Even libertarians value prize pork

by William T. Wood Thursday, Feb. 12, 2004 at 12:07 PM
news@baycitytribune.com (979) 245-5555

Should the federal government be obliged to spend hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to repair a backwater fishing pier prone to storm-surge damage? Apparently so, says the office of libertarian figurehead, Congressman Ron Paul (TX-R).

Jetty pier project on hold
Bay City Tribune, February 11, 2004

MATAGORDA -- Repairing the Jetty Park fishing pier on Matagorda Beach is on hold, pending a funding request from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Matagorda County Commissioners Court learned Monday. Hurricane Claudette heavily damaged the pier last summer and county officials have been working with the Corps since then to get it fixed.

Matagorda County Judge Greg Westmoreland read a letter in open court Monday from Col. Leonard D. Waterworth, who heads the Corps' Galveston District, which includes Matagorda County. "Lack of funding continues to be a major issue in accomplishing the necessary repairs to the Jetty Walkway," Waterworth wrote.

"With the war on terrorism and Homeland Security, the task of developing and approving a budget that allocates national resources against competing infrastructure priorities is becoming more and more difficult.

"This year and in future years I expect this competitive funding climate to result in significant funding shortfalls," the Colonel's letter continued.

"We are continuing with our contractual process so that we will be in the position of advertising and awarding a contract for the Jetty Walkway if funding becomes available. However, at present, I cannot give you a time frame as to when funding may become available," he wrote.

The issue is important to the county's economy -- particularly in Matagorda -- where owners of several area businesses told the court recently they have seen up to a 30 percent dropoff in revenues since the pier was destroyed by the storm. The estimated cost of repairing the pier is between $400,000 and $500,000.

Officials familiar with the project have said they believe the best idea would be to rebuild the pier with fiberglass panels that would allow water to flow through. Two sections of the pier constructed in that manner survived Claudette, bolstering that assertion.

Precinct 2 Commissioner George Deshotels said Monday at the court's regular meeting that he remains optimistic the Corps will get the job done. "The fact that they are going ahead with design plans and going out for bids tells me they want to go forward," Deshotels said.

Deshotels said bids will be opened March 23, but if funding is not secured by then, the sealed bids will be returned. Diana Gilbert, from Congressman Ron Paul's office, told the court Paul is working to secure funding for the pier and understands the critical nature of the project.