In July of 2018, the Port of Corpus Christi announced they were seeking a permit for a desalinization plant proposed for construction on Harbor Island in Port Aransas, Texas that would allow an average daily output flow of up to 95,600,000 gallons per day. Currently, the plant has yet to be designed there are many unknowns.
Seawater intake and output of brine have the potential to impact larval fish and invertebrates. The circulation of the estuaries, ocean and ship channel would play a role in the magnitude of the impact. The following studies are relevant research that have been completed or are ongoing in the Harbor Island area.
In addition, Dr. Ed Buskey from the University of Texas Marine Science Institute prepared a white paper that summarizes the "Recruitment of estuarine dependent species of commercial and recreational importance through the Aransas Ship Channel." Click here to download the white paper.
In October of 2019, a report prepared by Dr. Jordan Furnans entitled "Desalination Brine Discharge Modeling – Corpus Christi Bay System" was submitted to the Port of Corpus Christi.
In March of 2021, Dr. Kristin Nielsen from the University of Texas Marine Science Institute prepared a report entitled "Proposed Harbor Island Saltwater Reverse Osmosis Desalination Facility: A Prospective Evaluation of Ecotoxicological Risk"
In March of 2021, Dr. Clint Dawson, Mark Loveland and Eirik Valseth from the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, University of Texas at Austin prepared a report entitled "Potential Effects of Deepening of the Aransas Ship Channel on Particle Transport: Implications for Recruitment of Estuarine Dependent Larvae."
The importance of salinity as a signal for movement of larvae from ocean to estuary.
Cheryl Brown, who received her Ph.D. from Texas A&M University in 2001, completed her dissertation on the transport of fish larvae: Brown, C.A. 2001. The transport of fish larvae to estuarine nursery areas: A modeling study Dissertation. Texas A&M University, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.
Kimberly Bittler, who received her Ph.D. from The University of Texas in 2013, completed her dissertation on the transport of blue crab and the impact of salinity signals: Bittler, K. 2013. The ecology of blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) megalopae in the Mission-Aransas Estuary, Texas : salinity, settlement, and transport. Thesis, The University of Texas at Austin.
Brine Impacts Recorded at other Locations
Petersen, K.L., Heck, N., Reguero, B.G., Potts, D., Hovagimian, A., and A. Paytan. 2019. Biological and Physical Effects of Brine Discharge from the Carlsbad Desalination Plant and Implications for Future Desalination Plant Constructions. Water, DOI:10.3390/w11020208.
Local Circulation Models
The University of Texas Marine Science Institute completed a study of the physical mixing process between estuaries and the Gulf of Mexico at the Aransas Pass tidal inlet. This project was supported by the Mission-Aransas Reserve. You can view the study at: NERR Report by Dr. Kim: Kim, I. 2009. Analysis of physical mixing process between estuaries and the Gulf of Mexico at the Aransas Pass tidal inlet, TX. Informal report to the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Huang, H., Du, Y., Pothina, D., Matsumoto, J. 2011.Corpus Christi Bay Three-Dimensional Hydrodynamics and Salinity Simulations Using Finite-Volume Coastal Ocean Model (FVCOM). International Conference on Estuarine and Coastal Modeling 2011.
Islam, M.S., Bonner, J.S., Edge, B.I., Page, C.A. 2014. Hydrodynamic characterization of Corpus Christi Bay through modeling and observation. Environ. Monit. Assess. 186:7863-7876. DOI: 10.1007/s10661-014-3973-5
Professor Ben Hodges at The University of Texas at Austin, has studied the hydrodynamics of brine plumes and salinity circulation in Corpus Christi Bay. The following are relevant journal articles:
The currents in the Gulf of Mexico would have an impact on brine discharge into the Gulf of Mexico. The currents along our beaches are seasonal and are referred to as longshore.
The Conrad Blucher Institute for Surveying and Science at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi has completed research in the Coastal Bend region. A powerpoint presentation by Dr. Philippe Tissot and explain the coastal currents is available here. They also published the following related papers:
Tissot, P.E., Williams, D.D. 2015. Conference Paper. Nearshore wave and current measurements/predictions on the Texas coast. 95th American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting, 13th Symposium on the Coastal Environment, Phoenix, AZ 95th American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting, 13th Symposium on the Coastal Environment, Phoenix, AZ
The Autonomous University of Baja California, in partnership with The University of Texas Brownsville, recently established a coastal radar station on at The University of Texas Marine Science Institute to measure longshore currents and transport. Data will enable them to model the circulation in the Gulf of Mexico. This data is currently being collected and is not yet synthesized.
Larval Fish Transport and Settlement in Aransas and Lydia Ann Channels (relevant to channel deeping)
Brown, C.A., Jackson, G.A., Brooks, D.A. 2000. Particle transport through a narrow tidal inlet due to tidal forcing and implication for larvl transport. Journal of Geophyical Research 105:24141-24156..
Brown, C.A., Holt, S.A., Jackson, G.A., Brooks, D.A., Holt, G.J. 2004. Simulating larval supply to estuarine nursery areas: how important are physical processes to the supply of larvae to the Aransas Pass Inlet? Fisheries Oceanography 13:3, 181–196, 2004.
Brown, C.A., Jackson, G.A., Holt, S.A., Holt, G.J. 2005. Spatial and temporal patterns in modeled particle transport to estuarine habitat with comparisons to larval fish settlement patterns. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 64 (2005) 33-46.
Weatherall, T.F., Scheef, L.P., Buskey, E.J. 2018. Spatial and temporal settlement patterns of blue crab (Callinectes sapidus and Callinectes similis) megalopae in a drought-prone Texas estuary. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 214 (2018) 89-97.Spatial and temporal settlement patterns of blue crab (Callinectes sapidus and Callinectes similis) megalopae in a drought-prone Texas estuary. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 214 (2018) 89-97.