Monday, December 28, 2009

Commissioner Escobar Urges Preservation of Castner Range

In a letter to Mr. John Barrera of Fort Bliss, County Commissioner Veronica Escobar urges the Army to preserve Castner Range in its natural state. Escobar states that such preservation "would be mitigation for the inevitable destruction of natural habitat caused by the expansion of Fort Bliss".

As an advocate of green space and eco-tourism, Commissioner Escobar believes that preserving Castner can best be done by a conservation conveyance. Preserving the space will also "create more nature-focused outdoor opportunities for children growing up in El Paso."

Click on image to enlarge

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Christmas Miracle: Jobe To Turn Over 41A

Click to enlarge

I do not know all of the details yet. However, it appears that Stanley Jobe has agreed to turn over FEMA Flowpath 41A (Mountain to River Arroyo on the GLO land).

Here's the news from Charlie Wakeem:

Dear Friends,

We may have a wonderful Christmas present this year. First, I got a call from Rick Bonart, then Rep. Ann Morgan-Lilly this afternoon about great news for our city, the Open Space Plan, the Mountain to River Trail, and the Franklin Mountains. Stanley Jobe has agreed to turn over FEMA Flowpath 41A (Mountain to River Arroyo on the GLO leased premises) for preservation. However, Mr. Jobe must first get permission from the GLO, but Rep. Lilly said that should be no problem. She told me she's been in talks with Mr. Jobe for about a month, but that it's now OK for everyone to know about this positive turn of events.

Mr. Jobe will meet with key people and groups after the holidays to discuss the details of his offer. Rep. Lilly also told me he will repair and improve bike trails and wants to turn the property over to the PSB and not to the Parks Department, which I agree is the right thing to do.

We don't know exactly how much of the property will be dedicated at this time, and if it will include more than just the FEMA 41A stream bed. That will be determined in talks at a later date.

Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy & Healthy New Year.

Charlie Wakeem

Of course, if Jobe does not mean rim to rim, this is an empty gesture. For now, the news sounds promising - a true Christmas miracle.

Preserving Castner Range

One of the major efforts of the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition is the preservation of the Castner Range as open space. The goal is to make that range part of the Franklin Mountains State Park once the Army has cleared it of unexploded ordnance. Clearing will require a lengthy process of site preparation. Following a site assessment in early January, the Army will hold a public meeting on January 14, 2010 at the Radisson Hotel at the Airport.

This email was sent regarding the public meeting:

From: []
Sent: Friday, December 18, 2009 2:38 PM
Subject: Castner Range: WAA Site Characterization Update

***This email is being sent on behalf of US Army Garrison, Fort Bliss***

The US Army is currently performing various activities at the Fort Bliss Castner Range (west of US 54, north and south of Transmountain Road) as part of the Wide Area Assessment Field Demonstration Project. The project team has suspended site preparation activities until 5 January 2010. Upon our return, the team will finalize site preparation activities for the geophysical surveys. We plan to fly low altitude helicopter-borne magnetometry the week of 11 January 2010 and deploy ground-based geophysical teams later in the month. Local residents should not be surprised with the flurry of people and activities.

As a reminder, we have scheduled the second Technical Project Planning Meeting for 14 January 2010 beginning at 9:00 am at the Radisson Hotel, El Paso Airport.

If you have questions about this project or the MMRP, please contact Mr. Ron Baca, Program Manager, Environmental Division, Directorate of Public Works, Fort Bliss, at (915) 568-7979; or Ms. Kimberly Watts, U.S. Army Environmental Command, at (410) 436-6843.


Victoria Kantsios
Victoria Kantsios
URS Corporation
2450 Crystal Drive, Suite 500
Arlington, VA 22202

(703) 418-3030 (Office)
(404) 702-1141 (Cell)
(703) 418-3040 (Fax)

This e-mail and any attachments contain URS Corporation confidential information that may be proprietary or privileged. If you receive this message in error or are not the intended recipient, you should not retain, distribute, disclose or use any of this information and you should destroy the e-mail and any attachments or copies.

FMWC urges the public to attend the meeting and support preserving Castner Range and open space.

The Coalition will recommend that the Army specifically include in its plans that Castner Range be preserved in its natural state. This would be a mitigation for the inevitable destruction of natural habitat caused by the expansion of Fort Bliss. The ideal mechanism for this process is a Conservation Conveyance.

Judy Ackerman, a Coalition board member informs us that Fort Bliss is soliciting currently comments:

Fort Bliss is soliciting comments on their Draft (EIS) for Fort Bliss Army Growth and Force Structure (GFS) Realignment. The full document on line:

(You may encounter several security warnings, but no worries, click continue.)

