Monday, October 20, 2014

Take Military Land Use Study Survey

Currently there is a Joint Land Use Study being conducted by the military. They are seeking public comment regarding the impact of local military facilities and communities. They recently gave a presentation to interested persons in El Paso. However, that meeting was not well publicized.

Richard Teschner, the President of the Friends of the Rio Bosque, sent out the following email this morning. It well summarizes the purpose of the Land Use Study:

"The Southern New Mexico/El Paso, Texas Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) is a cooperative process among city, county and state governments, state and federal agencies, Fort Bliss, Holloman Air Force Base, White Sands Missile Range, and the public in general. The JLUS seeks to create a long-term planning partnership that protects quality of life in local communities and enhances the military missions of the three installations. The study emphasizes ways to promote coordination, understand the economic impact of the installations, and preserve critical civilian and Department of Defense capabilities. The JLUS looks at various compatibility factors including aviation and range noise, airspace, safety, renewable energy and frequency spectrum management.

"The Draft JLUS report contains strategies to promote compatibility between civilian growth, development decisions and military missions. The report is available at . When you click on that link you will also find a survey, which I encourage you to take. Comments/Survey completions are welcome through November 6, 2014."

Go to the JLUS site where you will find a link to the survey. There is a place where you can add a comment. I mentioned my concern that military exercises are destroying desert ecosystems. I hope others will mention the same issue.

You can see the slide show from the JLUS public meeting HERE.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Get Ready

Imagine flying over the Diablo Plateau just past the Huecos from El Paso and seeing this. Get ready.

Fracking is known for its contamination of wells and groundwater. For instance, Californians have recently learned that frackers are dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into their groundwater. No wonder that people in Denton, Texas are fighting fracking in their community. Yet the damage to underground resources and subsequent health dangers to those above is not the only havoc reeked by the fracking industry. Social costs and damage to the surface ecosystems need to be weighed as well.

Food and Water Watch recently published a study on the social costs of fracking. (There are good summaries HERE and HERE.) Environment America has also issued a study. The social costs include impact on health, infrastructure, increased crime and sexual disease, negative impact on property values, on and on. 

But the environmental impact is not just deep underground. It is what happens to the surface: chemical spills, heavy trucks and other machinery destroying surface soil and cutting new roads from fracking pad to fracking pad. Indeed it is this surface damage that may be the highest cost of fracking especially in the desert.

The desert surface is so valuable and so vulnerable. The soil teems with life and that life is essential for the plants and animals of the region. Lichens, mosses, liverworts, cyanobacteria all bind the surface and aid in water retention critical to the desert ecosystem. "The survival, growth, and reproduction of living things depends considerably on soil characteristics," according to Sonoran Desert expert, Joseph R. McAuliffe.  

Science Daily quotes American Society of Agronomy and Soil Science Society of America Member Mandy Williams: "These crusts kind of act like a living mulch across a desert, by protecting the surface from erosion. Once you disturb the soil surface, you're more likely to lose what little resources are available there."

[See good pictures of the life in the desert crusts HERE.] 

Thus, it is disheartening to learn that Torchlight Energy has acquired 172,000 acres on the Diablo Plateau southwest of Cornudas, Texas which is just a hop from El Paso. Consider the damage to the ecosystem of that plateau. Consider the social costs to Dell City and, yes, to El Paso. Get ready.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Register NOW for Sun Country Landscaping Conference

Click image to enlarge.
County Extension Agent and West Texas Urban Forestry Council member,Denise Rodriguez, reminds us that: 

"Early registration [for the Sun Country Landscaping Conference] closes on October 31st. 

"John White will join me on the Good to Grow radio show on October 25th to promote the conference. Also, the Master Gardeners will have an educational booth at this weekend’s Home and Garden Show and will have printed programs on hand."

Denise has been the Chairwoman of this year's SCLC.

To see the conference program and print out a registration form, go HERE. You can also pre-register online HERE.

ALL persons are welcomed and will get valuable info and tips about trees (including fruit trees), rainwater management, turf and composting. Many sessions are in Spanish.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

EcoWise El Paso Recognizes JimTolbert

Okay - I'm bragging. Truth is I was honored and surprised when I was presented with yesterday's first EcoWise El Paso award at the annual Environmental Summit. 

