Rockport breakwaters still undergoing complicated repairs 5 years after Hurricane Harvey

Teams rebuilding structures that protect the harbor, town from waves during storms

ROCKPORT, Texas – Five years ago, Hurricane Harvey’s eye bore down on the small coastal town of Rockport.

KSAT crews were there to witness the destruction in 2017. However, on our trip back for the 5th anniversary, Rockport’s Harbor Master explained that if it weren’t for a few safety structures, there would have been even more damage.

Keith Barrett was born and raised in Rockport and is now the county’s harbor master.

“I’ve seen our community evolve from when I was a young person to what it is now, and also to know the pain of seeing it destroyed. And, you know, it was tough,” he said.

Barrett is heading the effort to strengthen safety infrastructure before the next storm hits his beloved town.

His focus is on a set of structures called breakwaters, which protect the harbor itself but also the land behind it.

“This breakwater is this land here,” Barrett said, pointing to an overhead harbor map. “If you think about those waves coming into our community, there’s two schools, there’s several churches, our police department, fire department, the city hall.”

During the storm, the breakwaters in Rockport put up a fight but sustained damage.

Each breakwater is different. Some are jetties made of concrete and stone. Others, many don’t realize, are beaches.

“A lot of people know Rockport Beach is the beautiful place that it is, but it serves another purpose. It is a protective breakwater in its own way to the rest of Rockport,” Barrett explained.

The beach lost a lot of sand, so they’ll be doing a beach renourishment to build that sand back up.

Nearby, a set of breakwaters allow boats and water in and out of Little Bay.

“It lets drainage water that is produced within our community in and out. It was torn up quite a bit. And as of this week, we’re doing a bid to repair that,” Barrett said.

It won’t be cheap or easy.

The Rockport entrance breakwater, for example, will need to be fortified with more concrete and stone in the form of massive rocks. Those rocks don’t come from the coast. They come from the Hill Country and will take crews, machinery and planning to move to Rockport. That’s not even taking into account the effort of securing those big rocks on the structures.

“It’s why it’s taken five years to go through the planning stages and working with FEMA and all these organizations to get to a point that we can make,” Barrett said.

He said that’s why he feels like the storm was just yesterday.

“We still work storm-related situations every day. I have an ongoing FEMA meeting that has been going on every Wednesday for five years,” he said.

Each repair project has a portion that needs to be matched by the Aransas County Navigation District.

“We’re very blessed that the federal funding has helped, but many of them have 10% to 20% matches that are required of us,” Barrett said.

Barrett said his department had built up a sizeable rainy day fund, and it was put into use five years ago.

“So our portion, yes, it’s painful, but in the long run between the two groups, will we have what we need? Of course, we will,” he said.

As Rockport-Fulton continues to thrive again despite adversity, the goal is to create breakwaters as strong as the community itself.

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About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.