2015-01-14 / Front Page

Project to dredge Port Mansfield harbor coming soon

BY TONY VINDELL
Reporter

A longtime problem that has been turning anglers away from Port Mansfield is going to be fixed soon and that could also lure commercial customers there.

At an average of four feet deep, the shallowness of the harbor has been a constant source of headaches for the owners of private vessels and the head boats that dock at the port during the wintertime.

“Some of these boats drag their bottom on the sediment,” Tommy Rains Jr., board chairman with the PM Navigation District, said. “We are going to take care of this problem and, hopefully, we can bring some of these folks back.”

He said that a December meeting between port officials and the head of the Southwest Region with the U.S. Corps of Engineers, Brig. Gen. David Hill, resulted in one of the most positive developments to affect the shallow harbor.

“If everything goes as planned,” Rains said, “dredging the harbor should begin by the end of February.”

The project calls for dredging close to a mile from the harbor to the Intercoastal Waterway.

Depending on how much money is allocated to the project, the harbor could be dredged from to 8 to 12 feet deep.

That depth could even attract commercial barge traffic which, in turn, could result in more revenues for the port and Willacy County.

The shallowness of the harbor has impacted the Port Mansfield and the Young Farmers Fishing tournaments as attendance at the two biggest events of the year has been in decline.

In the last two years for example, offshore weigh-in during the tournaments had to be done at the Port Isabel Marina because of complaints from participants.

Phil Calo, with Tex-Mex Tours and Osprey Cruises, is one of two head boats docking at the port this time of year.

He said the mud in the bottom of the harbor has been damaging the impellers that pump water.

“We are - literally - navigating on sand and dirt,” Calo said. “We hope to keep the harbor in better shape.”

Osprey Cruises use the port from December or January and stays until the end of March or until May.

The other head-boat that serves the port is Capt. Murphy Charter Services.

Both businesses are based in the Port Isabel-South Padre Island area, but bring their boats to the port because it takes less time to fish for red snapper in state waters where the limit is four fish per angler.

Calo said any improvement made to the harbor is welcome.

The harbor shallowness is one problem, though.

Others said the navigation district has not been interested in bringing additional businesses to the port because it wants to leave the port as is.

That is, for the few anglers who own fishing boats.

But Rains said things are about to change.

Although the immediate project is to dredge about a mile from the harbor to the Intercoastal in the short term, the other is to dredge the remaining 8 miles from the Intercoastal to the Port Mansfield Cut.

“Right now, we are evaluating where to put the spoils,” he said, referring, to the sludge that sits on the bottom of the harbor,” he said. “One alternative is to put it around what is called Bird’s Island. The other is on a bank off South Port Road.”

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