My friend and the Master of Ceremony at yesterday's event, Rick LoBello read this commendation:

"Today we would like to honor with our first EcoWise El Paso Environmental Award one of the most respected environmental writers in El Paso.  For many years he has helped to inform the general public about a wide array of environmental issues.  His leadership is one of the main reasons why the City took action to protect nearly 800 acres of desert habitat near Franklin Mountains State Park along Loop 375 on the Trans Mountains Road. He consistently speaks out for the environment and helps to bring people together so that they can find consensus on important issues.   He has been very active as a member of the City's Open Space Board and over the past few years his leadership has helped to make El Paso's Celebration of our Mountains the city's number one "get outside and connect with nature" community event. He is one of El Paso's top conservation heroes and it is an honor for me to present this award to Jim Tolbert."

The award reads:

"EcoWise El Paso recognizes Jim Tolbert for invaluable dedication and commitment to preserving the Paso del Norte Environment. 2014"

Every now and then I am tempted to give up elpasonaturally. Well - not for awhile.

Jim Tolbert, Pat White and Judy Ackerman at the 2014 EcoWise Environmental Summit

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Friday Video: The Remarkable World of Winter Squash

Who needs canned food?! Here are some ideas for good food from scratch PLUS the answer to that seasonal grocery store or farmers market question: "What the heck is that?"

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Joint Land Use Study Needs Your Attention

Got this message from Judy Ackerman today:

"This sounds like something we should pay attention to.  Please spread the word." judy ackerman

El Paso County: Tuesday, October 14 2014 from 6 to 8PM 
El Paso Community College-Transmountain Campus 
9570 Gateway Blvd. North El Paso, TX

The Southern New Mexico – El Paso, Texas Joint Land Use Study (SNMEP JLUS) is a cooperative process among city, county, and state governments; the public; agencies; and the military installations of Fort Bliss, Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range. The study looks at issues such as land use, economic development, infrastructure, environmental sustainability, and the operational demands and mission change of both military and civilian entities within the six counties of Doña Ana, Lincoln, Otero, Sierra, and Socorro in New Mexico and El Paso County in Texas. The intent of the study is to highlight common interests such as economic growth, more efficient infrastructure, healthier environments, improved quality of life, and the protection of Department of Defense and civilian investments and missions. [Emphases mine.]

More info:

Tempest in a Teapot

Want to brew a tempest in a teapot? Here's how:

Item 12d on yesterday's agenda of the El Paso County Water Improvement District #1 Board meeting was:

Application 1683, by El Paso Water Utilities-Public Service Board, for a 25 year license to construct a 36-inch reclaimed water main crossing the Rio Intercepting Drainage Canal at approximately Station 39+65.

The “36-inch reclaimed water main” is the planned pipeline from the Bustamante Plant to Rio Bosque and, in time, to a regulating pond as part of the utility's conservation strategy. 

At Water District Engineer Al Blair’s request, the item was moved to “closed session.”  After 2 hours of closed session, which also included many other items on the agenda, the board reconvened in open session, and Board President Johnny Stubbs stated the board was taking “no action” on Application 1683.

Naturally the lack of action raised fears among conservationists and friends of the Bosque and seemed to dampen the jubilation expressed in the recent Rio Bosque News. Here's your tempest in a teapot brewing.

Even though the EPWU will seek clarification, one wonders if it really matters what the District does that can hold up construction. Whoever can't read maps that show rightaway or whichever maps are incorrect, construction will go on even if EPWU will have to zig and zag a bit. Of course in November, the Water District Board may just grant the license.

Of course, elpasonaturally will keep an eye on this. However, for the time being, a deep breath might be helpful. Balliew and crew are trustworthy.

The matter though raises another issue that I have been planning to blog about for awhile now: the greed of those who serve on the Water Improvement District Board and hence their unwillingness to care anything about anyone but themselves. 

Picture this: you own a large pecan farm in the lower valley. You also have sat for decades on the Water District Board. Your Daddy served on it before you. Your Board is unanswerable to anyone else and YOU set the price you will pay for water for your water-guzzling pecan trees. That indeed is how it works.

Wouldn't it be nice for any one of us to sit on a board that sets the price we pay at gasoline pumps or at the grocery store? We set prices low for us but high for everyone else.

Here's what Water District Board President Johnny Stubbs pays for his water:

The EPWU buys water for as much as $260 an acre foot! It's less on different contracts but not nearly what Johnny and the boys pay - the price set by themselves for themselves. Again, nobody oversees the district board - at least nobody who gives a hoot and a holler.

Rather than being civic-minded and, in truth, patriotic, members of the Water District Board will clench their fists in an executive session (which may not have been legal) and make no decision on a request that helps neighbors and could encourage an $18 million dollar per year eco-tourist site at the Rio Bosque. But, of course, that $18 million dollars won't go into their pockets.