To allow massive tanker ships to access new crude oil export facilities planned for the Port of Calhoun, the Port Authority and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are advancing a plan to dredge a deep channel through a 22-mile swath of Matagorda Bay and Lavaca Bay.
The problem? The dredging plan includes digging through a Superfund area contaminated with mercury and closed to fishing for DECADES because of the risk to human health.
Toxicologists have warned that dredging the area, contaminated by a former Alcoa aluminum smelting plant, could disturb a significant amount of buried, mercury-laced underwater sediment, endangering the health of ALL of Matagorda Bay and Lavaca Bay, and threatening the survival of the already-struggling local fishing community.
Waterkeeper Diane Wilson and many other environmental advocates continue to call on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a rigorous, transparent analysis of sediment samples to fully and fairly evaluate the risks to the environment and human health.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan involves dredging up a total of 21 million cubic yards of sediment – enough to cover almost 1,000 football fields to the height of the goal post cross bar.and Lavaca Bay.
More than 2.5 million cubic yards of dredged sediment would come from within the Alcoa mercury-contaminated Superfund site.
Alcoa notified the EPA last year that new sampling results showed continuing mercury contamination in underwater sediment within the Superfund site, adjacent to the planned dredging route.
The Army Corps performed an evaluation of the impact of the dredging project in 2019, but the capacity of the planned oil export terminal has been expanded by nearly tenfold since that time.
Consuming seafood contaminated with mercury can damage the human central nervous system, cardiovascular system, digestive system, renal system, reproductive system, and immune system.
Texas fisherman from Port Lavaca and nearby communities are fighting to protect their families' livelihoods.
Digging up and dumping the dredge material would destroy more than 800 acres of oyster reefs and smother over 1,000 acres of seagrasses in Matagorda Bay and Lavaca Bay.
Texas media outlets are reporting on "The Little Turtles That Could" — a group of 45 endangered sea turtles that hatched in June at Magnolia Beach on Matagorda Bay! Kimp's ridley sea turtles are not only endangered (at one point only 250 females were left) but are also the state sea turtle of Texas. This is only the second time a nest has been documented on a Texas bay.
The discovery of one of the world's most critically endangered sea turtles very close to the area where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to dump dredge material is ANOTHER REASON the Port of Calhoun's dredging project must be STOPPED until a new environmental analysis is conducted, and a plan is put in place to ensure the protection of the Kemp's ridley!
Photo credits: RJ Shelly and Emilee DeForest.
Reporting by Capital & Main reveals about Max Midstream a, the company whose proposal to export massive volumes of crude oil has driven the proposed dredging of Matagorda Bay.
Journalist Jerry Redfern writes: "The young oil pipeline and shipping company — founded by Houston real estate developer Todd Edwards and British financier Azad Cola — shipped its first oil in May, shipped its last in June and has since been hit with a brace of expensive lawsuits alleging crimes from fraud to forgery, as well as a lien against its properties for $1.4 million in unpaid bills."