SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Year-round this seaside community attracts many tourists and is home to several permanent and seasonal residents.
And as the city enters its next fiscal year, its city officials traditionally reflect on its past achievements and discuss what’s in store.
On Tuesday, the SPI Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual “State of the Island Address” during its quarterly Public Affairs Luncheon.
Close to 110 city, county, state, PI-ISD school district officials and Chamber of Commerce members, attended the luncheon.
“This event is great because it brings together a diverse group of leaders and business community,” South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce President Roxanne Ray said. “It’s a great networking event and we’re always happy to host it.”
South Padre Island Mayor Patrick McNulty kicked off the luncheon by reflecting on the city’s accomplishments in the 2018-2019 fiscal year and gave updates on various items such as the Venue Tax Projects.
“There are many projects that will focus on the comprehensive plan, which will create a shared vision that will help guide future actions of the city for years to come,” McNulty stated in a pamphlet of the 2018-2019 annual report. “We continue to address the needs for Laguna Boulevard to be reconstructed and are currently surveying the boulevard and the design phase this spring.”
In the works is the PR 100, Median Boardwalk and Sidewalk Improvement Project, which was approved by voters on Nov. 8, 2016 to help improve vehicle and pedestrian mobility along Padre Boulevard.
The project began in January 2020 and will range from design to full replacement with a new structural system including pavement, improved drainage, sidewalks and accessibility ramps.
It is funded through the Venue Tax Funds and is estimated to cost $7.5 million.
“Currently, we have several venue tax and city infrastructure projects underway such as Padre Boulevard medians, boardwalk and sidewalk improvement projects,” McNulty said during the luncheon. “I’d like for you to know that the city staff is working with contractors to halt construction during peak times and major holidays.”
Another project in the works that’s also being funded through the Venue Tax is a Quite Water Sports Park.
Last year, city officials signed a property lease to develop an area that would be designated for the wind and water sports park, which will include restroom facilities, parking spaces and launch sites for paddle boarders, kayaks and wind surfers.
The project will be discussed during a city council meeting Wednesday starting at 5:30 p.m.
Additionally, city officials are in the process of completing phase II of the Tompkins Park project, are working with Cameron County officials to look into the possibility of bringing cruise ships to the Island and are hoping to join the Metropolitan Planning Organizations to develop a second causeway.
“I’d like to thank city council and staff for their hard work and dedication,” McNulty said during the luncheon. “The last six months have been a challenging yet rewarding experience. I look forward to continuing working with my friends on council to move our Island toward completing infrastructure projects.”
2018-2019 ANNUAL BUDGET SUMMARY
GENERAL FUND — 6.76 percent increase in sales tax revenue
CONVENTION CENTRE FUND — 3.07 percent increase in hotel occupancy tax revenue
EXCESS RESERVES — $2 million in the general fund
TAX RATE — 32 cents
BOND RATING — AA+
Visit www.myspi.opengov.com to view the Financial Performance Portal.
Friends of RGV Reef has launched a major new phase of its artificial reefing project off South Padre Island, even as fishing boats reel in large numbers of red snapper the reef is already producing.
Gary Glick, president of Friends of RGV Reef, said 20 million pounds of concrete railroad ties and other materials are being sunk over the next few weeks at the 1,650-acre reef site eight nautical miles off the coast and 14 nautical miles north of the Brazos Santiago Pass jetties.
“We’ll move more material in this one deployment than exists in any of the other Texas reefs,” he said. “We’re going to lay down the bones of a new 400-acre nursery reef.”
Glick said the activity is taking place inside a section of RGV Reef that until now has had only a thin layer of material.
“If you just put small material down, which is what the baby red snapper need, then after a while that material may sink or get covered, so what we’re going to try to do is make a nursery reef that’s going to last for decades,” he said.
Glick said the new reefing will consist of 25 tons of railroad ties, 25 tons of broken concrete on top of that and a sprinkling of 432 cinder blocks.
“We’re going to make 54 of those, and then protecting it we’re going to put down 16 high-relief piles of concrete, 250 tons each,” he said.
No one else in the Gulf is building reefs that combine low, medium, high and very high relief elements that sustain fish through all stages of the life cycle, Glick said. The point is to substantially increase the numbers of red snapper and other fish in the waters off SPI. Part of that means creating habitat on an otherwise featureless seafloor offering young fish few places to escape predators. The initial deployment of reef material attracted tens of thousands of juvenile snapper almost immediately, Glick said.
More fish to catch means more people coming to catch fish, which is good for the economy. It’s no coincidence that among the reef project’s benefactors is the SPI Economic Development Corporation.
“We’re putting fish back in the Gulf by raising them from babies,” Glick said. “What you get if you raise fish from babies is you ges lots of fish. Every weekend there are 12 or 15 bay boats out there with several offshore boats.”
The current materials deployment phase began Jan. 2 and will continue into February, Glick said. It begins a year after Friends lost access to the vessel it had hired for materials deployment, a Vietnam-era landing craft named Lil Mo, which caused reef building to grind to a halt. Now the project has hired a new vessel: the Dry Tortugas, an offshore supply ship based in Houma, La.
It wouldn’t be possible to rent such a vessel without financial assistance from the project’s partners, Glick said.
“We paid $137,000 just to get the boat to show up,” he said. “When she carries a full load, which is 325 tons, it’s $12,000 every times she goes out. We’re paying her by the ton.”
Glick said he hopes to have enough money for another deployment in the fall. Donors, meanwhile, can rest assured that each dollar the project receives is stretched to the max, he said. Thanks to donations of labor, equipment, storage space and reef material, the project is being accomplished for a fraction of the cost of a typical artificial reefing contract, Glick noted.
The Port of Brownsville is helping out by providing two acres with deepwater frontage and a railroad siding for storing and handling the donated railroad ties, box culverts, cinder blocks and other material. Though the reef project is “rocking along,” Glick said, he fears major construction projects on the horizon will squeeze out Friends of RGV Reef and put a stop to construction.
“It actually worries me a little bit,” he said. “How long are they going to be able to give us that space? We really have this sense of urgency to do it now. This is why we’re so urgently trying to raise money now, because we do have this fabulous opportunity that cannot last.”