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Corpus Christi City Council backs $41 million North Beach canal project

The city of Corpus Christi is moving forward with a plan to build a navigable canal for North Beach.

City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to pass an ordinance that authorizes the city to pursue building and paying for a navigable canal in the flood-prone neighborhood.

"I can see the vision as an overall vision for Corpus Christi," said Gil Hernandez, the Dist. 5 council member. "It can be something as a legacy for us. I appreciate this work, and I will understand this is the beginning and not the end."

The measure will be voted on a second time during next week's council meeting before it's finalized. 

The city would design and construct the canal for no more than $41.2 million before or on Jan. 1, 2025, according to the ordinance. That is contingent upon the city identifying funding, having a community public-input process and obtaining the required permits.


The council voted on the ordinance after discussing the issue behind closed doors for nearly three hours. The measure is meant to replace a previous canal proposal that faced several legal issues, City Manager Peter Zanoni said.

Dozens of residents showed support Tuesday for the canal, saying the idea could solve long-standing drainage problems in the neighborhood.

"I want the best for our city, and I want us to move forward," Day Manley told the council during public comments. . "Let's get this thing down."

Several City Council members told the crowd the canal will greatly improve North Beach, but not solve all its drainage problems. 

"Don’t be buying into the illusion this canal will be solving your drainage problems," Mayor Joe McComb said. "We still have a target to shoot for."

"We're committed to over time to get that done."

In October, Urban Engineering recommended the city build an open ditch or navigable canal on North Beach.

The current drainage system is undersized, according to the local engineering firm.  

Urban Engineering also presented cost estimates of about $36 million for an open ditch and $41 million for a navigable canal. It would cost roughly $32 million to raise city streets. That elevation is needed for a drainage system to work on North Beach, Zanoni said.

Funding for the canal could come from debt by issuing revenue bonds, hotel occupancy tax funds, North Beach tax increment investment funds, the Seawall fund, the Storm Water Capital Improvement Program, various grants, capital budget funds and Nueces County, according to the replacement ordinance proposal. 

On Monday, county commissioners approved $250,000 in certificates of obligation for the city to pursue environmental permits for the canal.

Zanoni said the city also plans to continue seek out solutions to other problems in the neighborhood. Those include redevelopment, breakwaters, creating an eco park, preparing for the new Harbor bridge and the demolition of the current bridge.

The navigable canal was proposed by the North Beach Infrastructure Task Force, which council created in spring 2018.

Task force members say independent studies show the canal pays for itself in 10 years and would net the city nearly 60 million in two decades. The canal would have an annual economic impact of $94 million locally, according to a study the task force conducted earlier this year.

They compare the project to the San Antonio River Walk.

Zanoni said if Blackard designed and built the canal, it could be a conflict of interest because he's on the North Beach Infrastructure Task Force.

Officials would have to do a competitive search for engineering and construction firms to complete the project per state law if the city moves forward with the canal, he said. 

North Beach resident Lynn Frazier proposed to build a $40 million hotel in the neighborhood if the city committed this week to paying for and building the canal. He threatened to move the project to another city if the measure failed.

Frazier's proposed hotel would be six floors and have about 200 rooms. The complex also would have about 180 multifamily apartments attached.

This article originally ran here on December 10, 2019 by Kathryn Cargo


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