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The Texas Department of Transportation will soon begin installing barriers along a portion of Highway 48 to help save the lives of Brown pelicans on the roadway.

Construction crews are dismantling the outside barriers in the area and will replace them with new ones that will have spaces in them to help mitigate the vortex that occurs when cold fronts move through the Rio Grande Valley. Right now the barriers are solid.

“We had a natural phenomenon causing danger to the Brown pelican and the traveling public,” TxDOT Spokesman Octavio Saenz said. “The pelicans would land but they had trouble taking off.”

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute conducted the study “Computational Fluid Dynamics” for TxDOT that determined the feasibility of replacing the outside walls that would reduce an air vortex in the area. TxDOT then started to develop the preliminary design of the outside barrier that will be made up of concrete and metal. It will be the first of its kind used in the state of Texas.

The new design should arrive within the next week and the installation of the barriers should begin in about four to five weeks. It is from 0.38 miles west of the Bahia Grande to 0.58 miles east of Bahia Grande. It will take about five months to complete providing the weather cooperates. The project’s cost is $2.4 million.

“The whole purpose is to improve the safety of the pelicans and mitigate that wild life crossing risk,” Saenz said. “Safety is our main concern…Hopefully, it will be ready to go so that this upcoming season we can mitigate that phenomenon that had been occurring annually.”

Pelican fatalities on Highway 48 have occurred over the past several years and they occur as soon as cold weather moves into the Valley.

On Oct. 22, 2018, more than 40 pelicans were struck and killed by motorists traveling on the highway from Brownsville to Port Isabel.

Saenz said whenever there were strong northerly winds of 20 mph or more the pelicans were unable to take off. TxDOT in January 2015 installed pelican poles — such as was done in Florida — that were to help the pelicans gain more altitude when they flew through the area.

Although TxDOT did a road kill study in 2015 and 2016 that indicated the poles were working to “some degree,” the study also revealed the pelicans were changing their flight patterns and were flying around the poles instead of over them.

TxDOT hopes the new barriers will prevent pelican deaths.

Boyd Blihovde, refuge manager at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, said he’s hopeful that this is the only thing that is needed and is the solution to help the pelicans from “getting knocked down by the wind” as they land on the road.

He said he was and is still inspired by the community and volunteers who showed up to rescue the pelicans from the roads. “Once they (the pelicans) were knocked there on the road they couldn’t really fly. It took people to go out and really risk their lives to get the pelicans off the road and save them from being hit by cars.”

“In some cases they were attempting to slow vehicles down but in other cases they were just running out and watching for traffic and trying to get the birds off the road. Luckily nobody got hurt,” Blihovde said.

He estimates the volunteers helped save hundreds of pelicans over the past two years.

“Hopefully, this year our cold fronts don’t come too early and the contractor has time to finish the job and we will be able to see if it works…hopefully this will be all that’s needed,” Blihovde said.


Isla Blanca Park visitors will now be able to experience the marvels of newly constructed pavilions — designed for family gatherings and enhanced access to the beach,

Cameron County officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday afternoon in celebration of the completion of improvements to the gulf-side amenities at Isla Blanca.

Improvements include the reconstruction of the park’s Sandpiper Pavilion and the D.J. Lerma Pavilion.

The structures have amenities such as rinse stations, restrooms, concession and barbecue areas, picnic tables and dune walkovers.

Additional features include improvements to gulf-side trails and roads, the development of a lighted beachfront boardwalk with shade structures connecting the two pavilions and parking improvements that include Americans with Disabilities Act accessible parking.

“These improvements not only improve the aesthetics of the park, but also provide economic development opportunities for Cameron County and for South Padre Island,” County Judge Eddie Trevino said during the ceremony.

According to county officials, the pavilions were built 200 feet landward from their original site with a conservation dune system seawards of the pavilion to protect the structures.

Natalie Bell, Beach Access and Dune Protection Program Manager for the Texas General Land Office, described the project as a symbol of Cameron County’s commitment to public beaches and to the people who visit them.

“This represents a significant investment and the enhancement of beach access,” Bell said during the ceremony. “It also represents one of the best examples of coastal resilience and responsible development that I have seen in the state of Texas.”

Cameron County constructed Isla Blanca Park’s conservation dune system and dune mitigation project in conjunction with Texas A&M University-Kingsville, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the Cameron County Native Plant Center.

The $17 million project began in 2018 and was completed in phases to accommodate Isla Blanca Park visitors during construction.

Funding was financed through bonds and paid for by beach user fees.

