The Nav District Power Grab – Part 1

 

The Nav District has stated on numerous occasions that it knew nothing about the Concho Street Drainage Project until it saw surveying stakes on its property in mid-November 2021. Let’s take a deep dive into the chronology of events leading up to the Nav District’s so-called “first knowledge” claim. The ACVF believes that once the dots are connected the Nav District power grab scheme will be exposed.

 

First, let’s go back to 2007 and 2008. We have previously written about the fact that the Nav District was aware of what ultimately became known as the Concho Street Drainage Project as early as 2007 and 2008, and gave approvals for drainage outflows into Rockport Harbor, which were made contemporaneously with the approvals.

 

On September 17, 2007, “The [Nav District] board considered possible action to approve storm water discharge into bays and harbor and the installation of drains by the City of Rockport with respect to drainage project.” The was the first action of the Nav District to approve what is now known as the Concho Street Drainage Project, which included an additional 48″ drainage outflow into Rockport Harbor and to replace a 30″ pipe with a 3’ x 5’ box type drainage outflow. The motion passed and all commissioners voted in favor. Click here for excerpts from the minutes.

 

On March 3, 2008, the Nav District considered another action to approve the request of the City  to install a 3’ x 7’ box type drainage outfall into Rockport Harbor through one of the panels of a new bulkhead under construction at the expense of the City. That request was approved unanimously. Commissioner Moore voted “Yes,” and Harbor Master Barrett was in attendance at the meeting. Click here for excerpts from the minutes.

 

It was understood and planned from that date that when the money was available to construct what is now known as the Concho Street Drainage Project, the outfall pipe would already be in place. We have talked with individuals having direct knowledge of the foregoing who could give sworn testimony about the truthfulness of the foregoing.

 

Fast forward a few years. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Nav District staff were present in the drainage development process lead by the County. Click here to view the January 6, 2021 Joint County/City letter to the ACND.

 

In June 2020, the County gave public notice of a number of drainage and other projects. Click here to view the Public Notice. Click here to view the Rockport Pilot reporting on the projects.

 

At the December 7, 2020 meeting of the Nav District, the Nav District board determined that Little Bay, Rockport Harbor, and Fulton Harbor could no longer accept any additional storm water runoff. Click here to view excerpts of meeting minutes. Click here to view the Rockport Pilot’s reporting on that meeting.

 

The Nav District decided to start considering and implementing a “formal permitting process”, and stated that letters had been sent to the City, County, and Town informing them that the District must be informed prior to any new drainage projects that would add to storm water drainage onto District properties. As an aside, Nav District attorney Jerry Benadum endorsed the “formal permitting process”.

 

On December 15, 2020, the Nav District wrote a letter to the City regarding future drainage projects that would result in any storm water runoff discharging into Little Bay or the harbors. In that letter, eight specific questions about the drainage projects were asked. Click here to view the letter.

 

On January 6, 2021, the joint letter referenced above was sent to the Nav District and all eight questions asked were answered, as were the other comments made in the Nav District letter. Click here to view the January 6, 2021 joint letter.

 

On January 28, 2021, not being satisfied with any of the answers or other information provided by the City and County, the Nav District sent a letter to the City describing additional concerns and made demands for plans and other studies and reports. Click here to view the January 28, 2021 letter.

 

The best we can tell, there were no further letters between the Nav District, the City, County, or Town regarding any drainage projects. We are unaware of whether there were any official discussions between elected leaders of these entities or staff, however we believe there were none based on discussions we have had with City officials.

 

Based on reviewing the totality of the events discussed above and the documents that are available to us through open sources or public information requests, we believe at some time between June 2020 and early December 2020, the Nav District developed a strategy designed to attempt to sway public opinion in favor of the District and its actions and against the County, City, and Town.

 

We believe that the Nav District may have had had some good intentions for the community as a whole, particularly with respect to the water quality of our bays and harbors (environmental responsibility is one the ACVF’s Statement of Values, and we believe that the other government entities share that value).

 

However, we believe that part of the Nav District strategy was to place all of the responsibility for the water quality problems in Rockport and Fulton Harbors and Little Bay completely onto the County, City and Town, and thus also attempt to shift financial responsibility from the District for solving these problems to the other government entities. If true, we believe that this effort is inconsistent with the ACVF’s Statement of Values that all local government entities work together cooperatively.

