USS Constellation heading to Port of Brownsville

The decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Constellation is headed for Brownsville in the morning where it will be scrapped for its metal.
The 62,000-ton carrier will be towed from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington and travel more than 16,000 miles around South America before arriving at the Port of Brownsville sometime in December.
Foss Maritime says its tugboat Corbin Foss will tow the ship. The Kitsap Sun is reporting the departure is scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday, which is high tide.
Construction began on the Constellation, the second of the Kitty Hawk-class of carriers, in 1957 at New York Naval Shipyard in Brooklyn. It was commissioned in October 1961. The vessel was decommissioned in August 2003 at the Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, then towed to the inactive ship facility at Bremerton, Wash.
The Navy is paying International Shipbreakers $3 million to take apart the Constellation. Robert Berry, vice president of the company, said that’s because the towing distance is much longer — all the way down around the Horn of South America and up the other side — compared to other carriers being scrapped at the port.
The Constellation job will take roughly two years to complete, he said, while declining to estimate how much money the company expects to make from the salvaged metal. The steel salvaged from the ship may go to mills in Texas, Mexico or elsewhere around the world, depending on demand, he said.


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State Boosts Incentives for SpaceX

“Ground Control – Boca Chica … we are a go for lift off.”
It won’t likely be Gov. Rick Perry uttering that message, but Perry did, today, announce the State will offer $2.3 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) to land SpaceX’s commercial launch facility around Boca Chica Beach. Perry explained that approval is contingent upon the agreement of all involved agencies and proper processing of required permits.
CEO Elon Musk thanked Gov. Perry and shared about his plans to connect Texas’ Gulf to the collective cosmos. “SpaceX is excited to expand our work in Texas with the world’s first commercial launch complex designed specifically for orbital missions.” Musk said. “We appreciate the support of Gov. Perry and numerous other federal, state, and local officials who have partnered with us to make this vision a reality.” Musk added that “… this site will inspire students, expand the supplier base and attract tourists to eth south Texas area.”
Perry then discussed the project’s potential financial impact, “… This facility will create 300 jobs, and pump $85 million in capital investment into the local economy,” Perry said. “Texas has been on the front of our nation’s space exploration efforts for decades, so it is fitting that SpaceX has chosen our state as they expand the frontiers of commercial space flight,” Perry said. “In addition to growing the aerospace industry in Texas, SpaceX’s facility will provide a myriad of opportunities for STEM education in South Texas, and inspire a new generation of Texas engineers and innovators.” Perry noted that the State will add $13 million to the TEF investment ($2.3 million) to support developing the spaceport’s infrastructure.
State Sen. Eddie Lucio also expressed his excitement at the announcement and shared about what this development means to the Valley. “I couldn’t be happier about (the) announcement, nor more excited about the possibilities this new Texas partnership with SpaceX will produce,” Lucio said. “SpaceX’s future launch site will soon become an invaluable economic driver for South Texas. With this site comes tens of millions of dollars in capital investment in our community annually, and hundreds of well-paying jobs over the next decade.”
For Lucio, this announcement is a major milestone, marking the Valley’s initial foray into space exploration. “I hope the new launch site will propel a dramatic cultural change in our region of the state, encouraging more of our children to pursue careers in engineering and science. Future generations of South Texas residents will look to this site and know that not even the sky is the limit for where their dreams may take them,” he said.
State Rep. Rene Oliveira, too, issued a statement this week that shared praise for SpaceX and promise for the communities he serves. “We are blessed by a great geographical location, overwhelming local support and a generous incentives package from the state,” Oliveira said. “We worked hard at every level to create the best chance possible to bring the project home. It underscores that our local entities are working well together to bring new opportunities to our region.”
House Bill 2623 authored by Oliveira and passed in 2013 allows Cameron County to temporarily close an area of beach for launches and space flight activities with approval of the General Land Office. Oliveira also worked closely with state budget writers to garner a maximum amount of incentives which total about $15 million, according to county records.
Oliveira then acknowledged how this incentive package was a joint effort by elected officials who recognized a vision and had commitment to see the proposal through. “The incentives package received the strong backing of state leadership. The bill was about protecting the citizens’ access to Texas beaches while clearing way for SpaceX to operate in Cameron County,” Oliveira said.
“We have demonstrated to the space industry that we want to be at the forefront of its development in Texas,” he said.  “This is a landmark announcement for the Rio Grande Valley.”
Sasha Heller


