Packery Channel is in worse shape than it was after being damaged by Hurricane Harvey.
Twenty months later, there’s still no timeline for making the needed repairs, but city leaders now have a plan to rebuild it after an engineering study confirmed the damage is linked to a design problem.
The study, commissioned by the City of Corpus Christi, determined the damaged and sunken channel walls are part of a pattern of failures caused by the design.
“We’re going to put it back better than it was and we think a design that’s going to be much more robust and able at least to withstand an event similar to Harvey,” said Jeff Edmonds, director of Engineering Services for the City of Corpus Christi.
The design included a shoreline armoring system that resembles jigsaw puzzle pieces connected through cable. It has proven that it cannot withstand coastal storms and tidal surge.
Several areas of the channel have collapsed after the tidal surge from Hurricane Harvey pushed the water over the banks of the channel and washed away the sand beneath it. The problem has only worsened since then.
To repair it will cost the city between $10 million and $15 million. FEMA has agreed to reimburse 90 percent of the project cost, Edmonds said.
The new wall will include a system known as “riprap,” which is piles of large rocks. It’s a method the city has used to repair sections of the channel over the years, and it works, Edmonds said.
It will be in stark contrast to the walkable wall system in place now, which has become a popular fishing spot.
Fishermen like Andy Guajardo prefer that area of the channel to cast a line.
“It’s kind of dangerous right now,” Guajardo said. “You don’t know if it’s going to give out at any time.”
There’s a concern the new rock wall will make it tougher to access.
“If you just have piles of rocks, you have to throw from back there and if you catch a fish you’re going to have trouble land him because he’s way out there,” Guajardo said. “I don’t think it’s going to be very user friendly like that.”
The new design will rebuild Packery Channel the right way, said Greg Smith, Corpus Christi City Councilman for District 4.
“We do not want to go back and build it as it was because Harvey proved it doesn’t work,” Smith said.