 

The ACVF believes that the Nav District is engaged in a power grab scheme to regulate, permit, and control storm water runoff in the County, City, and Town. This is well beyond the Nav District’s Constitutional and statutory purposes for existence, and is inconsistent with the ACVF Statement of Values (we believe all of the local government entities should act within the bounds of the jurisdictional authority). This  will be explored further in our next article entitled “The Nav District Power Grab – Part 2”.

 

In the January 6, 2021 letter from the City and County, the City stated clearly its position that the District has no jurisdiction over any aspect of the drainage projects. The Nav District never replied to challenge the City’s assertion that the District lacks jurisdiction over the projects.

 

Instead, it was only after the Concho Street Drainage Project started in mid-November 2021 that the Nav District started to assert this new found power to regulate and control drainage in the community. Nav District leadership started to state that the District is merely attempting to fulfill its “statutory obligations” with respect to the Concho Street Drainage Project, without any specific reference to the statutes that grant it the authority they claim to possess.

 

The “scorched earth” letter sent by the Nav District attorney to the City on November 23, 2021, concluded with a number of  unreasonable preliminary conditions demanded by the District in connection with the Concho Street Project. Click here to view the letter.

 

Since the scorched earth letter, the District Chairman has publicly stated that the approach the District is taking on the Concho Street Drainage Project is a “template” for how the District will react and respond to future drainage projects that discharge storm water into the harbors and bays.

 

We believe that the Nav District’s actions are nothing less than the attempted introduction and application of the “formal permitting process” it discussed over a year ago at the December 7, 2020, District meeting.

 

If the Nav District disagreed with the City’s statement that the District had no jurisdiction over drainage projects made in the January 6, 2021 letter, almost 11 months before the Concho Street Drainage Project started, it could have had a dialogue with the City about the legal basis for the District’s newly claimed authority, and perhaps the government entities could have genuinely worked together to hash out and resolve the matter.

 

Instead, the Nav District laid in wait until the first drainage project started, sought to bring it to a grinding halt, and sought to impose draconian “permitting” conditions.

 

So here we are. The Nav District has lawyered up and so has the City.

 

While the Concho Street Drainage Project has not been halted, it has been delayed and we understand that the City contractor has indicated that the delays will cost the City at least $150,000 of additional expense. (As an aside, contrary to the recent public statement by of one the Commissioners, the contractor has not filed a lawsuit against the City over the  project.)

 

Meanwhile, a substantial drainage project designed to reduce and eliminate future flooding to the taxpayers and property owners of the community, who are the community members most immediately affected by all of this, is delayed. Ultimately, we the taxpayers will have to pay for all of these avoidable expenses.

 

And many businesses and non-profits, such as the First Presbyterian Church of Rockport, may be forced to close their doors if there is another flooding event like the one that occurred in July 2021.

 

The ACVF agrees  with the recommendations Jerry Brundrett put forth in his article called “Who Done It?”:

 

  • The government entities should start working together on solving the water quality problems in Little Bay and the harbors.
  • The government entities should work together to improve water circulation between Aransas Bay and Little Bay.
  • And lastly, the lawyers and elected officials should stand down and allow the technical experts and engineers come up with the best solution to accomplish improved circulation, and then the elected officials should get together to figure out how to foot the bill for the solution.

Further, in regard to the Concho Street Drainage Project, we believe it would be reasonable for the Nav District to request that the City enter into an agreement addressing the City’s construction work on the property known as Veteran’s Park (assuming this land is included in the original Patent of Lands from the State to the District, and thus subject to the District’s custodianship of this land, which Jerry Brundrett has put in serious doubt), which is where the Concho Street Drainage Project would connect to the existing underground box culvert that already leads from its outfall point into Rockport Harbor, then under the road adjacent to Rockport Harbor, and capped off in Veteran’s Park.

This agreement could spell out each party’s responsibilities, duties, and obligations with respect to the construction work. It would be reasonable for the Nav District and the City to agree to the following:

  • The City would be responsible for all construction work expenses.
  • The City would be responsible for restoring the property to the condition it was in prior to the construction work.
  • The City would indemnify and hold harmless the ACND against any liability solely in connection with the construction work, and not in respect to any other matter not directly related to the construction work.

Such an agreement could be put together by the Nav District and City in a matter of days, and the Concho Street Drainage Project could proceed post haste as originally planned.

If the Nav District is unwilling to back down from its attempted power grab scheme, the taxpayers and residents in the community will be the losers left holding the financial bag, and continue to be exposed to severe flood damage risks.

Aransas Community Values Fund