SPI to submit project applications for coastal management

Beachgoers recline in the shade of umbrellas and canopies Monday along a beach on South Padre Island. Over the weekend beaches on the island were filled with people following the relaxation of Gov. Greg Abbott's shelter-in-place order and business restrictions on May 1. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — From data collection and public access enhancement to coastal hazard and resiliency planning, this program annually seeks coastal project applications.

Managed by the Texas General Land Office, the Coastal Management Program (CMP) aims to help ensure the long-term environmental and economic health of the Texas coast. Since 1997, the CMP has awarded more than $43 million in grant funds for projects.

Currently, the CMP is accepting applications for up to $1.8 million in grant funding for coastal projects, as part of its CMP Cycle No. 26.

During a meeting held Wednesday, South Padre Island City Council ranked and approved SPI’s project applications for the CMP Cycle 26.

According to Shoreline Director Kristina Boburka, the City of SPI originally submitted five pre-proposal applications to the program and was selected to apply for three projects for the final CMP application.

The three projects include — Sea Island Circle Beach Access Improvements, Lifeguard Observation Towers Coastal Hazard Preventative and Sapphire Circle Beach Access Improvements.

According to Boburka, project funding is 60 percent grant funds through the CMP. The city is responsible for the remaining 40 percent.

“That match does come from our beach maintenance fund, which is HOT tax, the hotel occupancy tax,” Boburka explained. “So that’s not any property or sales tax. That’s strictly the state HOT.”

On Sept. 8, the SPI Shoreline Task Force Committee ranked the projects in order of preference due to its requirement for the application. The Sea Island Circle Beach Access Improvements project was ranked first, the Lifeguard Observation Towers Coastal Hazard Preventative was ranked second and the Sapphire Circle Beach Access Improvements was ranked third.

“Last year, we applied for four and we only got one project,” Boburka said. “Typically, they try to spread it out. Usually, they only give one per organization.”

According to Boburka, the CMP reduced the funds per project this year.

During Wednesday’s city council meeting, a motion made by council member Kerry Schwartz was passed. He made a motion to submit the Sea Island Circle Beach Access Improvements and Lifeguard Observation Towers Coastal Hazard Preventative project applications for the CMP Cycle 26.

“I know you guys have done a tremendous job on this,” Schwartz said during the meeting. “We’ve listened to the residents, but to submit it this time isn’t going to do any good anyway because we’re not going to get it. So submit our number one and our number two.”

Project one

Sea Island Circle Beach Access is located between East Tarpon St. and East Marlin St.

The total cost of the beach access improvements project is $200,000. The project application is seeking $120,000 with a match of $80,000.

Currently, there are nine parking spaces in that beach access area and a Mobi-Mat.

“We would transform one of the parking spaces and make it ADA,” Boburka said. “So we can add to our ADA parking for this since it does have a Mobi-Mat and then add changing stations, rinse stations and again, keep the mat.”

Boburka said the project was selected based on previous SPI Shoreline Task Force discussions.

A restroom survey was conducted last year to gain public feedback. The survey results indicate that 85 percent of respondents believe the city beach accesses are in need of more permanent restrooms. Additionally, 79 percent of respondents recommended the city continue having its rental restrooms year-round, while working toward permanent structures.

Project two

The Lifeguard Observation Towers Coastal Hazard Preventative project would involve constructing lifeguard observation towers that would be placed throughout the city’s beach.

The project application is seeking $60,000 with a match of $40,000.

“We would hopefully be able to construct six with those funds,” Boburka said. “Right now, the stands that we have, we just pulled them off the beach and some of them are falling apart, and they’re more geared toward a pool lifeguard stand rather than a beach.”

What’s next?

The applications are due on Oct. 7. The city will receive an award notice by January or February, and the project or projects would start in Oct. 2021.

The City of SPI was awarded for a Whitecap Circle Beach Access Development project for last year’s CMP Cycle 25.

“We’ll be starting Whitecap through Cycle 25 funds this October and those were CMP funds,” Boburka said. “They gave $200,000 with the match of $133,000.”