The pavilion improvements are a part of the Coastal Park Master Plan the Cameron County Commissioners Court adopted in 2015, which resulted in other additions and improvements such as a multipurpose building and amphitheater.

According to Trevino, the county has invested more than $30 million in revamping some county coastal parks on the Island and enhancing public beach access.

According to Cameron County officials, Isla Blanca Park draws in more than a million visitors annually.

Trevino said he is excited the gulf-side improvements at Isla Blanca are now completed.

“Isla Blanca Park is one of the most popular coastal parks, not only on South Padre Island, but throughout the Gulf Coast,” he said during the ceremony. “For many years, this park provided a place for families to gather and enjoy this beautiful beach by the Gulf of Mexico.”


• Reconstruction of the Sandpiper Pavilion and the D.J. Lerma Pavilion.

• The pavilions have picnic tables, rinse stations, restrooms, concession areas, barbecue areas and dune walkovers.

• The development of a lighted beachfront boardwalk with shade structures connecting the two pavilions.

• Parking improvements that include Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible parking.

• Improvements to Gulfside trails and roads.

Alana Hernandez

Hawthorne-based SpaceX successfully completed the highest test flight yet for its newest rocket engine and a prototype of its future Starship spacecraft at its development facility in Boca Chica, Texas on Tuesday, Aug. 27.

The test flight of the company’s so-called Starhopper was aired by SpaceX live on Youtubeshowing the craft, which looks like a barrel-shaped silver water tank, lift off the ground gracefully and hover in flight as it moved sideways in an impressive display of rocket science.

The maneuver is meant to replicate landing on a distant land and then taking off again. But instead of one Raptor engine on the Starhopper, the Starship — which is expected to be the spacecraft that ferries humans to the moon and eventually to Mars — will use six Raptor engines, based on preliminary designs so far.

The test flights at the South Padre facility resemble those the company performed during development of its Falcon 9 booster to enable it to descend back to Earth for subsequent reuse. Stabilizing jets, just like on the Starhopper, fire from the sides in order to keep the craft properly aligned on its descent.

Shortly after the test flight Tuesday, SpaceX founder Elon Musk heralded its success.

“One day Starship will land on the rusty sands of Mars,” he tweeted.

Tuesday’s test flight came on the second day of a three-day window established by the Federal Aviation Administration and coordinated with the Cameron County Sheriff’s Department to close an adjacent highway and beach. The test had been postponed several times due to requirements by FAA officials, Musk revealed.

While the prototype for the Starship is ongoing on South Padre Island, construction of the actual spacecraft will take place near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. An environmental impact report released by NASA earlier this month details plans to develop facilities to construct Starship and its Super Heavy booster as well as construct a new launch pad.

When it’s completed, the entire rocket will stand nearly 400 feet tall and be roughly 30 feet in diameter. Preliminary designs suggest the Super Heavy booster will be equipped with 31 Raptor engines, propelling a spacecraft out of the Earth’s atmosphere capable of carrying up to 100 passengers.

By DAVID ROSENFELD | drosenfeld@scng.com | The Daily Breeze
PUBLISHED: August 28, 2019 at 9:19 am | UPDATED: August 28, 2019 at 4:15 pm

Legendary ska-punk band Sublime with Rome is coming back to South Padre Island on Oct. 12, performing at Isla Blanca Park’s amphitheater. The band will be the first to perform at the venue, which was completed this past February.

Promoting company Carpenox is bringing Sublime with Rome to South Padre Island, running all the logistics for the concert, with ticket sales handled by Ticketmaster. Opening for Sublime with Rome are The Spazmatics, an 80s cover band from Los Angeles. Ticket prices range from $45 to $85.

After four years of planning and $6.2 million in investing, Cameron County and the City of South Padre Island renovated Isla Blanca Park, with an amphitheater, multipurpose building and pavilion, with picnic tables, restrooms, rinse stations, concession areas and BBQ areas. The pavilion features a lighted, beachfront boardwalk with shaded structures and more parking.


It’s been close to 10 years since South Padre Island, Port Isabel and Laguna Vista city officials have hosted this type of meeting.

Mayors, city managers and council members from the Laguna Madre area held a tri-city meeting Wednesday evening in Port Isabel to discuss a handful of topics.

No motions were given and no action was taken during the meeting.

However, city managers said they will determine a date for another tri-city meeting that has “more actionable discussion.”

Port Isabel Mayor Juan Jose “JJ” Zamora said it brought him a lot of joy to see everyone there together.

