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The Texas Shrimp Association may be in line for a $300,000 grant from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which will distribute a portion of the billions of dollars in RESTORE Act money generated by fines paid out by BP stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster.

TSA is a nonprofit trade group representing the TexasGulf shrimp industry since the early 1950s. The organization is comprised of — and solely funded by — 275 shrimp vessel owners and roughly 200 affiliate members from Texas ports and neighboring states.

The proposed grant is included in a draft project list of more than 200 Texas projects totaling $1.1 billion that were submitted for RESTORE Act funds. The list will go into creation of a draft “Multi-Year Implementation Plan,” which eventually will be posted in the Texas Register for a 45-day public comment period before a final MIP is developed. That document then will be submitted to the Treasury Department for final approval.

In other words, the grant isn’t a done deal, though TSA Executive Director Andrea Hance is keeping her fingers crossed. TSA would use part of the money for marketing and promotion, part of it for consumer education and tourism — including shrimp tours for Winter Texans — and some of it for social media campaigns that market wild-caught Gulf shrimp directly to consumers as opposed to restaurants, she said.

“We’ve had good luck with social media,” Hance said. “We get a lot of exposure doing that.”

Hance said she didn’t have high hopes for winning the RESTORE grant, for which TSA applied in April, partnering with the Texas Department of Agriculture on the application, though being passed over wouldn’t be for lack of trying.

“We did a lot of campaigning for this RESTORE Act (funding),” she said. “We went around and talked to politicians and the community basically saying, ‘We deserve some of this money.’”

A Feb. 21 TSA press release quoted state Sen. Eddie Lucio describing shrimping as “the most important commercial fishing industry in Texas” and expressing gratitude to TCEQ for including TSA’s grant submission in the draft project list.

While Texas’ shrimping grounds weren’t impacted directly by oil from the 2010 spill, Texas shrimpers certainly were, Hance said.

“We were still affected to some degree, because when that oil spill took place it was right when our season closed,” she said. “Our fleets were forced to shrimp in Louisiana and Mississippi. We were over there shrimping just as much as the guys in Louisiana and Mississippi. Our catch was affected.”

If TSA ultimately wins the grant, it will be the first time the group has received help from the state, even if the RESTORE Act funds originate with the federal government, she said.

“Hopefully this is the start of bigger things,” Hance said.

It’s difficult on TSA’s limited budget to promote an industry beset by “heavy regulation, pressing economic challenges and the flood of inexpensive imported shrimp,” she said. Hance noted the industry also is bucking a lingering misconception among some members of the public that Gulf shrimp are tainted since the BP disaster.

If TSA wins the grant, it will be required to monitor how the money is spent and measure the effectiveness of those expenditures, she said.

“If we continue to do that there may possibly be other grants we can apply for,” she said. “I’m looking forward to getting my hands on this money so we can take it up to the next level.”

By STEVE CLARK Staff Writer

It won’t be long now before the public will have access from a city park to waters of the Laguna Madre for fishing, boating and more.

Plans for the renovation of Washington Park and phase two of Galvan Park should begin in the fall.

The city is the recipient of two Texas Parks and Wildlife Grants worth $575,000 to fix its city parks.

City Administrator Jared Hockema said following a meeting with Texas Parks and Wildlife the projects should be complete in about nine to 12 months.

The Texas Wildlife Department announced the grant recipients last Thursday.

“If the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation had not given us $500,000 in matching funds, we could not have got this done,” Hockema said.

Port Isabel was the recipient of a TPW $500,000 non-urban outdoor grant for its Arturo Galvan Coastal Park project.

The proposed development includes habitat restoration, a nature trail, benches, interpretive signs, picnic tables with grills, a birding blind, a playground, a renovated paddling launch and parking.

The Arturo Galvan Coastal Park project will give residents access to the water for fishing and paddle boats.

Phase one of the Galvan Coastal Park was started with the initial $500,000 grant from the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation to promote health and wellness in the community.

“We are certainly looking forward to this project,” Hockema said. “It’s going to be a big addition to our park system and the community.”

The city will also receive a $75,000 small community grant for its Washington Park project.

Proposed developments include renovation of the existing basketball court with a pavilion and exercise equipment area, fencing, landscaping, interpretive signs and a barbecue pit.

“We are very excited and certainly looking forward to these projects,” Hockema said.

