Friends of Lydia Ann Channel, Port Aransas, accuses the Army Corps of Engineers as having fast-tracked approval of a South Texas barge terminal with no regard for its impact on eight endangered species.
Port Aransas boasts five bays, estuaries, marshes and 14,000 acres of seagrass beds protected for research by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The area provides habitat for more than 600 species of saltwater fish.
Port Aransas hosts more than 20 annual fishing tournaments, according to its Chamber of Commerce.
Lydia Ann Channel, within the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area, is one of the preeminent locations on earth to fish for redfish. “Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine has repeatedly claimed the area as the best place in Texas to paddle and kayak,” according to the Friends of Lydia Ann Channel, who filed a lawsuit on Dec. 23 to negate any construction on the terminal.
The barge terminal will consist of nearly 1.5 miles of “tripod mooring structures” in the middle of Lydia Ann Channel, and advertises that it can accommodate barges carrying tar and asphalt and hazardous materials, in disregard of how a spill would affect the area’s five species of endangered sea turtles.
The complaint states, “Turtles swimming or feeding at or just beneath the surface of the water in and around the barge facility are particularly vulnerable to boat and vessel strikes. The USACE approved the project without any public notice or public comment, without any review of alternative locations, and without conducting or requiring any environmental studies or analysis whatsoever,” The complaint wants the Corps’ “letter of permission” for the project voided and declared in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act.
The nonprofit claims the Corps of Engineers approved the barge terminal project on Jan. 15 this year with no public input. The litigation has been in the works since Sept. 9, when the nonprofit sent the Corps notice that it would be sued for violating the Endangered Species Act. The Act requires claimants to give federal agencies 60 days notice before suing them.
It is represented by Douglas Kilday with Graves, Doughtery, Hearon and Moody in Austin.
Named as defendants are the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; its Commanding General and Chief of Engineers Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick; the Commanding Officer of its Galveston District, Col. Richard P. Pannell; and Kim McLaughlin, a regulatory division chief at the Galveston District, all in their official capacities.
Photo: Friends of Lydia Ann Channel