“We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know”

I thought the above quote by Dr. Edwards Deming would make a good title for what I am about to say. In this age of information from so many media outlets and social media in general, a lot of information is transmitted to people wanting to be informed on all kinds of issues. People in general, want to make good decisions that affect their daily lives and will search out the information they want. Thomas Jefferson is credited with the quote, “Information is the currency of democracy.” I take that to mean: when we get good information, we make good decisions and democracy works to serve the people. But, just like counterfeit currency, bad information can be very destructive both to those who spread it and to those who receive it. This bad currency undermines the very heart and soul of democracy.

In our current discussion of our local Navigation District, let’s explore just what “We don’t know what we don’t know,” so we all can make good decisions. There are smart, good people on both sides of this issue and there is also good and bad information being spread around just like currency.

First: Navigation districts were created for the development and improvement of navigation of the inland and coastal waters of the State of Texas. Under Article 16, Section 59 of the Texas Constitution, our local Aransas County Navigation District was formed on September 16, 1925, by action of the Aransas County Commissioners’ Court as seen in the Commissioners Court minutes, Volume 6, page 455.

Second: Under the Texas Water Code, Chapter 62, Subchapter, entitled “Powers and Duties”, Section 62.101, entitled ” Purposes of District”, the powers and duties are listed as follows (emphasis added):

  • the improvement, preservation, and conservation of inland and coastal waters for navigation,
  • the control and distribution of storm water and flood waters of rivers and streams in aid of navigation, and
  • any other purposes necessary or incidental to the navigation of inland and coastal water or in aid of these purposes, as stated in Article 16, Section 59, of the Texas Constitution.

Click here to view excerpts from the Water Code.

These purposes, powers, and duties were not modified by Chapter 5001 of the Special District Local Laws Code. Click here to view excerpts from Special District Local Laws Code.

 

When reading the above, all the powers and duties of, and the purposes for which a district may be formed, center around navigation of inland and coastal waters and do not list parks and recreation as a duty nor give them the right to control upland drainage unless it is in aid of navigation.

Third: The ACND, on October 6th, 1936, was issued a patent from the State of Texas for 102.5 Acres of submerged lands fronting on the City of Rockport as described in Volume Q-2, Page 270 and amended as recorded in Volume U-2, Page 611, Deed Records of Aransas County. This grant and patent inadvertently failed to provide that the same was conditional upon and subject to the prior grant made to the City of Rockport known as House Bill 91, 3rd called session of the 36th legislature, which gave the City of Rockport the right to use and control the same waterfront. That legislation began in 1920 after the 1919 storm and allowed for funding for storm protection along the waterfront. It had a term of 20 years and ended in 1940, about the time that Rockport Harbor was dedicated. It might be noted that the Rockport Harbor patent, when mapped over aerial photography, only put about the East one-third of Veteran’s Memorial Park within the patent and also shows The Women’s Club, the old Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce building, and the westerly portion of the Maritime Museum outside of the 102.5 Acre patent and outside of ACND control.

Fourth: We might ask the question, “Where did ACND acquire the balance of Veteran’s Memorial Park to let them stop the drainage?” After running the records from 1888 until 1941, it appears that the ACND does have some title to the South 400′ of a 1068′ strip of land known as Smith and Wood Reserve. That 400′ strip would be the waterfront east of Austin/Broadway Street from the South right-of-way of Cornwall Street (extended East) to just about 8′ South of the North right-of-way of Concho Street (extended East). That means the northerly portion of Veteran’s Memorial Park and all of the Smith and Wood Reserve North of that South 400′ belong to someone else. Deeds from 1940 to 1941 show several undivided owners conveyed their interest to the City of Rockport. Some of this same property, roughly 658′ of waterfront reserve, has been controlled and leased by ACND, under what authority is unknown. Anyone who doubts this can run the records yourself if you really are in search of facts and truth.

Fifth: In the minutes of the ACND, dated April 28, 1959, there was an item on the agenda to discuss a drain that would run from Austin/Broadway Street through or adjacent to the park opposite Rockport Harbor and run into the basin. Permission was granted by the ACND. Click here for the minutes.

Sixth: On September 17, 2007, agenda item no. IV.5 states, “The 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 Navigation District Board to approve what is now known as the Concho Street Drainage Project, which included an additional 40″ drainage outflow into Rockport Harbor and to replace a 30″ pipe with a 3’ x 5’ box type drainage outflow. Motion passed, all in favor. Click here for excerpts from the minutes.

