Category Archives: Galveston County

Blue water returns to Galveston Island just in time for Labor Day weekend

By Rebecca Hennes

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Photo: Official Twitter Of Historic Galveston Island

Blue water has returned to Galveston island for the second time this summer, just in time for a perfect Labor Day weekend.

Galveston Island tweeted about the gorgeous view Thursday, asking residents if they had noticed the blue was back.

“ARE Y’ALL SEEING THIS WATER???” the tweet read.

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Mardi Gras! Galveston Kicks Off This Weekend

719e81ac-e774-4ed0-bfa8-d55e9c8bf559.jpgThe Island’s 105th Mardi Gras celebration, to be held January 29 – February 9, 2016, is expected to draw more than 300,000 attendees for 30+ concerts, 22 parades, 20 balcony parties and five elegant masked balls. And, this island-style Mardi Gras has plenty of personality. From the classic revelry found in the heart of Galveston’s historic downtown district – where the bulk of festivities take place – to electronic dance parties and family friendly events and parades, Mardi Gras! Galveston offers excitement everyone can enjoy.

Let the good times roll with‘s comprehensive guide to Mardi Gras events, music, & fun!

Galveston Shrimp Festival This Weekend

shrimpfest_logoThree full days of shrimp, music, friends and fun begins on Friday, September 25 and runs through Sunday, September 27, 2015! Event activities include a Shrimp Gumbo Cook-Off, Gumbo Tasting, Free Outdoors Show, Official 5k, Lil’ Shrimps Parade, Live Music, Vendors, Kids Area and a Strand Merchant Walk-About! There is plenty for the whole family to enjoy!

More Info Here

Chief Henry Porretto Retires from the Galveston Police Department

Chief Henry Porretto tendered notice of his retirement from the Galveston Police Department effective October 30, 2015. He will be on leave until that date. This will have no impact on Department Operations as an interim leadership structure is already in place. As a result of the Chief’s retirement, the inquiry dealing with the existing Title VII matter ends.

The City will conduct a comprehensive search for a new Chief to ensure the best possible pool of candidates. The search will begin in the coming days.

Porretto’s Resignation Letter is below:

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Galveston Police Chief Placed on Paid Administrative Leave

City Notified of Employment Issue, Moving Forward with Inquiry



(GALVESTON, TX) September 17, 2015 – On September 16th, Galveston Police Chief Henry Porretto was placed on paid administrative leave. The City received information regarding an employment issue and consistent with City practice, an inquiry will begin next week. An outside law firm, Lynn Ross Gannaway and Cranford, will conduct the inquiry. Chief Porretto has served as Police Chief since 2012. Prior, he served as Interim Police Chief from June of 2011 to July of 2012.

The City has named David Smith, a 35-year City employee, to serve as the Acting Police Chief until the inquiry has concluded. David is an active commissioned law enforcement officer and serves as the Director of Fleet Services, managing Island Transit, the municipal garage, and special events. Prior to becoming the Director of Fleet Services, David served as a Galveston Police Officer for 16 years.

Titanic discoverer brings ocean science to the next generation

BallardGALVESTON — In 1985, Dr. Robert Ballard and his crew from the University of Rhode Island, along with the U.S. Navy, were the first to discover the wreckage of the famed RMS Titanic, after it lay on the ocean floor for 73 years.

Using the robot craft Argo, Ballard’s idea that Titanic had imploded was confirmed on September 1, 1985 by following an undersea debris trail to the ship, which was in two distinct parts.

Ballard’s other oceanographic discoveries include the German battleship Bismarck in 1989, RMS Lusitania in 1993, the Yorktown in 1998 and John F. Kennedy’s PT-109 in 2002.

Ballard founded the Ocean Exploration Trust (OET) in 2008 to, “Engage in ocean exploration and research, advance ocean technology and promote education in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).”

Every year, Ballard and his ever-changing crew of scientists, educators and students embark on an expedition aboard the Exploration Vessel E/V Nautilus to gather information about the sea floor and other oceanic ecosystems and disseminate it via “telepresence” to people all around the world.

They arrived in Galveston Thursday following a Gulf of Mexico expedition.

Telepresence is OET’s word for their ability to share data, ideas and updates with not only their social media followers, but schools, Universities, educators and scientists all around the world.

“If we find something new, no matter what time it is, we have a book of ‘on call’ scientists that we contact via telepresence. It may be 2 a.m., but these people are excited to get a call like that,” said Ballard. “That way, we can all be looking at the same thing on these high definition screens and discussing what we may have.”

The gathering and sharing of information is primarily done in the Control Van via Nautilus’s 2.4 meter tracking antenna, which is capable of data speeds up to 20 Mbps. There is a full production studio on board, as well as a data processing and a wet lab and a hangar and workshop for Nautilus’s resident Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) Hercules and Argus.

