, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

May 8, 2013

PI erosion project to start soon

PORT ARTHUR — A combination of hurricanes and the natural ebb and flow of the tide has taken its toll on Pleasure Island. Of the island’s 11 miles that the city of Port Arthur is responsible for, at least 4 remain unprotected from the elements.

Work started in 2011 with a bulkhead behind Jeb’s Emporium and Cajun Cabins, 1900 MLK Jr. At a Tuesday, May 6, meeting of the Jefferson County Commissioner’s Court, a bid of $1,656,761 was awarded to the Pleasure Island Revised Breakwater Projects with LUHR Brothers, Inc. An additive of $619,690 was also approved, bringing the total to approximately $2.2 million. The additive will be paid in full by the city of Port Arthur.

“We’re losing the island,” said Don Rao, Jefferson County director of engineering. “Eventually it’s going to get to the point where you either stop the erosion and do some work there, or you have to move the road.”

Phase 1 of the project is to place a breakwater barrier — large rocks in a line along the edge to slow the wave action down against the shore — extending from behind the Cajun Cabins to Martin Luther King, Jr. Bridge. Phase 2, which Port Arthur agreed to pay for, will protect the land around T.B. Ellison Pkwy.

“We had approximately $1.2 million set aside in coastal erosion funds, but the bid came in a little higher than anticipated,” said Precinct 3 Commissioner Michael S. Sinegal. “Erosion is funny — if you fix one part, it creates a worse problem. That’s why we’re trying to make sure T.B. Ellison is protected. Had we not done this, people wouldn’t have been able to get to their homes.”

Rao estimated that the county spent $700,000 on the 2011 Cajun Cabins project, and Sinegal said he has been trying to tackle erosion since he was elected to the city council in 2002.

“We allocated several times when I was on city council,” he said. “It’s been millions spent on this trying to stop the erosion.”

Until recently, Sinegal said, the city used “rip rap” —  broken concrete and rubble placed along the edge of the shore to slow down erosion — but since it was banned by the sate of Texas, breakwater barriers are now used.

The revised breakwater project is just the first step in an ongoing process to preserve Pleasure Island. Building a marshland is also a goal, Sinegal said.

“Scientists have said that an inch of marsh can protect from tidal surge,” he said. “Had that marsh not been there during Ike, that water might have gone all the way to I-10. We have to keep that marsh established. People don’t understand that everything’s tied in together.”

Sinegal said the county is also negotiating to reestablish the dunes at McFaddin Refuge, as well as the road that led from Sabine Pass to High Island.

“It’ll be a long, ongoing process,” Rao said. “It will only happen if somebody can commit a lot of money to it.”

Sinegal is willing to do that. One day, he hopes, Pleasure Island will be a hub of recreation for the surrounding community. If a group that is currently pushing for the legalization of gaming in Texas has his way, Sinegal hopes to see a casino on the island.

“It’s a jewel to Texas,” he said. “I grew up growing across there fishing. It needs to be opened up to where the public understands that it is a diamond in the rough right now. We need to get a hotel on there, make people want to come there and surf or ride those jet skis — make it a destination point. It’s one of my goals try to help and facilitate a place where people can go and enjoy themselves, like early Port Arthur.”


Twitter: @ErinnPA

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