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Hearing Held for Second Causeway

Officials with the Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority (CCRMA) hosted a public hearing Tuesday evening at the South Padre Island Convention Center, and explained how area agencies are collaborating to develop a second causeway

Access to South Padre Island is currently provided by a single entry point – the Queen Isabella Memorial Causeway.
According to the Authority records, “Due to the high number of Island visitors, the (causeway) experiences severe congestion during peak periods.” The proposal involves building an alternate access route to and from the South Padre Island and generating economic opportunities for the community. Additionally, the alternate causeway could serve as a crucial evacuation route during an emergency.
Tuesday’s presentation covered how the new causeway will be built in multiple phases: project initiation: planning and programming: preliminary engineering; and design/construct/maintain/output.
The initiation phase will establish the project’s basic framework and expectations, the report reads. Phase two will include two public meetings and is expected to take eight months to complete. Construction techniques, cost estimates, value engineering, and design criteria will compromise phase three, which officials expect to last 23 months.
The CCRMA and Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) have partnered in this longstanding development, and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will reportedly “provide oversight during the development process.”
Records indicate that the second causeway will follow an established development structure: the Executive Committee will oversee the Steering Committee, who, in turn, will manage technical working groups who interact directly with the stakeholders.
“More than 1.5 million Texans and motorists will be impacted by the project.” The report reads.
Officials are still considering various sources of potential financial assistance for the project, including public-private partnerships, toll and/or municipal revenue bonds, shadow trolling, federal grant opportunities, the Texas Mobility Fund and other sources.
A second public hearing, covering the same information, was set for Wednesday evening in Port Isabel but the meeting was canceled due to lack of quorum.

Sasha Heller


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Manatee Sighting on SPI Excites Residents

The salty waters surrounding South Padre Island are home to various marine wildlife, but some islanders were in for a surprise on a recent afternoon when a manatee made an appearance at a local boat dock on the northwest side of the Island, according to Parrot Eyes Water Sports employee Ryan Fuentes.
Fuentes, originally from Miami, is familiar with manatees from his native state but said he hadn’t see one in about nine years. Fuentes said the manatee swam under the pier in search of fresh water to drink.
Fuentes was able to document the encounter by recording a video with his iPhone. The manatee reportedly appeared to be in good health and didn’t have any cuts or injuries.
Tony Reisinger, the Cameron County extension agent for coastal and marine resources with Texas Sea Grant at Texas A&M University, has lived in the area for 32 years and has only heard of a handful of reported manatee sightings here.
Resinger noted that manatees are endangered and are protected by the Marine Mammal and the Endangered Species Acts.
According to Reisinger, manatees can weigh as much as a ton to a ton and a half, but the one spotted near the South Padre Island appeared smaller from the pictures.
Reisinger said the reason for the sighting is unknown but may have occurred for different reasons such as migration, mating or grazing on the lush sea grass meadows common in the Laguna Madre.

Christina R. Garza


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Historic Yacht Club to Get a Face Lift

At nearly 90 years old, the Yacht Club Hotel in Port Isabel has seen better days.
But thanks to efforts by the city of Port Isabel and the Port Isabel Economic Development Corporation, the historic hotel will be restored and renovated as the city’s first culinary arts institute.
PortIsabelCity Manager Edward Meza said the city has received a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration to fund the Port Isabel Culinary Arts Institute.
The institute would have a fully functioning restaurant and kitchen and include a kitchen incubator inside the historic Yacht Club Restaurant and Hotel on the 700 block of Yturria Street in Port Isabel, according the grant proposal by Reyna Network.
The proposal says the institute expects to create new jobs to serve approximately 92 to 155 full-time students per semester.
Meza said the city is in the process of purchasing the Yacht Club Hotel for a reported $750,000


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Winners Announced for the 75th Annual TIFT!