The two ROVs are the “eyes” for the scientific crew as they explore the ocean floor in an ecologically responsible manner, while their humans stay safely on the ship. “With the ROVs, there’s really no reason for humans to have to brave the deep anymore,” said Ballard. “The cameras and high definition monitors make it almost like being there. Pretty soon, we hope to have a whole room that we can make into an IMAX-like theater. We’ll have to warn people not to run if they get overwhelmed. Just close your eyes!”

Ballard, now 73, lights up when he talks about his passion for inspiring young people.

“We are targeting middle school-aged kids with our programs,” Ballard said. “They have to decide in junior high if they are going to do STEM classes or not, so we hope to interest them before they have to make that decision.”

“The U.S. is a ‘star-based’ society,” Ballard added. “Whether it’s the movies or sports, everyone wants to be a star. This way, the shy, quiet kid can come to the Nautilus or participate in one of our remote programs and end up in one of our productions. Then, all the other kids see him or her and realize that, hey, this kid’s a star, too.”

OET offers numerous opportunities for teachers and students.

“The Science Communication Fellowship (SCF) Program immerses formal and informal educators in the Nautilus Corps of Exploration and empowers them to bring ocean exploration to a global audience via the Nautilus Live website.

“Fellows share accounts of ocean science, expedition operations and daily life with audiences through live audio commentary and question-and-answer sessions from aboard the ship.

“Through participation in live interactions with student groups and public audiences, Fellows also engage people of all ages in real-time exploration. Science Communication Fellows then bring their expedition experience back to their own classrooms, organizations and communities in the form of engaging lesson plans and activities centered around their time at sea aboard Nautilus.

“The Honors Research Program (HRP) brings a small group of honors-level high school students to the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography and to E/V Nautilus for one to two weeks during the summer and fall.

“HRP students work with scientists and engineers to learn about oceanography, data visualization techniques, and the scientific research process. After completing a research project on shore based on data collected by Nautilus, HRP students participate in sea-going expeditions to work with the Corps of Exploration and stand watch as Data Loggers, alongside scientists and engineers.

“The Nautilus Science and Engineering Internship Program aims to train undergraduate and graduate students studying ocean science, engineering and video/film in the at-sea environment.

“Intern positions entail two to five week periods working aboard E/V Nautilus as Data Loggers, ROV Engineers, or Video Engineers.

“All interns spend their time on Nautilus working with a wide array of scientists, engineers, students, and educators.

“Science interns learn how to make scientific observations and process digital data and physical samples. ROV interns learn how to maintain and operate the exploration vehicles and systems. Video engineering and film interns learn how to operate video for the ROVs and work with the communications team to share the Nautilus story.

“All interns gain experience in communications and leadership, including participating in educational outreach activities, such as live interviews with shore,” according to the website.

During the 2015 Exploration Season, E/V Nautilus and its Corps of Exploration are exploring sites ranging from the Gulf of Mexico to British Columbia from April to late September.

More than six weeks of this time will be used to explore and map the Galapagos Rift and the site of the first hydrothermal vent discovery in 1977.

A hydrothermal vent is a crack in the Earth’s surface from which water heated by the Earth’s interior comes out. In contrast to the most of the sea, the areas around oceanic hydrothermal vents are biologically diverse because certain species have evolved to depend on the natural chemicals secreted by the vents.

While the Nautilus was in the Gulf of Mexico from May 14 to May 19, the crew explored hard substrate coral habitats, hydrocarbon seeps and brine pools.

Two middle school teachers from Lake Charles, La., spent six days aboard the Nautilus, chatting with their students daily using telepresence. “It was the experience of a lifetime,” said sixth grade teacher Amanda Boudreaux.

Citgo generously sponsored the ship-to-shore event in Galveston on Tuesday (May 19).

Visit to learn more about the E/V Nautilus and her crew. Visitors may also watch activities in real time.

Galveston Park to Get $10.7M for Recovery From Oil Spill

The Galveston County Daily News reports the aging building where administrators work is little more than a shed with a leaky ceiling and failing water pipes.

But park officials consider themselves lucky. Unlike other state parks in Texas, the park will receive $10.7 million for upgrades in late 2017 from BP’s restoration fund created in response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Read more…

Galveston County Fair and Rodeo to host Salute To Veterans


5525682d29353.imageThe Galveston County Fair and Rodeo will go red, white, and blue on Thursday, April 16, 2015, for a special salute to Veterans. The fair will host Veterans from the Veterans Support Coalition of Galveston County. Every branch of the military is represented in the Coalition. Veterans, both currently active and former military warriors from Galveston and surrounding counties, will enjoy an afternoon of fair fun. “It will be a real honor to host these service men and women,” boasts Galveston County Fair and Rodeo President, Paul Tibaldo. “We welcome all veterans of all wars to come and enjoy our fair.”