By RAUL GARCIA Staff Writer

Though the beats are still bumping at the beach and bayside parties, Spring Break 2017 is quickly winding down, it seems.

Once again, the seasons are changing — Monday ushered in the first official day of spring with sunny skies and a warm breeze. As our college coed guests make their way back to their respective campuses folks here will soon start making preparations for the rest of the tourist season. Up next are Semana Santa, or Holy Week, followed by Memorial Day, Independence Day and more.

This year’s mild winter means the spring wildflower bloom has begun across the state. In some places it’s felt like the flowers got a bit of a head start. In Big Bend country, for instance, people were reporting seeing bluebonnets as early as February, though the high desert’s unique and harsh climate may have had a little something to do with that.

Soon, too, our feathered friends will begin their long treks northward heading to their summer grounds. Some have already begun the journey. I hope my one of my favorite species, the osprey, will keep hanging around for a few weeks yet.

I haven’t been out birding like I wish I could, so I haven’t seen what kinds of avian migrants have been making their way through our area, but I do remember one year where the Island and the Laguna Madre region got a special treat.

I think it was early in 2013. The winter hadn’t been too bad that season, either. Dozens of species of birds were already mid-migration when we got a brief but strong cold snap. It was such a short cold front. It was really only chilly for about a day, and maybe slightly cooler than normal for another day or two after that, but that was all it took.

Suddenly, by the hundreds, birds were practically dropping out of the sky, shocked as they were by the sudden cold weather. Birders even have a term for it: it was a fallout.

The exhaustion from the their long trip, in combination with the unexpected appearance of a cold headwind, was too much for the tiny creatures who desperately began searching for any spit of land where they could land to rest.

South Padre Island became that first sight of land and soon every tree, bush, shrub, decorative pond and bit of green space was filled with warblers, indigo and painted buntings, orioles and more.

Local birders began scrambling to help the little guys out by placing pieces of citrus fruit and birdseed at busy gathering spots. I remember going down to the Convention Centre with a camera in hand; I wasn’t the only one. Dozens of people showed up to take in the spectacle. The birds didn’t seem to mind as they happily pecked at the fruit or bathed themselves in a little water feature not far from the Wyland Wall. As the sun climbed higher into the sky, its warmth spreading among us, the birdsong grew louder as well. It was perhaps one of the best symphonies I’ve heard.

Now, you might not see so many different kinds of birds all at once unless another fallout happens, but if you look closely, you’d be surprised what colorful surprises await you in the trees and brush in the coming weeks.


They’re hoping for good news, but they need your help.

Friends of Animal Rescue on SPI has been selected as one of the five finalists for Animal Planet’s Pet Nation Renovation.

In order for a crew from Animal Planet to come and give the shelter a much-needed makeover, your votes are important.

“We need this,” said Sherry Pindard, the director of operations at the shelter. “We work really hard and do a great job with what we have, but our shelter definitely needs to be renovated and updated. That way, we can not only continue helping animals in need, but help more animals in need. They deserve it.”

By going to http://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/pet-nation-renovation-interactive/#vote, you can watch the five videos of the finalists.

The three- to four-minute videos show each of the shelters, which two are from California, one from Michigan and one from Colorado.

Each of them discusses why they are deserving of the renovation.

“I put hours into that video and I am really proud of it,” said Jamie Whetstone, the coordinator of grants and communications at the shelter. “But there are so many shelters that enter this contest and I didn’t think we would actually get picked. It still feels surreal, but I am beyond excited. Friends is an awesome organization and definitely deserves this.”

The shelter found out on March 16 that they had been chosen as one of the top five.

The shelter becomes home to about 600 animals each year, including wildlife, which they nurture back to life.

The shelter can hold about 30 at a time, but has had as many as 68 at once.

The shelter receives very little funding from the city, so it is operated on donations and proceeds from the Rescue ME Resale shop.

Because of that, income is different every year, making it difficult to plan for any renovations.

There is one thing Friends knows for sure, though.

“The animals are our number one priority, always,” Whetstone said.


Step 1: Go to http://bit.ly/Vote4FOAR

Step 2: Scroll down the page until you see Friends of Animal Rescue

Step 3: Click inside the “select” circle

Step 4: Click “submit your vote.”