“We have to work together and do the best we can,” he said during the meeting. “It’s very important because this area is really growing. We have so much to do, but working together can help us cover the areas we need to.”

Topics discussed in the meeting included a potential lighting project on the Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge, traffic issues on State Highway 100, opposition to LNG, collaboration on regional sports and recreational facilities with the Laguna Madre Youth Center and Laguna Madre Water District capital projects.

Causeway lighting

South Padre Island City Manager Randy Smith said city officials are currently mulling different lighting ideas for the Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge.

“Very few places have a beautiful causeway like we have and it’s an opportunity for us to probably get in national magazines everywhere,” he said. “We don’t exactly know the funding yet, but we’re working on all of those mechanisms.”

In addition to making the causeway more aesthetically pleasing, Smith said improved lighting would also add a certain amount of safety to the causeway.

“We’re going to bring up ideas in the future to talk about how we can light the causeway and bring that concept that gives a real wow-factor,” Smith said. “So, when people show up to the area, there is something that’s nationally known and can put us on the map.”

Annova LNG

What appeared to be a hot topic of conversation between city officials and attendees was unanimous opposition to the construction of Annova LNG facilities and LNG’s proposed tax abatement agreement with the Cameron County Commissioners Court.

During the meeting, South Padre Island resident Tommy J. Saenz voiced his concern with the possibility of LNG’s presence in the Laguna Madre area.

“All three cities rely on tourism. LNG is a very bad pollutant for the environment and would destroy our economy and tourism,” he said. “Yes, they promise jobs, but the jobs they promise are highly specialized jobs that only a few people could fill.”

During the discussion, South Padre Island City Council member Kerry Schwartz suggested each city draft a resolution that collectively urges Cameron County commissioners to not give LNG a “free ride, tax abatement.”

“What I truly find disturbing is when you have a multibillion-dollar conglomerate coming in and they’re not going to pay their fair share. That’s sinful,” he said. We have businesses that employ more people than one of these plants do and they pay their fair share.”

Schwartz’s suggestion was met with a roar of applause from both community members and city officials.

“When these three cities face a challenge, we tend to come together to work toward overcoming that challenge, and I think that’s been the case with LNG,” Port Isabel City Manager Jared Hockema said during the meeting.

The Cameron County Commissioners Court will hold a regular meeting Tuesday, Aug. 20, at 9 a.m., and will consider approval of Annova LNG’s tax abatement agreement.



• A potential lighting project on the Queen Isabella Causeway

• Traffic issues on State Highway 100

• Opposition to LNG

• The Laguna Madre Youth Center and collaboration on regional sports and recreational facilities

• Proposed Laguna Madre Water District capital projects

Alana Hernandez

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, TX – – The City of South Padre Island is asking for your help in identifying much needed facilities for beachgoers.

The city government launched a series of questions to help guide their public pilot program for restroom use known as the Shoreline Public Restroom Survey.

As we’ve reported, SPI installed 20 public restrooms in late 2018. Now they’re looking for your opinion on how to improve the program.

You can participate in the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BeachRestrooms

We’d like to hear what you think, check out our poll on Facebook.https://www.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10157509627339494&id=95622364493

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — People interested in taking on a hobby and showcasing their gardening talents to the community will soon be able to.

Parks and Keep SPI Beautiful Committee members are seeking participants for its Community Garden Pilot Program.

Four participants will be assigned a box in the Butterfly Garden on Gulf Boulevard next door to the Suntide II Condominiums.

Gardening supplies such as boxes, soil and water source will be provided.

The pilot program will run from August to January 2020 and will be evaluated by the board committee.

According to Parks and Recreation Manager Debbie Huffman, the goal of the program is to bring the community together to share friendship and their love for gardening.

Interested participants must submit their names via email at dhuffman@myspi.org or call Huffman at (956) 761-8168 by Monday, Aug. 19.

“We would like as many people as possible to participate,” Huffman said. “Space is limited, but we are looking to expand the program depending on interest.”

The Parks and Keep SPI Beautiful Committee will assign plots Wednesday, Aug. 21, during a committee meeting.


• The Parks and Keep SPI Beautiful Committee will launch a Community Garden Pilot Program and is looking for participants.

• Interested participants must submit their names via email at dhuffman@myspi.org or call Debbie Huffman at (956) 761-8168 by Monday, Aug. 19.

• The Parks and Keep SPI Beautiful Committee will assign plots Wednesday, Aug. 21 during a committee meeting.

Alana Hernandez