Veterans Support Coalition and the Veterans Peer Network approached the fair’s board to consider such an event for veterans. Jim Flex, President of the Veterans Support Coalition of Galveston County explains, “We have already some emails from veterans or veteran groups who will be attending their first rodeo since serving in the military. Some have lived just a few miles down the road for the last 40 years. By allowing veterans to come in a few hours before the crowd; this is a great first step in healing and becoming engaged with their families with the general public.”

Many Veterans endure intense social repercussions from their time in the military. Flex explains, “Some feel awkward not just due to visible injuries and wounds, but many Veterans suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder). While not specifically for handicapped or PTSD veterans, but also includes current active or former military warriors; we know that many veterans will not attend a large event, or even an event with a fence around it for a multitude of reasons, thus, depriving their families and friends a great time.”

The Veteran’s special salute is the first “veteran” to “veteran” event being held at the Galveston County Fair and Rodeo. Flex is quick to give credit to the Galveston County Fair and Rodeo’s board, saying, “None of this would be possible without the dedicated rodeo and fair members and sponsors.”

Veteran groups will arrive before gates officially open at 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 16th. Veterans Support Coalition of Galveston County and volunteers will escort and/or assist veterans as they tour the livestock animals and explore other fair activities. Most veterans are thrilled to be able to get out with the family and enjoy what the fair has to offer. Admission is free for the families, prior to gates opening at 4 p.m.

Later that evening, before the rodeo, each branch of the military will be honored, including a patriotic salute to all Veterans. For more information on attending, contact the Veterans Support Coalition of Galveston County at 832 285 2008, or for the fair’s full schedule visit

No Bond in New Orleans for Durst

(Photo By Gerald Herbert/AP)  FILE - In this Tuesday, March 17, 2015 file, Millionaire Robert Durst is escorted from Orleans Parish Criminal District Court to the Orleans Parish Prison after his arraignment in New Orleans. Durst is going back to court in New Orleans after nearly a week in a prison mental ward 70 miles away. At a preliminary hearing on weapons charges on Monday, March 23, his lawyers planned to argue that the 71-year-old Houston man should be released because he was illegally arrested on those charges and a Los Angeles County warrant accusing him of murdering a female friend.

(Photo By Gerald Herbert/AP) FILE – In this Tuesday, March 17, 2015 photo, Millionaire Robert Durst is escorted from Orleans Parish Criminal District Court to the Orleans Parish Prison after his arraignment in New Orleans. 

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A magistrate on Monday ordered millionaire Robert Durst held without bond on weapons charges in Louisiana and said the man accused of killing his friend 15 years ago in California was both a flight risk and a danger to others.

Durst, 71, was seated beside his lawyers, his hands shackled to his sides in padded cuffs. He has been in a prison’s mental health unit for nearly a week. Jail officials have called him a suicide risk.

Magistrate Harry Cantrell set a preliminary hearing in the weapons case for April 2.

Durst is accused of killing Susan Berman in 2000, but his lawyers say his arrest was illegal and orchestrated to coincide with the finale of an HBO series about his links to three killings.

He was arrested March 14 at a New Orleans hotel on both the weapons charges and on the Los Angeles County warrant accusing him of murder.

On Monday, defense attorney Dick DeGuerin said he never expected the magistrate to set bond.

“We were able to get a lot of information we didn’t have before,” DeGuerin said after the hearing. “… I think all in all we had a very good day.”

One of the weapons charges alleges that Durst had a .38-caliber revolver; previous felony convictions make that illegal. The other charge alleges he had the weapon and illegal drugs: more than 5 ounces of marijuana.

Prosecutors have not said whether they will bring those charges before a grand jury.

None of Durst’s previous convictions was serious enough to merit the felon in possession charge, his attorneys say.

Durst had registered at the J.W. Marriott Hotel under the name Everette Ward, and a search of his hotel room turned up his passport, nearly $43,000 in cash, a gun, and a rubber or latex mask that could cover his head and neck, according to a search warrant for his Houston condo.

Durst, a member of a wealthy New York real estate family, was charged with murder in California for the December 2000 shooting death of Susan Berman.

His arrest came one day before the finale of “The Jinx,” the show about his links to his first wife’s disappearance in 1982; the death of Berman, a mobster’s daughter who acted as his spokeswoman after his wife went missing; and a 71-year-old neighbor in Texas whose dismembered body was found floating in Galveston Bay in 2001. Durst has been tried only for the Texas killing, and he was acquitted of murder.

Durst waived extradition in New Orleans but is being held on the weapons charges.

During Monday’s hearing, DeGuerin asked that prosecutor-turned-TV-host Jeanine Pirro be removed from the courtroom as a potential witness. He said he wanted to question her.