Public voting runs through April 2

About Friends of Animal Rescue

It was formed in 2010 to assist the city of Port Isabel when the city took control of the Isabel Y. Garcia Animal Shelter. After placing the shelter’s 400 animals, Friends refocused efforts toward the animals on South Padre Island.

“We believe there is a home for each and every homeless animal.”


Friends of Animal Rescue

South Padre Island, Texas

Founded in 2010

San Gabriel Valley Humane Society

San Gabriel, California

Founded in 1924

Westminster Adoption Group and Services (Wags)

Westminster, California

Founded in 2011

La Plata County Humane Society

Durango, Colorado

Serving for 45 years

Al-Van Humane Society

South Haven, Michigan

Founded in 1968

By Pamela Cody, Staff writer

City officials, administration and staff were thanked Cajun style for all their hard work they do during Spring Break.

“We are just very, very thankful that the community came together to do this event to honor and appreciate all the city employees,” said Susan Guthrie, SPI city manager. “They (city employees) have worked so hard over the last two weeks to make sure our community is clean, safe and well prepared for all the visitors.”

Thursday was the first time the community put together a luncheon for the city employees to thank them for all their hard work.

Guthrie said it was rewarding for her to see the members of the community come together to recognize and thank the staff.

The police force took some time off patrolling the beach to pull some crawfish shells off to eat with some shrimp, sausage and potatoes.

Everyone was there from the mayor on down to the beach patrol enjoying the afternoon together over a late lunch.

“We have a long Spring Break here and our police department and our beach cleanup work hard to maintain the Island and keep things in order,” said Timothy Beavers, event organizer. “Everything was donated by business owners and community members.”

He said it’s a way to thank them for what they do around this time and all year round.

“It was a pretty hectic time for them,” Beavers said. “They were definitely very busy 24 hours a day.”

The event was the first of its kind and the hope is the luncheon will continue to happen every year from now on.

“It’s so great to live in a community that cares this much,” Rod Hunter, an Island photographer, said on his

By RAUL GARCIA Staff Writer

Selling parking spaces means big bucks for local organizations.

The South Padre Island Convention Centre partnered with three local nonprofits, Friends of Animal Rescue, Sea Turtle, Inc., and the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center, to help them earn close to $35,000 during Texas Week of Spring Break 2017.

Sherry Pindard, director of operations for Friends of Animal Rescue said, “Our furry friends say thank you for the opportunity to make some much needed money over Spring Break. A huge thank you to the city staff as they made our job easy.”

The City of South Padre Island granted the three groups access to the City’s Convention Centre parking lots, which have 360 parking spaces.

The three groups managed the parking lots from March 14 to 18.

The three organizations charged visitors $10 to park in the lots.

“We are pleased to have been able to partner with our local nonprofits to provide this important service for our visitors,” said City Manager Susan Guthrie. “It’s a win-win partnership.”

A large-scale artificial-reefing project to substantially boost the local red snapper population is making strides, having received additional backing from the Coastal Conservation Association Texas and CCA’s national habitat program, Building Conservation Trust.

The Rio Grande Valley Reef project, which will eventually cover 1,650 acres in Texas state waters roughly 14 nautical miles north of the South Padre Island jetties and eight miles offshore, received $55,000 for 2017 in addition to $200,000 CCA and BCT have already put into the project.

Gary Glick, president of Friends of RGV Reef, which is spearheading the project, said the funding is used to transport reef materials to the site and that the organization owes CCA and BCT “a great debt of gratitude” for the support.

Friends of RGV Reef sank two derelict boats in November at the reef site with help from CCA and BCT, the Texas International Fishing Tournament and others. The sunken boats serve as “high-relief” reef, meant to attract large fish. Awaiting deployment at the Port of Brownsville are 3,000 tons of large concrete structures — box culverts, drain pipe, highway dividers, whole and in pieces — donated by Foremost Paving Inc. and to be used for mid-relief reef.

Glick said the project wouldn’t be possible without the port’s donation of a lease adjacent to the ship channel, with easy barge access, for the storage of reef material. It includes 20 truckloads of concrete roof tiles donated by the city of McAllen that Glick thinks will make quality habitat for baby red snapper. Watermill Express also donated several steel-reinforced concrete water-kiosk shells.

“What we’re short of now is pieces of concrete that are from six inches to five feet, broken concrete,” Glick said. “It’s that nice rugged stuff that we can add to all of this high-relief reef to flesh out its rugosity. I need people to give me their broken, clean concrete.”

