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A task force believes its redevelopment plans will both draw visitors to North Beach and fix the neighborhood’s flooding and beach erosion problems. Kathryn Cargo, Corpus Christi Caller Times
It’s easy for Corpus Christi residents to forget about North Beach unless they live there or work at the Texas State Aquarium or Lexington Museum. But the entire city has a big stake in North Beach, not only because of those two major visitor attractions, but also because people live there and vacationers stay there.
Those who live and work on North Beach know that it has a flooding problem. It doesn’t take much rain to cause the streets on land barely above sea level to fill quickly with water and become unpassable. That’s not only inconvenient, but also potentially life-threatening because ambulances and fire trucks can’t get in and out.
Solving that problem would make North Beach a lot more livable and could unlock its full potential for development.
A task force of stakeholders and public officials has proposed a 1.2-mile canal, estimated roughly at $40 million, as the solution to the drainage problem. They also see the canal as a magnet for development, similar to the San Antonio River Walk.
But, first things first. The first thing is flood protection.
HOW CAN A CANAL HELP?
That’s a question that becomes even more puzzling — if you’re not an engineer — when you consider that both ends of the canal would open to a bigger body of water, Corpus Christi Bay. Wouldn’t that fill up your new floodwater escape route before floodwater would have a chance to escape?
There’s no denying that it would put water into the canal. The level would be the same as the bay’s.
But that still leaves plenty of room for rain runoff — mind-bogglingly vast amounts of room. Why? Because for the rain to raise the canal water level, it would have to raise the entire bay’s level. And that would take a serious Old-Testament-Noah’s Ark-floating rain.
To understand it better, imagine a glass half full of water. Pour another half-glass into the glass and you have a full glass. But if you were to pour that same half-glass of water into a half-full wash basin, chances are you wouldn’t notice the difference a half-glass of water made.
Corpus Christi Bay is, of course, bigger than a wash basin. And while a typical rain is bigger than half a glass of water, its effect on the bay is a lot less noticeable than pouring half a glass of water into a half-full wash basin.
It’s also worth noting that Corpus Christi Bay is connected to the Gulf of Mexico, which feeds into Earth’s entire system of oceans.
This was a licensed engineer’s explanation, but you don’t have to be an engineer to grasp it.
IS THAT ALL THERE IS TO IT?
Not by a longshot. We haven’t talked yet about the dredge from the canal, and possibly also some of the dredge from the nearby Corpus Christi Ship Channel expansion project. The canal proponents say the dredge would be used to raise the level of adjacent streets and elsewhere on North Beach. The higher elevations not only would make North Beach streets less flood-prone, but also would make the banks of the canal steeper, making more room for water in the canal.
It’s important to note that the canal is protection from heavy rains falling from overhead. It won’t be protection from unusually high tides or storm surges crashing into North Beach from the bay, although it would help North Beach drain faster in the aftermath.
SO, WHEN DO WE START?
Not so fast. The city of Corpus Christi has contracted with Urban Engineering “to investigate the possibility of a canal solution or any other solution to the drainage problems,” said Larry Urban, the firm’s co-founder. “We are not going to draw a conclusion until we’ve done the study.”
The conclusion is expected to be delivered to the City Council in September. How to pay for a canal is a whole ‘nother issue. But now you know how it would make North Beach less flood-prone.
Tom Whitehurst Jr. analyzes, explains and, when appropriate, opines on what’s important in your life. Help support local journalism with a digital subscription to the Caller-Times.
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