“She’s here because she’s been participating in the dogging of Mr. Durst for years,” he said.

But Cantrell ruled that Pirro would not testify.

Pirro — a Fox News Channel host and former district attorney in New York’s Westchester County, where she investigated the still-unsolved disappearance of Durst’s first wife — returned to the courtroom with a small smile.

After court, Pirro said requests for comment would have to go through her employer.

Spill Closes Ship Channel Indefinitely

Coast Guard Captain Brian Penoyer addressed the media at a press conference Tuesday (March 10) morning.

Coast Guard Captain Brian Penoyer addressed the media at a press conference Tuesday (March 10) morning.

Coast Guard officials said Tuesday the Houston Ship Channel is expected to remain closed in the foreseeable future from Light 86 to the Fred Hartman Bridge after a chemical tanker and a bulk carrier collided Monday.

Captain Brian Penoyer with the U.S. Coast Guard could not provide a timeline for cleanup and the re-opening of the ship channel because the chemical tanker, a Danish flagged Carla Maersk, had leaked some of its cargo, Methyl tert-butyl ether (MBTE), and human health protection is the priority.

MBTE is a flammable, colorless liquid used as an additive to gasoline that tends to float in water and has a low toxicity level. Its smell, however, is quite strong, and long-term inhalation exposure to MBTE may cause health problems or even death.

“Our focus is to protect the public and right now we are looking at blanketing the MBTE so that it no longer can vaporize into the air. Once that objective is accomplished, we will press on to other objectives,” Penoyer said. “We know that the people who live and work need to get back to business, and that is a high priority for all of us and we’ll address that once the safety concern has been resolved.”

Penoyer also stated that the cleanup would not be quick.

“It is important for everyone to remember that because of the volatility of this cargo, resolving those concerns safely for our responders and for the public may require a significant initial amount of time. People should not expect that we will be able to execute this salvage operation in minutes or hours,” he said.

Penoyer praised the first response team for preventing the majority of the MBTE from being discharged.

“As a responder, what I need to know is where the MBTE is vaporizing in the air and where it is on the water. Our air reconnaissance tells us that,” he said.

“Based on detailed salvage assessment of the vessel overnight, I’m now convinced that we’ve accounted for the vast majority of the cargo, even in the tanks which were impacted. However, because the cargo tank and wing tanks were damaged out at sea, that cargo was mixed with seawater. This cargo dissolves in water.

“Accordingly, this mix of MTBE and salt water is in the ballast tanks of this ship and it is likely that we will never be able to tell you precisely how much went into this salt water mix and how much was released into the environment in total.

“We have found, with the exception of a trace sheen coming from the damaged area, no MTBE on the surface of the water and no detectable concentrations of MTBE in the air around the shoreline communities since about midnight last night,” Penoyer said.

The cause of the collision is under investigation.

“Certainly the Houston Ship Channel and Galveston Bay are among the busiest ports in the world,” said Penoyer.

“This collision occurred while the ships were meeting, one inbound and one outbound. The pilots involved in piloting these vessels are master craftsmen at maneuvering these vessels. These are very large ships operating within a 530-foot wide ship channel.”

A shelter-in-place that had been in effect for residents in Morgan’s Point was lifted overnight, but the Coast Guard urged area residents to stay tuned to local television and radio stations in case of a change in the situation.

This was the second ship collision in the channel in less than a week. On Thursday (Mar. 5), a 445-foot tanker and 892-foot container ship collided approximately 15 miles north of Galveston. No injuries or damage were reported.

Federal, state and local agencies and responders continue to work to ensure public safety as they respond to the spill, which happened at Morgan’s Point.

The Barbours Cut Terminal did not open as normally scheduled at Tuesday as a precautionary measure. Air quality monitoring has determined that fumes are present, but they are below toxic levels. Air monitoring is currently taking place throughout the area and is being facilitated by local jurisdictions.

There are 26 ships waiting to come inbound to Houston and 14 waiting to leave. The Coast Guard is working to help ensure that the remaining product in the ship is safely secured in order to begin reopening the ship channel.

A safety zone has been established from the Fred Hartman Bridge to light 86 on the Houston Ship Channel and includes Goose Creek, Tabbs Bay, Cedar Bayou Channel and Barbours Cut.

At 12:41 p.m. Monday watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston received a report of the collision between the Carla Maersk, a 600-foot chemical tanker, and the Conti Peridot, a 623-foot bulk carrier, which resulted in a puncture to three of the Carla Maersk’s port tanks. The chemical tanker was carrying approximately 216,000 barrels of Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether prior to the collision.

An incident command post has been established at the City of La Porte Emergency Operations Center to further response efforts. Additional information will be released as it becomes available.