The 75th Texas International Fishing Tournament has come to an end as anglers and their families gathered for the Awards Ceremony on Sunday, August 3, at the South Padre Island Convention Center. With a total registration of 1245 anglers and 421 boats, the 75th saw an increase over last year’s registration numbers.

Highlights included the 685# Blue Marlin broughThe 75th Texas International Fishing Tournament has come to an end as anglers and their families gathered for the Awards Ceremony on Sunday, August 3, at the South Padre Island Convention Center. With a total registration of 1245 anglers and 421 boats, the 75th saw an increase over last year’s registration numbers.t to the weigh-in dock on Friday by the No Compromise team. It was the largest Blue Marlin brought to the dock in over two decades. 

In the OFFSHORE DIVISION, Joey Mahmoud (No Compromise) of Houston took top honors with a total point score of 1370.  Mahmoud also took home prizes for 1st Place Blue Marlin and Highest Offshore Points.

BAY DIVISION was won by Todd Casey of Bayview aboard the Con Madre. With a total of 31.1 points, Casey also won honors for Heaviest Trout and 1st Place Trout.


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Just For the Women - Ladies Kingfish Tournament


Ladies Kingfish Tournament expects 300 anglers

This one is all about the women. The last of three big fishing tournament weekends, anglers will take to the water for the 33rd Annual Ladies Kingfish Tournament on Saturday.
But unlike the Port Mansfield Fishing Tournament and the Texas International Fishing Tournament that precede LKT, the only anglers allowed to compete are women.
Sponsored by the South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce, LKT is expected to draw about 300 fisherwomen, according to Chamber Executive Director Roxanne Guenzel.
“Registration is strong and we’re getting ready for 300 entrants, that’s what we’re expecting,” she said. “We’re scurrying around at the last minute taking care of all the details.”
Many of the competitors don’t bother to early register, instead waiting until the last minute, Guenzel said. “They wait and see what the weather is going to be like and what their families are doing that weekend,” she said.
The only men allowed at LKT are boat captains and deckhands. Women are the only people that can get a line wet. “The ladies enjoy having the focus on them and their fishing abilities,” Guenzel said. “It’s always a fun time.”
LKT has both bay and offshore divisions and are limited to certain species. Bay anglers will be going after redfish, trout and flounder, while the offshore catch is limited to kings, dolphinfish, blackfin tuna and bonito.
Spectators are invited to come out to watch the fish brought to the dock for weigh in at Sea Ranch Marina II at Southpoint in Port Isabel. The weigh in starts at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and runs until 5:30 p.m. for the bay division and 7 p.m. for offshore catches.
On Friday from 4-7 p.m. at the South Padre Island Convention Center is late registration for those last-minute anglers. The awards ceremony will start at 11 a.m. on Sunday at the convention center.
Guenzel said artist Dinah Bowman gas again created original artwork for the trophies.
“This is the ninth year she’s done the artwork, and she does something new and fun every year, so it keeps it fresh,” she said. “We’ve also got some great raffle prizes for the drawing.”


George Cox


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Concerts on the Bay

Free fall shows return for second year to SPI
Weekend evenings this fall on the Laguna Madre waterfront will once again be filled with the sounds of music. Twenty three bands spread out over 12 shows will make up this year’s South Padre Island Concerts on the Bay Series.
“We have booked everything, openers and headliners, and we have some exciting people this year,” said Stormy Wall, one of the concert organizers.
The series of free concerts kick off on Friday, Sept. 19 with headliners DaHeBeGeBees and opening act Nathan Hubble.
Spawned from the Austin musical melting pot of blues, rock, Latin, funk and soul, DaHeBeGeBees will lead the way for a series of performances that will feature the likes of Billy Joe Shaver, Del Castillo, The Brew, Joe Ely, Joe King Carrasco and more will take the stage over six weekends with shows on Friday and Saturday nights.
Wall said one of the shows he’s most looking forward to is the second weekend when Del Castillo will be the only band on stage for the Sept. 20 concert.
“Del Castillo is going to play the whole show, and it could be one of the last times to see them perform together,” he said, referring to changes within the band and the possibility of the musicians going their separate ways.
“Sometimes bands just run their course and they just want to do different things,” he said. “This is a great, great band and we’re lucky to have them.”
Other musical notables Wall mentioned are Texas icons Billy Joe Shaver and Joe Ely, who will perform on Oct. 3 and Oct 18, respectively.
“Billy Joe has got a new record out. When a guy is 75 years old and he’s still playing outlaw country music, I think people ought to come out and see him,” Wall said.
“Joe Ely is another legend and sings about Texas, those sunsets, dusty roads and long lost loves,” he added.
All the shows are free and will be performed on an outdoor stage at the corner of Laguna Boulevard and Ling Street.