In marine science, “rugosity” refers to small variations in the roughness of the seafloor — the more the better in terms of fish habitat. The piles of concrete material stored at the port are due for sinking in mid-May, along with some 200 tons of 2- to 6-inch limestone rubble, Glick said.

By STEVE CLARK | Staff Writer

The Coahilitecan Indians originally inhabited this land. As early as 1526 the area that would one day be Port Isabel had been discovered by Spanish gold seekers. It later was a favorite rendezvous place for Caribbean pirates.

The land was inhospitable to only the hardiest Spaniards coming north from New Spain (Mexico), however Martin de Leon, later founder of Victoria, and Ramon Lafon, a former French privateer, brought the harbor of Brazos de Santa Iago (literally the Arms of Saint James and later transliterated to simply Brazos Santiago) to the attention of the Mexican government in 1823.

Some merchants of New Orleans also took notice of trade possibilities at this place, for the Congregation of Refugio, south of the Rio Grande, had grown into the village of Matamoros and was using Brazos Santiago as its port. Supplies to the village took one of two routes. One was overland via the Palo Alto plain while the second was south down Brazos Island, across the Boca Chica channel and then to Matamoros.

Around the late 1820s, Rafael Garcia of Matamoros, his family, and his vaqueros were using the unclaimed area in public domain, later known as the Santa Isabel Tract and earlier as Potrero (pasture) de Santa Ysabel, to graze his wife’s cattle. He then sought to legitimize a claim for the land by requesting a Mexican land grant.

Other individuals had the same idea for surrounding lands. On January 30, 1828, the Alcade of Matamoros ordered the surveying of the lands north of the river and known as Buena Vista, San Martin, and Santa Ysabel. Then on January 24, 1829 (The Texas General Land Office records differ with this date), after much communication between the Alcade and the Tamaulipas state government, an award was made of Santa Ysabel to Rafael Garcia, who at one point had indicated to the Alcade that he didn’t own the land in this jurisdiction, but the very land sought to be awarded was being used for pasturage, belonged to his wife, and was needed for her numerous livestock.

The grant contained 7 sitios, 9 caballerias, and 165,328 square varias by Spanish land measures or 32, 355 acres by English measures. This grant was later inherited by Rafael Garcia’s widow Guadalupe Cisneros Garcia and his two daughters Maria Garcia de Tarnava and Felipa Garcia de Manautou.

The grant area would later contain the settlement designated as “El Fronton de Santa Ysabel (Bluff of Saint Isabel). It took its name from the perpendicular-faced bluff that looked toward Brazos Santiago Pass. It was the site of a ranch settlement, owned by Don Rafael Garcia, who continued to live in Matamoros but had hired hands running the ranch.

Upon the dedication of a THC marker in Port Isabel on June 9, 1996 the Laguna Madre Museum Foundation offered this information in the dedication brochure: Port of Matamoros “During the 1800s when this region was Mexican territory the Rio Grande del Norte was unnavigable to most Gulf sailing vessels.

Hazardous shifting sand and clay bars at the river’s deltaic mouth prevented shipping from reaching the settlement of Matamoros. The closest natural passage through the barrier islands was at Brazos Santiago (Boca Chica and Padre [should correctly state Brazos Island and Padre Island]). This pass afforded a sheltered and accessible port in the Laguna Madre at Point Isabel.

Established in 1824, commercial cargo from New Orleans and other Gulf ports were off-loaded at this new port.

From here material was carted overland across tidal flats to the river, then ferried and rafted to Matamoros. Mexican cities of Reynosa, Camargo, Mier, and Monterrey relied on this commerce route.

The Mexican government maintained a garrison and one navy ship at Point Isabel. This was particularly important during the Texas revolution of 1836-37. Jurisdiction over the port was settled in 1846 when General Zachary Taylor’s troops occupied the area at the outset of the Mexican-American War.” A Texas Historical Commission marker now in Port Isabel adds: “The Mexican custom station was located here in 1844, after the villages of Brazos Santiago and Boca Del Rio were swept away by storms.

Goods landed here were at once freighted inland to Matamoros.” In the Matamoros newspaper “Latiga de Tejas”, Andres Pineda wrote of the 1844 hurricane that entered the mouth of the Rio Grande. He noted that all structures at Fronton had been destroyed with the exception of that of Hipolita Gonzales that stood on the area’s highest ground.

