Promises, Promises

Skeptics say the Port could break more pledges involving Bayport

Opponents of the Bayport project point to these and other promises made by the Port over the years as evidence that the guarantees about the container terminal are not to be believed. "The priority of the Port is getting the deal, and not in implementing the agreement," says Jim Blackburn, an environmental attorney and organizer of Bayport opposition.

Blackburn points to the continuing deepening and widening of the Ship Channel as an example. A key element of the agreement that cleared the way for the project calls for dredge material to be used to create wetlands and other beneficial wildlife habitats. The material is to be contained in various ways so that it doesn't escape and bury valuable oyster beds.

It's already escaping. A plume of mud is flowing away from the first dredge spoil area to be constructed, at the Bolivar Peninsula, burying everything in its path. "There has been some sediment that has escaped, and there is a plume of that sediment," admits Barrera, though she counters that the various state and federal agencies working together on the project say "that happens to be naturally what occurs."

Trust us: Port Authority Chairman Ned Holmes.
Kent Manor
Trust us: Port Authority Chairman Ned Holmes.

But that's not supposed to be what occurs, at least according to the studies that are the basis for the agreement. "I think that's clearly a broken promise," Blackburn says.

Recently the Port has been making a new set of promises. As the bond referendum for the Bayport terminal approaches, the Port has been courting the city of Seabrook, which is on record opposing the project. In exchange for the town's maintaining a "neutral position" on Bayport, according to a Port proposal to the Seabrook City Council, Seabrook would get certain "amenities." These include a new sewage treatment plant, fire station, parklands, landscaping and a buffer zone. The council adopted a modified version of the proposal, which has divided the community. A contract with the Port is allegedly in the works, though nothing is yet committed to writing.

Councilmember Chuck Cheadle, a Bayport opponent, doesn't believe the city should negotiate with the Port. "I question whether they can give us these [amenities], or whether they will," Cheadle says. "The Port's track record on coming through on their promises is poor."

E-mail Bob Burtman at bob_burtman@houstonpress.com.

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