Send written comments no later than December 29, 2009 to:
• John Barrera, NEPA Program Manager/ Attn: FB GFS EIS/IMWE-BLS-PWE/Bldg. 624, Pleasonton Rd., Fort Bliss, TX 79932; or by email:

Requests for additional information may be sent to:
• Ms. Jean Offutt,
Fort Bliss Public Affairs Office, IMWE-BLS-PA, Fort Bliss, TX 79916-6812;
Tel: (915) 568-4505; Fax: (915) 568-2995; email:

Ackerman wrote this comment to Mr. John Barrera:

"The following are Comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement Analyzing the Potential Impacts of Army Growth and Force Structure Realignment at Fort Bliss from The Frontera Land Alliance.

"We understand the need for national defense and necessity to train military personnel. We appreciate the economic benefits that the Fort Bliss expansion bring to our area and support El Paso’s partnership with the military.

"As Fort Bliss expands, there has been, and continues to be, significant habitat destruction. We recommend that as a mitigation for the past and continuing environmental damage, Fort Bliss actively seek permanent preservation of Castner Range as natural open space. The appropriate end state would be when Castner Range is cleared of unexploded ordnance and the property is transferred to the Franklin Mountains State Park.

"Preserving Castner Range benefits all El Pasoans including military members and their extended families. This project could be completed in phases starting with a conservation conveyance. This is a natural follow on to the Wide Area Assessment that the Army Environmental Command is currently conducting on Castner Range.

"At a minimum, Fort Bliss should commit to a long range plan that specifies that Castner Range should be preserved in its natural state."

Monday, December 21, 2009

Take the Development Survey for the City of El Paso

Destruction of Mountain - Jobe/Cemex Quarry at McKelligon Canyon

Unsustainable overuse of rock in neighborhood landscaping project - 2700 block Memphis Avenue

The City of El Paso Community and Human Development Department currently has a survey that it is asking El Pasoans to take until 5 p.m. Friday, January 22nd. The statement given with the release of the survey says:

"The Department of Community and Human Development is in the process of developing the five-year Consolidated Plan for the City of El Paso. In this plan, we must identify community needs and priorities and discuss how we will address them over the course of the next five years. City Council will use this Plan to help them decide how to spend CDBG funds, and other grant funding during the five-year period. We need input from the community in order to identify needs and priorities, and the survey below is a tool we are using to receive community input."

You can find and take the survey online. At the bottom of the survey is room for personal comment.

Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition board member, Judy Ackerman, commented this way: "El Paso needs to focus on preservation of open space, especially around our mountains."

You might also want to consider adding that El Paso and El Pasoans must stop building and landscaping with so much rock. The mountains are not sustainable. Develop but develop sustainably!

Montecillo and Cement Lake

Cement Lake

Cement Lake spring

The planned Montecillo development along Mesa just north of Executive Boulevard is a model of walkability and sustainability. This urban village is certainly a radical shift for El Paso builders who prefer to use up every inch of desert land. City Council voted to provide Montecillo developers with some tax incentives.

One issue remains a concern: the developer does plan to build homes in an arroyo leading to Cement Lake.

Acting Open Space Advisory Board Chairman, Charlie Wakeem, said: "Our concern would be whether this development could contaminate and/or cut off water altogether to the lake, and whether it is in violation of the Clean Water Act (Section 404).

Mr. Wakeem had expressed the same concern to Mr. Conde, one of the developers. According to Wakeem, Mr. Condee said that he was planning to build homes in the arroyo.

The issue is on the agenda for the regular December 28th Open Space meeting at 12:30 p.m. in the 4th Floor Engineering Conference Room at City Hall.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A new quarry on arroyo 41A

