How One Man Fooled the Government into Approving a Controversial Facility in Port Aransas

Using a fake name, a former convicted felon presented his business as a way to protect the environment.

By Alexandra HartJanuary 6, 2017 1:08 pm,

In 2014, a man calling himself Mike Edwards proposed a project to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Texas General Land Office. He wanted to build a barge mooring facility in an ecologically sensitive part of the Texas coast near Port Aransas. The Army Corps gave it a quick green light.

But it turns out Mike Edwards wasn’t who he said he was. His real name: Everett Michael Skipper, a convicted felon who had been rounded up in a bribery sting. Neither the Army Corps nor the General Land Office did a background check on Skipper, seemingly fast-tracking the permitting process for his proposed facility.

Skipper also seems to have misrepresented what his facility would do and who it would serve, presenting it as a temporary mooring place, despite its website boasting a full-fleet operation.

Locals are now suing the Army Corps of Engineers for granting Skipper the permit.

Naveena Sadasivam, who investigated the story for the Texas Observer, says the rationale Skipper presented is an important part of the story.

“He says that the Port of Corpus Christi has been experiencing a lot of barge traffic so a lot of barges are not able to get into the port,” she says. “They’re backed up waiting, often waiting in this little channel Lydia Ann just off the coast of Port Aransas. His rationale is that instead of having these barges nosing up into the shoreline of the channel and damaging the shoreline, we’ll construct a facility where these barges can tie up. It’ll be in deeper water so it’ll protect the shoreline.”

Skipper and his two other partners presented the company as a way to protect the environment, noting that they did not require a lengthy environmental review process or a public comment period.

“The Army Corps seemed to agree with them,” Sadasivam says. “What they were not told was that the company planned to sell fuel to some of the barges at this facility. On their website, they advertise that they can pick up people from the airport and drive them to these barges and do grocery runs if they need to.”

Locals, many who came to the area to fish and duck hunt, were surprised the see the construction in 2015.

“Part of the reason why they’re quite upset is that they had no warning that this was going to happen,” Sadasivam says.

The locals who filed suit are blaming the Army Corps. The Army Corps is blaming Skipper’s company, Lydia Ann Channel Moorings, saying they were misled. Lydia Ann Channel Moorings says they shouldn’t be faulted for the Army Corps’ oversight.

The case is now before a federal judge. The company’s permit has been revoked, but they are still in operation.

“The federal judge is now deciding to issue an injunction and ask the company to stop operating while the case is decided,” Sadasivam says.

Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.