would conclude a 30-day period that is underway to allow federal agencies final consultations to resolve outstanding issues if necessary.
The final environmental impact statement (FEIS), which is positive toward the proposal, was recently released, and following FAA’s decision in early July, the next steps would include processing SpaceX’s application for the permits and the firm securing other permits required from other agencies.
But SpaceX started the design of the proposed facility more than a year ago, and even has identified potential providers of services, as the FEIS reflects.
“The SpaceX project, to be located in Boca Chica Beach, does fall under Magic Valley’s service territory and in the event that the project comes to fruition MVEC would be providing electric service to the facilities,” Abraham Quiroga, MVEC’s business and employee development manager told the Valley Morning Star Wednesday.
Quiroga did not respond to a question regarding the possible purchases of light poles.
“However, at this point we cannot disclose further details due to the sensitivity of the project,” he instead responded.
The FEIS notes that new underground power lines would be installed in the state Highway 4 right-of-way from the control center area to the vertical launch area. In addition, existing power lines that lead to Boca Chica Village would need to be upgraded. During this upgrade, the lines that are currently underground would remain underground, and lines that are currently above ground would remain above ground.
MVEC’s service area includes the entire state Hwy 4 corridor between Brownsville and the Boca Chica Village area. Power supply for MVEC is provided by the South Texas Electric Cooperative, the FEIS states.
The FEIS also pointed out that construction of the complex would occur over a 24-month period, and site preparation would include clearing, grading, filling and excavation.
An average of 18 trucks would travel to and from the project site per work day during the 24 months. However, during concrete pours for the facilities, including hangars, the launch pad, the control center buildings and payload processing facilities, up to 60 trucks would transport concrete to the site.
It is pointed out that large amounts of sand and gravel would be needed for the amount of concrete that would be required for the construction. The FEIS states that there are currently numerous suppliers of construction material within the vicinity, including, but not limited to, Samson Sandpit & Materials in Harlingen, Materiales Triple AAA Inc. in Brownsville, P D American Limestone Products in Brownsville, and Cerda Caliche Sand and Gravel in San Benito.
It was also was estimated that 47 workers would be on-site at any one time during the construction , given the final build-out size of the project and the 24-month timeframe.
SpaceX aims to launch the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets and a variety of smaller reusable suborbital vehicles. It has proposed up to 12 launch operations a year, including up to two Falcon Heavy launches, through at least 2025.
The launches would carry experimental or commercial payloads, including satellites. In addition to standard payloads, the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy might also carry a capsule, such as the SpaceX Dragon capsule. All launch trajectories would be to the east over the Gulf of Mexico, according to the FAA.
The site is about 17 miles east-northeast of the Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport and 5 miles south of South Padre Island.



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Chat with SpaceX Head Fuels Optimism


U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, on Wednesday got to explore SpaceX’s new Dragon V2 manned space capsule, on display for one day only at the Newseum in Washington D.C.
He described the experience as “really cool.” The V2, inside and out, looks like a well designed prop from a good science fiction movie. While there’s plenty of science involved, the Dragon is anything but fiction: The next-generation spacecraft is designed to carry up to seven astronauts to Earth’s orbit and beyond, land “propulsively” nearly anywhere on Earth, and be refueled and reflown within a short time.
Vela got to try out one of the astronaut’s seats inside the capsule, alongside Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-California, and Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, D-Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who were also invited to tour the Dragon.
“It’s pretty damn modern from the gadgetry standpoint,” Vela said. “It was really pretty neat.”
During a brief chat with Musk, SpaceX’s chief expressed gratitude for the level of support from Brownsville, Cameron County and the state during the company’s search for a commercial rocket launch site. Vela said he thanked Musk “for what he’s doing for us, for South Texas.”
Vela said Musk also mentioned the space program at the University of Texas at Brownsville.
“He was really impressed with what the kids are doing in the astrophysics department,” he said.
Boca Chica beach appears to be the leading contender for a new SpaceX launch site. The Federal Aviation Administration on May 29 released its final Environmental Impact Statement on the project, which contained no deal breakers.
A 30-day comment period follows the EIS report’s June 6 filing in the Federal Register, and the FAA has until July 7 to review and make a final “record of decision” on the project. SpaceX, meanwhile, continues to acquire land in the area of the proposed launch site.
Vela described himself as “very optimistic” that the Boca Chica project would survive the 30-day comment period.
“After that, SpaceX has a business decision to make.” he said. “There’s no doubt that he’s excited about what’s going on at Boca Chica.”
Vela said the company’s governmental relations team has made many trips to Brownsville and is scheduled to return this September. He noted that SpaceX is already heavily invested in South Texas, not just financially but also in terms of “sweat equity.”
“I see nothing but positive signs and positive energy coming from SpaceX,” Vela said. “I feel really, really optimistic that SpaceX will have a presence in Brownsville.


