OP-ED: My Five Cents: New technology developed in Orange County for cleaning up oil spills

Published 6:49 am Saturday, August 7, 2021

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The Battle of Nacogdoches occurred 185 years ago this week. On August 2, 1836, a group of Texas settler defied an order from a Mexican Army commander and did not surrender their weapons. This battle is often referred to the opening gun of the Texas Revolution. The revolutionaries were successful in this first conflict and cleared East Texas of military rule, allowing citizens to meet in convention without military intervention.

Here are five things happening around your state:

  1. Texas Historical Commission approves plan for Alamo Exhibition Hall and Collections Building

Last week, the Texas Historical Commission approved the final plans for an Exhibition Hall and Collections Building at the Alamo site in San Antonio. This plan expands the capacity for artifacts and documents by 500 percent. The Alamo will break ground on the new 24,000 square foot building on August 17th and the building is scheduled to open in summer 2022. This part of the plan is a new addition to the historical Alamo site and part of an overall comprehensive plan to rebuild historic buildings and enhance the experience at the Alamo. The rest of the plan includes restoring the 1836 battlefield footprint, preserving the 300-year-old church and long barrack, building a new visitor’s center, and renovating Alamo Hall, among other projects. These projects will serve to further educate Texans and all Americans who visit the historic battleground and will honor all the brave Texans who fought and died there in the name of Texas independence.

  1. Battleship Texas progress

Work continues on the Battleship Texas. Volunteers and staff have been working to restore and reassemble the AA guns. Though there is extensive rust damage, the organization overseeing the work has found an efficient and successful method to make it easier for them to be broken down, cleaned, and reassembled. Work has also started on the ship’s propeller. The propeller had to be removed and hoisted for work to begin. Next, conservation work has begun on the bell from the original Battleship Texas, which predated the current dreadnought. The bell sat atop the original battleship in 1895. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has been integral in the restoration efforts in addition to the work of the Battleship Texas Organization.

  1. Senator Nichols receives award for broadband work

Digital Texas, a coalition of 40 philanthropic, non-profit, and advocacy organizations across the state, honored me and 19 other elected officials and staff with awards for our work on enhancing broadband access and passing House Bill 5 during session. Governor Abbott made broadband access an emergency item for the legislative session, and we received broad, bipartisan support for this legislation. House Bill 5 was one of the most important bills I worked on and I’m proud of what we accomplished. I’d like to thank Digital Texas for honoring myself and one of my staff members with this award and all of my fellow honorees for their hard work. I’d like to especially thank the House bill author Rep. Trent Ashby and the Temple Foundation for helping make this legislation a reality.

  1. TEA reminds parents to check in with administrators about student progress

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruptions it caused, the legislature passed SB 1697 which gives parents the flexibility to decide if their student needs to repeat a course or grade. As the school year approaches, it’s time to consider where your student is academically. The pandemic and distance learning had an adverse impact on most students. TEA is using the resources at their disposal to support parents making this decision. If any Texas parent decides that it is best for their child to repeat a grade or course, they must inform their school in writing before the start of the school year. As planning for the upcoming year has already begun, it’s important to reach out to your school as soon as possible.

  1. New technology developed in Orange County for cleaning up oil spills

Oversea, LLC of Orange, Texas has produced a new form of oil collection technology called the Balaena. The Baleaena Express vessel has been in development for about 10 years and draws from experiences the team had cleaning up the Alvenus oil spill in 1984 and the Macondo spill in 2010. The vessel is different from other skimming technology because it uses ambient water to transfer the floating oil. It can be both a stationary skimmer and a self-propelled recovery vessel. It can store and transport the oil collected and discharge the recovered oil to transport barges if the spill is larger than its capacity. I applaud this important development in oil spill technology and look forward to its use in the future.

Robert Nichols is the Republican Senator for the 3rd District in the Texas Senate.