Seventh: On March 3, 2008, agenda item IV.6 of the ACND board considered action to approve the request to the City of Rockport to install a 3’ x 7’ box type drainage outfall into Rockport Harbor. That request was approved with all Commissioners voting “Yes.” Those minutes state that Tommy Moore voted “Yes,” and that Keith Barrett was the Harbor Master. It was understood and planned from that date that when the money was available to do the Concho Street drainage project, the outfall pipe would already be in place. Click here for excerpts from the minutes.

[ACVF Note: The ACVF has talked with individuals with direct knowledge of the foregoing statements made by Jerry, who could give sworn testimony about the veracity of Jerry’s statements.]

Eighth: ACND representatives have stated that the box culvert that would discharge storm water into the harbor would damage the ACND facilities because of increased velocity flow. They do qualify their statements that they are not engineers, and that is a good thing. The fact is that there is an existing 48″ diameter pipe in place now that is carrying all the volume of the Concho Street basin and the City is adding the new 6’ x 3’ box culvert. This addition would decrease the velocity of the discharge by more than one-half and reduce the possibility of any damage to the ACND facilities. If you want to fact-check this, talk to any engineer.

Ninth: In a heavy rain event, similar to last July’s downpour, most contaminates in the storm system are flushed out within the first 30 minutes of downpour. After that, the parts per million of bad water to good water is greatly reduced and there is a flushing effect of the fresh rainwater pushing the bad water into the harbor and then out into the bay. What we do have in the harbor every day of every year are the automatic bilge pumps of the boats that kick in to keep the boats from sinking, and I believe we all know what is in the bilge of boats. Also, the water that flows through a concrete drainage structure is cleaner than water that surface drains over the land and could pick up contaminates along the way. Remember, water is going to get to the bays and harbor one way or another, whether we like it or not. Also, remember that dilution is the solution.

Tenth: It has been stated on several occasions that the ACND has spent over a million dollars on the cleaning out of silt in Rockport Harbor. Since I live approximately four blocks from Rockport Harbor and spent most of my seventy-three years living within seven blocks of Rockport Harbor, I cannot remember any kind of activity whereby silt was cleaned at the discharge points of the storm drains. I believe the million dollars plus was spent on dredging behind the new breakwater and pier at the end of Market Street and on the section of the Harbor that had never been dredged. I have reviewed the before and after Google Earth aerials of this part of Rockport Harbor which clearly shows the effects of the dredging. Click here for Google Earth aerials showing Rockport Harbor before and after the dredging. If the ACND has data and costs that proves something different to me and the community, I think we would all like to see it. In the words of Dr. Deming, “Without data, you are just another person with an opinion.”

 Eleventh: In closing, I would like to say that the ACND has stated on numerous occasions that they knew nothing about the Concho Street Drainage Project until they saw the equipment, pipe, and stakes on their property in November 2021. What ACND failed to say is on January 6, 2021, the City and County sent a joint letter to ACND outlining the drainage projects that were funded and about to begin, including what is now known as the Concho Street Drainage Project. Click here to view the January 6, 2021 letter. The Concho Street Drainage Project was discussed in that letter in great detail and a letter was sent on January 28, 2021, back to the City outlining the ACND concerns. Click here for the January 28, 2021 letter. This letter was signed by Chairman Dieckow and all the above is subject to open records request. Anyone that saw the movie, “Cool Hand Luke,” can remember Paul Newman saying, “What we have is a failure to communicate.” I will truly say that we do in-fact have a failure to communicate and the taxpayers are paying the price.

In my 50 years as both an engineer and land surveyor, I have made it a point to study drainage and storm protection failures in Galveston, New Orleans, and in our own area in South Texas. What I have discovered is that you can’t predict what Mother Nature will throw at us next and you sure can’t change the event. All we can hope for is to be better prepared the next time. To say that we need to stop the water that needs to drain into our bays and harbors is like saying we need to stop the mighty Mississippi from flowing into the Gulf of Mexico because it might contain some parts per million of bad water along with the good. Remember, water flows downhill, whether we like it or not. I hope this helps you to know what you didn’t know.

 

Jerry Brundrett