Did you know that, of the Port of Galveston’s total 840 acres, 357 acres are on Pelican Island? While the port’s Galveston Island acreage is almost fully developed, more than 300 acres with waterfront access are available for greenfield development on Pelican Island.
Both the Galveston Wharves and Galveston City Council recognize that the port’s Pelican Island property is a growth opportunity for the Galveston and regional economies. Earlier this year Galveston City Council rated general maritime industry growth and Pelican Island specifically as top economic development priorities.
The port staff continues to explore a wide range of potential uses, including roll-on/roll-off cargo storage, a multi-use terminal, cargo trucking, and industrial development.
Our 200-plus-acre tract on the island’s northeast side offers a prime location on Galveston Bay near one of the busiest maritime corridors in the U.S. It is less than a mile from the Houston Ship Channel, Galveston Ship Channel, and Intercoastal Waterway. This site could be ideal for a small-scale liquified natural gas (LNG) manufacturing and marine fuel bunkering facility, a desalination plant, or cargo facility. It has 3,000 linear feet of waterfront.
Our 106-acre tract on the Galveston Ship Channel has more than 2,400 linear feet of waterfront. Cargo would be an ideal use for this location. The port staff is also evaluating this tract for lay ship berthing.
Master Plan Vision
Pelican Island’s potential uses, costs and benefits are detailed in the Galveston Wharves 20-Year Strategic Master Plan. Adopted in 2019, this is the port’s roadmap for capital improvements, infrastructure repairs and growth.
The plan outlines a Phase 1 development scenario that includes an auto processing facility through a public/private partnership and an LNG processing and fueling facility on Pelican Island.
There are pros and cons to greenfield development. A tract can be customized for specific uses, but because the area is largely undeveloped, roadways, utilities, berths, dredging, and other improvements would need to be funded and developed.
Moving forward with plans for a new Pelican Island bridge is also critical. Extending rail to the island also would be an investment that could spark economic development.
Brief History of a Small Island
Before I close this week’s column, I would like to share a little of the island’s fascinating history. Two hundred years ago, it was just a salt marsh with a few hundred feet of dry land, according to the Texas State Historical Association. Through sand accretion, the sand spit gradually grew into a small island.
In the last two centuries it has served many purposes. In the 1800s, it was the site of a salt manufacturing facility, a federal fort, and a state quarantine station. In the 1900s, it became the site of a federal immigration center, a park, dredge spoils and maritime industry.
The bridge was built in the 1950s, followed a decade later by the new Texas A&M at Galveston campus. Today, in addition to the growing A&M campus, Pelican Island hosts port cargo and maritime repair services and dredge spoil activities, though it remains largely undeveloped.
Pelican Island serves another important purpose for the Port of Galveston. Situated on the north side of the Galveston Ship Channel, it protects our harbor and port assets.