Just when you thought Willacy County couldn’t get any weirder, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times informs us of yet another “man bites dog” story (‘Mansfield port work good news for boaters,’ February 2, 2006). Apparently, the stars are lining up so the Mansfield Channel will be dredged with boat ramp money supplied from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, in addition to Corps of Engineers projects related to Hurricane Rita restoration (North Jetty and Padre Island National Seashore [PINS] renourishment on North Padre). The big boats can come back, maybe in a year.
The TPWD money would be used to dredge the channel from the boat ramp to the intersection of the Intracoastal Waterway. As part of the agreement, the Willacy County / Port of Mansfield Navigation District would come up with about $75,000 of a total cost of $225,000 and have to maintain the small channel for a number of years.
Here’s where it gets interesting. The Navigation District doesn’t have a dime, and port director Mike Wilson claims that periodic maintenance dredging would cost about a million bucks every five years. As mentioned by columnist David Sikes, the outdoor feature writer, “anglers and local business people may not be looking that far ahead.”
Understatement of the year, David!
See, the only source of revenue for the Navigation District is some houses, docks, a boat ramp, and a small airport. About 1760 acres of land were seized by eminent domain in 1948 but there isn’t a town and there isn’t a major: you pay rent for squatting on Navigation District property. The only way to get more revenue is to jack up the rental fees, since they have no taxation powers. I don’t think these campers will be very happy.
But wait there is more to the story. The Navigation District is the same outfit that wants Willacy County to expand its holdings by seizing hundreds of acres of conservation lands on South Padre Island – by you guessed it, eminent domain. This is presumably for one boat ramp and two Port-O-Potties, a similar theme rejected by the federal boys and gals over at the PINS.
I swear I’m not making any of this up.