Steve Clark


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Coast Guard Intercepts Another Lancha

The U.S. Coast Guard intercepted an illegal fishing crew from Mexico near South Padre Island on Monday afternoon during a routine patrol.
A USCG aircrew spotted the four-member crew aboard a 25-foot lancha about 30 miles off of South Padre Island and 18 miles north of the maritime border, according to a news release.
The vessel was at anchor with its outboard engine out of the water and had fishing gear aboard. The crew members were turned over to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers.
On Sunday and last Friday, the USCG also interdicted lanchas.
Since Oct. 1, 2013, 85 lanchas have been spotted, all of which are suspected of illegally poaching in U.S. waters. The USCG has seized 27 boats and chased 33 south across the maritime border.


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Registration Open 3 weekends, 3 big fishing tourneys


Registration is now open for three of the largest fishing tournaments of the summer season along the Texas Gulf Coast.
Starting out the Big Three is the Port Mansfield Fishing Tournament on July 24-27 with bay and offshore divisions for adults and youth.
Hosted by the Port Mansfield Chamber of Commerce, this tournament is that organization’s largest fundraiser of the year.
Registration forms can be downloaded at
Next comes the Texas International Fishing Tournament, the largest saltwater tournament on the Gulf Coast. This will mark the 75th anniversary of TIFT, which features bay, offshore, tarpon and fly-fishing divisions.

Scheduled for July 30 through Aug. 4, TIFT registration information is available at
The following weekend the South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce hosts the Ladies Kingfish Tournament on Aug. 8-10. Only women anglers are allowed to enter the bay and offshore divisions, although men can come along for the ride as boat captains and deck hands.

Registration forms for the LKT can be found online at


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Coast Guard Seizes 450 Red Snapper, Arrests Mexican Crew


The U.S. Coast Guard made a large catch Sunday when it arrested a Mexican crew with 450 illegally caught red snapper, officials said.
The interception of the boat started at 12:30 p.m., 30 miles offshore and about 70 miles north of the U.S. and Mexican border, the USCG reported in a news release.
A HU-25 Falcon jet crew spotted the 25-foot Mexican fishing boat, and a helicopter air crew from Corpus Christi responded and guided a 33-foot vessel from Station South Padre Island, which intercepted the fishermen at 2 p.m. about 33 miles north of the border as they attempted to flee into Mexican waters.
Officials said the fish were packed in ice, and the boat was towed to Station South Padre Island while the four fishing crew members were turned over to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“It appears they stole the daily equivalent of approximately 225 licensed citizens, provided the fish were legal size,” Cmdr. Daniel Deptula said in a press release.
The red snapper fishing season opened last Sunday.


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CCRMA, TxDot, and FHWA are collaborating on the 2nd Causeway

The Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority (CCRMA) in partnership with the Texas Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), are collaborating to provide SPI the 2nd Access.
The proposed project consists of three major factors: the mainland roadway, the Laguna Madre crossing bridge, and the island roadway.
The route under consideration includes a mainland roadway consisting of a four-lane road, crossing across Laguna Madre with about 8 miles of tolled lanes. The total length of the second access is approximately 17.6 miles.
In November 2013, the Texas Transportation Commission approved a $5.1 million funding agreement to be used in the continued study and development of the second access project.  The $5.1 million is used to finalize the draft environmental impact study and for traffic and revenue studies. Once this is done the design, and then the construction of the project can begin.
This is not a short-term project. It’s a long term project and providing a second causeway access will create thousands of jobs over a 30 or 40 year period.
The funding from the Texas Transportation Commission gives an idea of the commitment and importance of the project to the State of Texas


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SpaceX: ‘Hopeful’ About Building Launch Pad on Boca Chica Beach


SpaceX on Thursday told the Valley Morning Star in an email that the company is cautious but “hopeful” about its chances to build a launch site on Boca Chica beach.
“Although Cameron County remains a finalist for the development of a commercial orbital launch complex, the decision will not be made until all technical and regulatory due diligence is complete.
“Following the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement, the FAA will issue a final Record of Decision (ROD). Pending the ROD, there would be several other criteria that will need to be met before SpaceX makes a decision," SpaceX spokeswoman Hannah Post said.
“While the timing of some of these critical steps is not within SpaceX's control, we are hopeful that these will be complete in the near future,” Post added.
The proposed site on Boca Chica beach continues to be the only preferred location for building the world’s first private commercial vertical launch site, according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s final environmental impact statement issued Wednesday and now available for public review.
The report mirrors the earlier draft environmental impact statement, which also found that other alternative sites are not feasible.
Elon Musk’s California-based Space Exploration Technologies hopes to launch the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy orbital vertical launch rockets — which also could carry the Dragon capsule — and a variety of smaller reusable suborbital launch vehicles, from Boca Chica carrying payload for the International Space Station.
SpaceX has proposed up to 12 launch operations a year through at least 2025.
During the next 30 days, a variety of federal agencies will have the opportunity to resolve differences, if any. This FAA’s issuance of its Record of Decision on the proposal would follow.
Check back with the Valley Morning Star throughout the day for SpaceX updates.