George Cox


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VISIONS OF OPPORTUNITY Port Isabel Has New Event and Cultural Center


Port Isabel has a new Event and Cultural Center that officials hope will provide local businesses with opportunities and encourage Port Isabel and South Padre Island to continue to work together.
The ECC recently opened near the PortIsabelHistoricalMuseum in the ChampionBuilding.
ECC director Mari Galvan said the center will provide local businesses with many opportunities. It has an 8,000-square-foot ballroom named the Queen Isabella, which can be divided into two rooms, the Reyna Isabella and El Fronton.
Funding for the $3.9 million center is through a $4 million loan by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Community Facility Program.
City Manager Edward Meza said the Port Isabel Economic Development Corporation was able to match the loan funds with a $1 million contribution. According to a news release from the USDA, the multi-purpose building will host large community gatherings and also serve as an emergency command center and shelter for rural residents during emergency situations, such as hurricanes. It will benefit more than 1,300 community members in the immediate area.
Galvan said the center is expected to bring in an estimated $300,000 a year within the first few years.
The ECC features an emergency operations center called the boardroom to house emergency medical and rescue staff in the event of a natural disaster or state of emergency.
The ECC is designed to be self-sustaining for two-weeks and includes a generator and the latest communications technology for emergency staff to keep in touch with local and state government agencies. The bathrooms include showers for the staff. Galvan said the center and the boardroom are both built with rebar-reinforced concrete block to withstand hurricane-force winds.
Galvan said bringing businesses to the event center is an easy sell.
“A big advantage of hosting an event or training session at the center is that Port Isabel is a walk-around town, meaning that everything is within walking distance and local museums provide fun activities for the families of those traveling to Port Isabel,” Galvan said.
Galvan said the blue aquatic-themed front of the ECC can be seen from the QueenIsabellaMemorialBridge returning from South Padre Island, a sight sure to gain recognition from locals and tourists alike.
Rio GrandeValley residents can look forward to more regional events coming to the area and expanded tourism over the next few years, Galvan said.


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Nature Report: TIFT Bay Grand Champion

The historic 75th Texas International Fishing Tournament is in the record books, and this year's Bay Grand Champion is Captain Todd Casey who fishes out of Port Isabel and South Padre Island.
If you are wondering how the Bay Grand Champ was celebrating the morning after his historic win…well, he was back on the bay fishing with his son Nolan.

Captain Todd Casey says, "Yeah, Nolan has been fishing with me three or four years now in the TIFT tournament."
And if you ask nine-year-old Nolan how long he and this dad have been fishing together he has a ready reply.
Nolan Casey says, "Since I was four."

We are back at Todd's favorite trout hole, and it doesn't take long for him to set the hook on a solid speck.
Captain Casey says, "Pretty good trout I think."

Not quite a tournament size fish, but very tasty table fare.After landing a few more solid trout, Todd reflects on just how many years he has been fishing TIFT and how great it is to finally win.
Captain Todd Casey says, "Since I was in Jr. High I guess…teenager.  I have had some good days and a lot of bad days, but this is the first time I have ever had a chance to win…I did, that was cool."

After father and son catch several more dinner size trout a tournament worthy one is on.  Todd skillfully works the fish to the boat, and soon lifts the 28-inch beauty from the water.

Captain Casey says, "This is the kind of one you want in a tournament."

But this is not a tournament, and Todd gives the trophy trout to Nolan to release.
Nolan says, "We need time for it to grow for next TIFT."
Captain Casey says, "I am sure he will have some great memories, and I will too."

Richard Moore


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