Dredging of Packery Channel from the SH 361 Bridge through the jetties was cut short due to the beginning of the turtle season and stopped about 500 feet short of the mouth leaving a 24,000 cubic foot sand plug which has left the opening with a depth of about 6 (6-10 ft depending on where you are across channel) feet. The natural sand movement around the channel’s opening has changed since Hurricane Ike passed through in 2008 and the result is less scour (deeper region) at the mouth and the formation of a bypass bar just offshore of the mouth of the channel which may be either beneficial, by transferring sand around the channel mouth seasonally from side to side, or a problem depending on what happens this summer season.
Deidre Williams at the Conrad Blucher Institute at A&M Corpus Christi who monitors the channel for the city told the Island Strategic Action Committee Tuesday night the remaining shoal near the mouth (the shoal is inside the Entrance Channel NOT outside the channel) could be of benefit by blocking the entry of sand into the channel mouth directly from the Gulf. The opportunity for sand to enter the mouth of the channel would be new for Packery. In the past the channel mouth was very shallow due to shoaling and the region around the mouth in the Gulf was very deep- the uphill climb clearly limiting sand entry from the Gulf. Should the plug of sand be removed, the channel mouth and nearshore would be nearly the same depth, possibly allowing for sand to enter directly from the Gulf. However, she said if the sand begins to be impounded along the west side of the Entrance Channel shoal it could lead to the growth of the shoal and would need to be removed in the future. A survey will be conducted during July to determine if the Entrance Shoal is expanding enough to require removal or if it serves the channel better to leave the shoal for now as a protective measure. Current plans call for a wait and see approach through the summer season.
She told the ISAC that since the premature opening of the channel by Hurricane Emily in 2005 the width of the channel at (-5 ft depth) inside the SH 361 Bridge has doubled in some sections due to water flow. Between 2006 and 2008 the channel widened at a rate of up to 34 ft/yr and since 2008 the width has increased by about 1.5 ft/yr. Most of the expansion has been on the east side of the channel in the tidal flats but some rest on the west side, where residences are located, have lost as much as 1-10 ft (Note for your information-20ft was only in the water- the navigable channel bank- —).
Williams said the beach on each side of the channel jetties has pushed seaward since the channel pened increasing the width of the beach to about 500 feet nearest the jetties. The beach is afforded protection by the jetties an alongshore distance of 2,000 ft to the north, just past Turtle Cove development and 4,000 ft to the south, up to about the Holiday Inn. The sand from the recent dredging of the channel was placed from just south of the Holiday Inn to the south end of the seawall, the first major dredging since its opening in 2006. The beach has increased in width by 80-100 feet at the south end. She said the prevailing southeasterly wind is already moving some of that sand north where it will serve to increases the width of the beach from there to the South Packery Jetty.
Inside the channel a small portion of the Basin Shoal was left after dredging and is located near the entrance to Lake Padre which Williams said does not impede boat passage through the channel but if it persists may need to be marked with a buoy. “The channel is healthy and hasn’t required a lot of maintenance,” Williams said. “That is not by happenstance but by design.” During planning, dredging was predicted at 1 to 3 year intervals but was not needed until 6 years after the channel opened, indicating a successfully designed inlet.
Park Road 22 Bridge
Permitting for the Park Road 22 Water Exchange Bridge is ongoing. Currently the city engineering department is waiting on a decision form the Army Corp of Engineers about what the exact nature of the impact from the bridge will be. That determination will impact the bridge’s design which has been done but is contingent on the Corp’s decision. Once that decision has been made the city will push forward with the permitting process. A tentative start date for the bridge has been set for the end of 2012.
Gypsy Bridge repairs
Repairs to the underside of the bridge on Gypsy are complete and work is set to begin soon on the road surface which still has a metal plate to cover a pothole. The guardrail which was recently destroyed by a car has been replaced. Street lights on the new Aquarius Extension The city engineering department has put in a request with AEP to install the lights. The normal turnaround time for such projects is 4-12 months. Improvements to Whitecap Water Treatment Plant We recently reported that the Whitewater Treatment Plant has exceeded state limits on bacteria in its outflow more than twenty times since 2009, in some cases as much as 27,000% over the allowable limits. The cure for the problem is a Ultraviolet Light treatment process that is expected to cost between $3-$5 million and will not be installed until at least 2014. In the meantime the city is looking for other ways to stop the problem in the interim which may be cheaper than the UV system to install but will be more expensive to operate.
Restrooms along Packery Channel
The city has placed a portable restroom at the parking lot north of the Packery where street lights are soon to be installed. Plans to build a permanent restroom there are on hold until new FEMA maps are released later this year which may change the designation of the area’s vulnerability to flooding and ease restrictions on the design requirements for the structure and reduce the cost. The original estimated cost of the restrooms was placed at $1.4 million but ISAC members declined to approve payment at that amount from the Island Tax Increment Finance fund. A similar restroom facility on Corpus Christi Beach was put out to bids and the price came back at over $600,000 due to the Americans with Disabilities Act which requires a ramp to reach the facility which must be at least nine feet above ground level. If the area around Packery Channel is rezoned in the new FEMA maps that requirement may not be necessary.
Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Resort
Developer Paul Schexnailder told ISAC members in their Tuesday meeting that the park’s developers now have a term sheet in hand from lenders, meaning that negotiations on financing for the park are nearing completion. “We’re moving forward,” he said. “We will be doing work on the site in August but not turning dirt. There is still much work to be done on permitting before we start digging.” He said the previously stated schedule for the $524 million dollar park and development that calls for it to be open by next summer is still in place, “at this moment.”
Article by Dale Rankin – Padre Island Moon