Of 42 desert arroyos stretching from the Franklin Mountains to the Rio Grande, only one, number 41A, is undeveloped. The El Paso City Council declared arroyo 41A part of the official “Mountain to River Trail” in the Open Space Master Plan in 2008. 41A can be seen from Franklin Mountains State Park’s Upper Sunset Trail. Recently, a large segment of the arroyo appeared to be enclosed in a bulldozed rectangle, containing hundreds of acres, which marks the boundaries of a new rock quarry.
If the quarry becomes operational, it could drastically alter the landscape and life of the Franklin Mountains and adjacent lands. To envision these potential changes, take a look at existing quarries in the area. Several can be seen while driving east on US 62/180 toward Hueco Tanks, and then there is the massive 750 acre McKelligon Canyon quarry. The first change is likely to occur when vegetation is removed. Native wildlife, such as the Lesser Nighthawk and the Texas Horned Lizard, depends on vegetation for cover, food sources, and nest sites. Some plants of concern, the Night-blooming Cereus and Sneed’s Pincushion Cactus, for example, need stable soil conditions to grow. The effects of a quarry could compound the difficulty that wildlife and native plants have surviving in our increasingly urban setting. We have enough species of concern as is. Drilling and blasting can send particulates into the air. Particle fallout could coat vegetation so that growth is hampered and food supply for deer and other plant eaters is diminished.
Tiny particles in the air can sink into human lungs as well. Depending on wind direction, particulates can impact air quality around schools and homes. According to an El Paso Times report from June 22, 2006, airborne particulates in the Montana Vista neighborhood near a far East quarry were associated with widespread breathing problems in adults and children and concern that lower property values would result. Further, the Mine Safety and Health Administration website ( ) describes the dangers to mine workers themselves from fine particulate matter.
Water quality and flow issues are also possible. Runoff from rain events naturally follows arroyos to the Rio Grande. However, if these conduits are altered, as arroyo 41A may soon become, enhanced flooding can occur, as in August 2006 (
The quarry could also dramatically alter the gateway to the city. As seen from I-10 heading south toward El Paso, the quarry could mar the natural beauty of its Northern Chihuahuan Desert setting and prompt visitors to wonder about the city’s values and priorities. The majesty of the Franklin Mountains is a reason to live in El Paso. If the magnificence of the mountains is marred, our city’s economy may suffer.
Should the quarry develop as planned, it may bring about some uncomfortable changes in our lives. I urge you to talk with your city representatives to find a solution before we are faced with what could become a matter of compromised public health and safety. For more information, please see the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition website at

Ursula Sherrill

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Breach of Contract?

On May 3, 2005 Jobe signed a mining lease with the General Land Office for the land next to the Tom Mays Unit of the Franklin Mountains State Park. (The lease is signed by Irene Epperson, a Member of Jobeco L.L.C., the general partner of Jobe Materials, L.P. Jerry Patterson signs as the Commissioner of the General Land Office.

Provision 24 of the lease states:

24. SURFACE USE LIMITATIONS: LESSEE shall not drill or mine, erect buildings or conduct any mining operations within three hundred (300) feet of the improvements without reasonably compensating the owner of said improvements.

The hike/bike trails on both the GLO and Franklin Mountains State Park properties are improvements. Sources tell me that such improvements are valued at $5.00 per linear foot. Jobe deliberately bulldozed those trails on the GLO property and within 300 feet of the State Park. In doing so, he may have encroached on the state park itself.

Pay attention: This could be a breach of contract.

By the way, Jerry Patterson has been a favorite candidate of Stanley Jobe. On July 19, 2005 (2 months after the lease was signed) Patterson received two contributions from Jobe, the individual: $35,000 and $1,340. In 2006, Patterson got another hefty amount of $20,000. Jobe PAC money also went to Patterson. On December 9, 2008, Jobe gave Jerry another $10,000.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Jobe in Violation of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act

Jobe is in violation of section 404 of the Clean Water Act in his attempt to destroy Arroyo 41A, the Mountain to River Trail. Here is a report that I received yesterday:

The EPA Region 6 Wetlands Coordinator in Dallas has been out to Arroyo 41A (planned Mountain to River Trail). Jobe violated section 404 of the Clean Water Act by not having a permit to grade the arroyo. EPA won't fine Jobe since this is his first violation. However, the Army Corps of Engineers is requiring Jobe to mitigate the damage and he will likely have to obtain a 404 permit to quarry the arroyo. The city, county and public may be able to comment on the sufficiency of the mitigation and also comment on the permit process.

According to a local Corps official, if Jobe wants to remove fill from the arroyos he can without a permit, as long as he doesn't store fill in the arroyo. Also, according to the same official, commenting on mitigation may not be an option specifically allowed by statute (although statute does not prohibit such either).

The above should also pertain to the developer of Desert Springs who intends to fill in much of 41A. The goal would be to work with the Corps so the permit mandates the least environmentally destructive alternative be selected.

Go here to be notified by email about any public notices through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Unanimous Again

City Council members voted unanimously today to accept the proposal of the Planning LRC and the resolution of the OSAB to expand the duties of the Open Space Advisory Board. A new ordinance codifying those duties will be drafted for final approval by the Council probably in January.

New OSAB Chairman, Charlie Wakeem, will work with Parks and Recreation Department Director, Nanette Smejkal, and Jim Carrillo of Halff Associates and the wordsmith of the document "Toward a Bright Future", to help hammer out the details of that ordinance before the next OSAB meeting at the end of December.

Commenting about the presence of open space advocates and OSAB board members at the meeting today and earlier at the Planning LRC meeting, Representative Beto O'Rourke said that they are "one of the most dedicated groups of citizens in El Paso."