On September 18, 2016 Edward Pro Meza spoke to the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Genealogy Society on the subject of Port Isabel Families. Mr. Meza was at one time director of the Port Isabel Museums before becoming city manager of that city. He noted, that in 1829, Don Rafael Garcia was given the grant of Santa Ysabel by the government of Mexico.

The family continued to own considerable acreage in the grant for many years. In the early years of what would become Point Isabel (and in 1922 Port Isabel) the family surnames of Garcia, Longoria, Vega, Zamora, Martinez, Barrera, Zurita, Gonzales, Yturria, Olives, Solis, and Gomez would be most common. Later the Garzas from Matamoros and Burrita, Mexico would establish themselves in the town as did the Simo family.

Efforts to build a railroad line to Brownsville in the 1850s did not succeed, but after the Civil War, in 1866, public demands for a rail line to Browns ville were met by Rio Grande steamboat interests, which chartered but refrained from building the road. In 1871, competitors formed the Rio Grande Railroad Company, obtained a charter, and put the line into service in 1873 from Brownsville to a terminus here (450 feet south of the present THC marker). The line served until 1933 when a deep water channel was built to Brownsville.

Upon the arrival of the railroad to the coast, the town moved south to its present location on a point jutting into the bay, hence the combination of Point from the geography and Isabel from the grant. This explanation for the town’s name may seem at odds with the following fact: After the Mexican War (1846-1848), the United States Post Office of “Point Isabel” was created on April 9, 1849. Yet historian Alicia A. Garza notes a Mexican Post Office with the name Punta (Spanish for point) Isabel in June 1845 and adds to the confusion by stating that the names of the community and post office were changed to Brazos Santiago when the Oblates of Mary Immaculate arrived in 1849. In 1850 Port Isabel was the second largest town in the area and, which by 1859, was exporting $10 million dollars worth of cotton annually.

By NORMAN ROZEFF Special to the Star

Swimmers will once again have a chance to race each other in the Laguna Madre’s open water. Organizers have announced they will be bringing their popular swimming festival back to the Island.

Last year, more than 100 swimmers participated in the Island’s Open Water Planet Festival hosted by NBC Olympic Commentator Rowdy Gaines and four-time Olympic gold medalist Lenny Krayzelburg.

This year the organizers are billing the Open Water Festival on the Island as its finale of four swimming competitions called the Triton Series that will be held in Texas and Colorado.

Open Water Planet is an event management and lifestyle specific brand, dedicated to supporting the open water swimming and open water sports community.

The new, unique locations offer swimmers an opportunity to compete in a river, a lake and an ocean, bay all in the same series.

The Triton River ONE on the Comal River is in April, the Triton Boulder hits Colorado in August, the Triton Austin in September to benefit Colin’s Hope and now the South Padre Island Open Water Festival in November.

Additional activities, including tubing through chutes in the river, sprint racing across sand at the beach and relay options in the longer events remind everyone to make sure they are having fun along the way.

Casey Taker, one of the organizers, said the Triton Series is designed for both local and traveling adventure competitors and each location offers a full weekend of events. Local partnerships provide unique spins on local activities. It is shaping up to be something completely different in the aquatic community.

“The Triton Series is designed to create a new type of aquatic athlete with a deep understanding of not just open water swimming, but of how to handle anything that the water and surrounding conditions might throw at them,” said Bobby Brewer, OWP CEO. “These events are designed to train the body and mind to be comfortable, safe and competitive in all water conditions.”

The swimming series offers swimmers the opportunity to swim a range of distances in a variety of conditions, and even throws in a few obstacles along the way.

Following the 2016 Island event, however, OWP had remained fairly quiet about their 2017 schedule.

But they burst back onto the scene with the announcement of their four 2017 Triton Series events.

“We weren’t trying to build suspense. I promise,” Taker said as she laughed with OWP chief operating officer. “Our original vision for this company was to provide experiences for swimmers unlike any other.”

Taker said after their South Padre event, they realized the Open Water Festival was so much more.

“We want to provide opportunities to not only swim in some amazing locations, but produce a more well-rounded program that allows swimmers to enjoy a new twist on this sport,” Taker said.

“So we took our time in developing this series, and we were super choosy about where and how we wanted to host these events.”

By RAUL GARCIA Staff writer