BY EMMA PEREZ-TREVIÑO, Valley Morning Star


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Port Isabel Yacht Club Hotel named to Preservation Texas list of Texas’ Most Endangered Places



The Port Isabel Yacht Club Hotel is among the 12 sites that Preservation Texas, Inc. has named to its eleventh annual list of Texas' Most Endangered Places.

Preservation Texas officials announced the selections outside the Texas State Capitol on May 20.

"The 2014 list is a diverse group of sites that reflect the range of preservation issues that historic places throughout the state are confronting," said Evan Thompson, executive director of Preservation Texas. "The sites are cultural, architectural and historic icons that are at imminent risk of disappearing from the landscape. Local grassroots organizations have been working tirelessly in support of these sites. By including them on the 2014 list, we hope to rally Texans statewide to step up and save them by supporting job-creating investments in our state's historic places."

Historic preservation is a billion dollar industry in Texas. Historic sites named to the list of Texas' Most Endangered Places represent some of the biggest economic opportunities to make an impact on local communities through preservation. Preservation Texas provides technical assistance to identify preservation needs and set priorities, fund raising expertise, and assistance in fostering partnerships and building community support.

77 N. Yturria St.
Port Isabel, Cameron County

Built in 1926 as the Point Isabel Yacht Club, its early years were associated with famed citrus grower John Shary. Located on the Intracoastal Waterway, the club was soon expanded to include numerous rooms for visitors. Noted guests ranged from Warren Harding to Al Capone to Amelia Earhart. The Spanish Colonial Renaissance building stands as a vivid reminder of Gulf Coast development during the roaring 20s.

Today, the building is in need of restoration. Having condemned the building in recent years, the City of Port Isabel is working to acquire the building and seeks to adapt it for office, educational and cultural uses. This early 20th century landmark on the Texas coast can serve as a model for the creative repurposing of an old building while inspiring preservation of other important architectural and cultural sites in Cameron County.

Sites named to the 2014 list are:

Abilene Courts
Abilene, Taylor County
Brinkley Davis House
Limestone County
Camp Logan / Hogg Bird Sanctuary
Houston, Harris County
Clay House
Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches County
Dorbandt House
Marble Falls, Burnet County
Jefferson Ordnance Magazine
Jefferson, Marion County
Lerma's Nite Club
San Antonio, Bexar County
Mary Allen Seminary
Crockett, Houston County
Oňate Crossing/Hart's Mill/Old Fort Bliss
El Paso, El Paso County
Pig Stand No. 41
Beaumont, Jefferson County
Port Isabel Yacht Club Hotel
Port Isabel, Cameron County
Reynolds-Seaquist House
Mason, Mason County

Thompson noted that the sites included on the 2014 list reflect increased awareness of the importance of historic preservation in supporting landmarks in small communities. "Passion and determination in these communities are strong, but badly managed land use planning, coupled with a lack of financial resources and professional guidance present serious challenges," he said.

Preservation Texas, Inc. is the advocate for preserving the historic resources of Texas. Founded in 1985, the nonprofit organization named its first list of endangered sites in 2004. Its Most Endangered Places program is funded in part by grants and sponsorships from across the state.

For more information on Texas' Most Endangered Places, visit, or phone Preservation Texas, Inc. at 512-472-0102.


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Nature Notes: Refuge Captures Another Young Ocelot


Another young ocelot has been found at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, making it the second juvenile ocelot discovered this year.
Officials at the refuge said the young male is believed to be 12 to 14 months old. He was recently captured on the refuge.
This ocelot seems to appear healthy, wildlife biologist Hilary Swarts said. The refuge has about 50 cameras on the refuge that are used to track the ocelots.
Because the cat’s coat pattern did not match any of the other ocelots from the refuge’s collection of trip cameras, officials knew that he must be a newly found ocelot.
“Each ocelot has a unique coat pattern like a human fingerprint,” Swarts said. “This is new young one and his patterns didn’t match anybody we already have (on camera).”
Swarts said although the ocelot is a juvenile, it will more than likely travel alongside its mother for about a year. Another ocelot, a female, was discovered on the refuge in March. Swarts said the fact that two ocelots have now been found leads officials to believe that there could be more ocelots in the area that have yet to be detected. The current number of ocelots on the refuge is 12, with five females and seven males. The estimated number of ocelots in Texas is less than 50.


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