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Port Isabel cleanup a success

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Contact: Jim Suydam
OP-ED — August 16, 2010

AUSTIN — Across the Texas coast, abandoned and submerged vessels pose a serious threat to both navigation and the environment.

These old shrimp boats, barges and other heavy commercial vessels litter the waterways for years, sometimes decades, because cash-strapped local governments just don't have the hundreds of thousands of dollars required to remove them. For many, it's an intractable problem with no easy solution - but not in Port Isabel.

 In Port Isabel this week, the cleanup of 35 of these intractable problems is nearing completion, one of the biggest such efforts in the state to date.

 Accomplishing this success story took a cooperative effort between a private, for-profit business - Houston-based Extreme Recycling and Demolition - and a slew of local government bodies, including the Port Isabel San Benito Navigation District, the city of Port Isabel, the Port of Brownsville, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Texas General Land Office's Oil Spill Prevention and Response Program.

The cleanup effort didn't just remove some old eyesores; it pumped out nearly 30,000 gallons of oily fuel that had slowly been leaking from the ships, keeping it out of Texas' coastal waters.

 The best part about this effort: Averting this potential oil spill didn't cost Texas taxpayers a dime. In fact, Extreme Recycling and Demolitions made money on the operation by taking the scrap metal.

 Once again, Texans have shown that a government solution to a problem isn't always the only - or best - solution.

 I commend all involved in this cleanup effort and hope others across the state will look to it as a model of how Texans can work together to get any job done.

JERRY PATTERSON was elected Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office in 2002 and again in 2006. A former Marine and Vietnam Veteran, Patterson is the author of Senate Bill 60, the Concealed Handgun Law.

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