Thursday, December 29, 2005

Big Yellow Taxi

That’s right, why not pave over then entire beach like a parking lot and put up a boardwalk like Atlantic City and get rid of all those pesky dunes. Apparently, that’s what the Town of South Padre thinks, even though it professes to want a “continuous dune line” so as to help reduce impacts from giant Gulf waves that periodically batter our coast - and we haven't even had a true hurricane here yet.

Perhaps the powers that be are so timid around the developers and builders because they pump so much money into the economy and hire so many Mexican illegals, which is considered good on both points. [Note to self – we need a huge immigration wall there somewhere too, but not blocking our view or hurting our business.]

I’ll grant you that the Texas Dune Protection Act was written so poorly as to have absolutely no meaning, but the intent was to help protect the natural barrier in between us and the sea. That doesn’t mean the Town has to do the same oblivious thing – although it certainly seems to be that way. Let ‘er rip, Mr. Developer. Ka-ching!

But what the hay! Knock down all the dunes and put in a flimsy boardwalk and stuff in all the new condos and richy-rich-boy houses you can. All those nice structures will make nice storm stoppers for us mid-Island folks. I can’t wait until we have some of the richy-boys sitting out in the Gulf at high tide like Surfside, Texas. That’ll make dog walking so much more amusing.

That’s right, knock down all the dunes, keep raking the beach at least once or twice a day, and every two years pump a whole bunch of shit bottoms from the Brazos Channel to spew on the beach. Sounds like being a perfectly fine environmental steward to me in this political climate.

Yeah right.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Winter Birds on South Padre

Fig. 1. Mottled Bucyrus Erie Crane. It's a 1960 Model 25-B.

We’ve seen a few in the past, but the recent flock of cranes on the Island is quite impressive. Being so large, they have difficulty hiding in the brush. You may have seen large birds like the Roseate Spoonbill or the Great Heron or some real cranes like the Whooping Crane or the Sandhill Crane (real rare here), but the strange thing is that all bird lovers hate this kind of crane – in this case the Mottled Bucyrus Erie.

And they seem to be multiplying and Lord love a duck, evolving into towering sky cranes! Here's a couple caught 'in delictico.'

Fig. 2. Two Cranes Mating. Aren't they cute?

What kind of biological niche do these despised cranes inhabit? Well, they are mainly used for installing pylons in the dirt for hurricane protection for coastal homes. These pylons are blasted 12 to 20 feet in the dirt and then connected to the concrete slab so the hurricanes don’t blow the houses and structures out by the roots. “Hey honey, the house got nailed bad but heck, we still got those pylons in the ground and a good slab, yeehaw!”

See, the pylons are pretty useless unless they extend to the second story or higher. Our house was built with telephone poles in 1970 using the old style where the bottom level was a garage and the upper level was living area. In effect, the bottom was a “blow out zone” in the flood zone so why try to tame Mama Nature? So the telephone poles are tied down to the sill plate on the second floor. The new houses though, are not – and why I cannot figure. Their pylons stop at ground zero.

Fig. 3. Red Cockaded Link Belt Crane. Nice rack on this baby!

But I digress. And don’t get me wrong, I’m all for people making money and building a nice house and doing construction. It is just that our new flock of South Padre Cranes is a little overwhelming.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Fixin' New Orleans

The Mayor of New Orleans is asking and pleading with people to return back to their homes. A few did and a few didn’t like it and most stayed away. The people who work there, many living on real nice fat FEMA wages, all seem to admit that New Orleans is a hopelessly lost cause. It is not just some kind of traumatic social psychology from a hurricane, but also the fact the city is sinking and the water seems to be rising more and more, and will end up worse than parts of Venice, Italy. If you haven’t heard, many of Venice’s most beautiful buildings are starting to slip into the sea, the second stories doing under.

There are two parts to New Orleans worth saving. First the port, where the big ships and barges tie up: we need one heck of an improved highway truck and rail system, hopefully elevated. Not too many people know that the Port of New Orleans is the Number One marine port as to tonnage in the entire US. Our economy depends on that.

Second, I want the old part of town like the French Quarter, take your pick of the exact historical area, and jack that sucker up like 22 feet in the air just like how Paul Getty jacked up Galveston after the Great Hurricane of 1900. So raise that up like an island! Disney and the casino boys would love it but in my book they don’t get it. And for the rest, decontaminate it and level it and open back up the mighty Mississippi and Ponchatrain. Stop playing with the little levies, ineffectual pumps, and drainage gullies.

Let’s face it, folks, none of the plans we have on the table are worth a darn, like fixing levees and bringing in some insipid “New Urbanism” housing. Many of us taxpaying Americans are getting tired of the strange sense of denial and corruption emanating out of New Orleans. A great commercial port and a nice little historical district would suit us just fine.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Dune Project Update

Gosh, the power of the Blog! I never thought people would fear little ole Sammy here but I guess some people do stop by every now and then ... and I hear back about it from the town aldermen and all kinds of "big people" like that. "Oh that's Sam, the blogger man." So, I was asked if I'd update things to say the town WILL have a dune-Christmas tree project this year; it will be a pilot project so we don't need ten thousand trees. I'm happy about that! Way to go, folks!

I mean I've been called a lot of things in my lifetime ... for years I thought my name was Dammit Sam. In my electric guitar/band days I was known as "Texas-T." Now I'm an air quality consultant working for the EPA and various marine ports. But "Sam the Blogger?" That sounds like I have boogers or something, although they don't say it that way.

I must admit that although Blogging has it's scary moments it has been fun, starting with painting the old house (realtor puke beige) and moving to South Padre Island. And I intend to plow ahead ... sometimes in writing and sometimes with ... used Christmas Trees. Gosh can you believe it - sometimes things work out.
See you on the beach,

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Well we did our research and decided that using some used Christmas trees would be a great way to rebuild some dunes along the town beach, many of which had been damaged by developers or hurricanes such as Katrina and Rita. Some of the condo owners don’t like the idea but after losing tens of thousands of dollars from flooding, many are coming around. Why spend thousands on tractors and dredges and such when you can recycle free trees and let the wind do the job for free?

Anyway, that was the concept, with some volunteers and some donated stuff and doing some pilot projects to show that the concept really worked as well as it did in Corpus Christi, Surfside, and placed all up on down all the coast of the United States. We even learned you had to stake the trees down so they wouldn’t wash or blow away.

But everything is so complicated these days. We had hoped we could find a few property owners, get with the town poo-bahs, and point fingers in a general direction and go. Oh no, not so easy. You need several kinds of blessings, permits, authorizations and resolutions, not to mention coordinating with the state and federal gringos. Naturally, the question comes up “Why not get one of our grants?”

Now, we had wanted to do this in mid-January or at the latest the end of January. Have you ever seen any bureaucracy, never mind ten of them, get anything done in one month? Over the Holiday Season? A grant takes six to 18 months. One official even said something like “Hey don’t start collecting the trees yet, Sam, we need to work all this out.”

Now this here fellow is really nice, but hey man, if you’re going to pay upwards of 30 bucks for a tree and maybe double or triple that much for a big one, you’re not going to throw it out on the beach before Christmas. Sometimes I just wish the government would stop trying to help us so darned hard!

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Electric Palm Tree

I remember
The sound of snow falling on the water
With big fat flakes
Hitting the water

Standing by the lobster dock
Staring out to the southeast
On the slippery wooden planks
With absolutely no wind

The sound of only the snow hitting the water
Hit my senses
A soft and cruel caress
In languages unknown

Then I snapped to attention
And looked at what I saw
And what I had heard
And smiled