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.

The Galveston Wharves Board and Galveston City Council recognize 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 United States. It is less than a mile from the Houston Ship Channel, Galveston Ship Channel and Intracoastal Waterway. This site could be ideal for a small-scale liquefied natural gas 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 also is evaluating this tract for lay ship berthing.


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 also is critical. Extending rail to the island also would be an investment that could spark economic development.


Before I close this week’s column, I would like to share a little of Pelican 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 University at Galveston campus. Today, in addition to the growing Texas A&M university campus, Pelican Island hosts port cargo and maritime repair services and dredge spoil activities, although 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.

Rodger Rees is Galveston Wharves port director and CEO.

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(7) comments

George Laiacona

We have the opportunity right now to improve the chances of making the island profitable for Galveston. We must realize that the Republicans are not interested in supporting the Democrats Infrastructure package. We must some how convince them that this package will present the opportunity to replace the bridge and maybe even purchase the acreage owned by the Port of Houston.

Charlotte O'rourke

George, I agree the infrastructure bill is very important and our leaders need to focus on obtaining funding for the Pelican Island bridge and developing Pelican Island either in partnership with Houston or obtaining the property and developing with another private party. But if the POG wants another cruise terminal before building out cargo facilities, or runs off more cargo business to obtain more cruise terminals, I think someone young should run a campaign platform - GALVESTON IS MORE THAN JUST TOURISM. LOL.

Ted Gillis

Just to clarify, the present bridge included a rail line when it was built. It hasn't been used in years (if ever). So just because "if you build it they will come" is a good slogan, it does not mean it will come true.

Jose' Boix

One key aspect to the development of Pelican Island is having a state-of-the-arts access system: land (road & rail) and sea. Local economic development should be based on a rational and common-sense based approach absent of Party Affiliation! Continuing to "party bash and finger-point" is counter intuitive and counterproductive. Just my thoughts.

Charlotte O'rourke

Jose’, “Local economic development should be based on a rational and common-sense based approach absent of Party Affiliation!”

I totally agree and is the reason I don’t vote for a party, but for the person and his or her ideas.

One must deal with everyone regardless of party or personal likes and dislikes. Some people can’t do that and therefore cannot an effective be a leader.

I try to listen to different ideas from various backgrounds, and then decide on the merits of the idea.

On the idea of developing Pelican Island and the bridge, it is past time for talk and needs action.

Jose' Boix

Charlotte: A "Dead Ringer" statement, "On the idea of developing Pelican Island and the bridge, it is past time for talk and needs action." Perhaps an issue of "too many Chefs in the kitchen," or trying to "push using a wet noodle." Aside from the issue of "Party affiliation," to me there seems to be too many "factions;" County, City, Port, TAMU, possibly others - and lack of a central leader on this issue. Just my thoughts.

Charlotte O'rourke

Jose’, it wouldn’t surprise me if there were a lack of coordination among the groups as lack of uniformity/coordination exists in lobbying for legislation as well, it may be one of the reasons some GOP legislators want to take away a municipality’s and governmental entity’s right to lobby.

When using public money to lobby, there should be a coordinated and agreed upon agenda that the public (its their money) has an opportunity to hear and to lodge a protest or write their representatives.

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