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Texas Oil Boom Clashes with Hurricane Harvey Rebuilding

Port Aransas had 85 percent of its buildings damaged after Hurricane Harvey stopped its assault on the Texas Coast. Just across the bay, Corpus Christi is in the middle of a building boom of its own. Between the damaged homes and businesses still awaiting construction after Harvey, oil companies are rushing to build oil infrastructure. This construction rush comes as the area is competing to become the nation’s leading port for exporting oil. Port Aransas is still rebuilding, yet oil crews are rushing to the city to build crude-oil terminals.

Where the Oil Is Coming From

In West Texas, the Permian Basin is producing the most oil that the region has ever seen. The area’s production has the potential to turn the United States into a nation that exports more oil than it imports for the first time in decades. Previously untapped reserves of shale are being processed en masse. The product is being crammed through pipelines, on trucks, and on trains to meet demands. All this oil must go somewhere—and much of it is heading to ports in South Texas.

What This Means for Port Aransas

Port Aransas has a full-time population that barely peaks above 4,000. The city is located on a barrier island and relies heavily on tourism for its economy. After Harvey destroyed much of Port Aransas, residents feared that tourism would not come back. However, the summer after Hurricane Harvey showed that recovery was more than possible for Port Aransas.

Port Aransas' tourism economy was founded on fishing. After Harvey, rebuilding the weather-torn marina was priority for the city. Officials knew that they needed money to recover, and they prioritized restoring the area’s fishing to help produce that money. Now, oil companies are attempting to move in and build the infrastructure they need to export the Permian Basin’s unprecedented amount of product. Port Aransas residents fear that this will decimate their tourism economy.

The Port of Corpus Christi is looking to deepen its ship channel to 75 feet so that it can accommodate massive oil tankers. This new depth has fish biologists concerned. Experts claim that deepening the shipping channel will be devastating to local fish and plants—a project that cuts deep into Port Aransas’ tourism artery. As recovery charges forward, Port Aransas will have to work around the challenges presented by a booming Texas oil economy.