Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cactus Appreciation Month

Click on image to enlarge.

YES on 8 and NO on 2

Knock yourself out if you want to read the entire 2012 Draft State Water Plan from the Texas Water Development Board. Here's what one water conservationist wrote with some hyperbole:
"I just skimmed through all 200+ pages of the 2012 TWDB Water Plan and there is not one mention of rainwater harvesting as part of the overall plan to have enough water to meet the State's needs. They're recommending up to two dozen new dam projects at a gazillion dollars each. What if that same money provided catchment on every governmental building in the State? Provided low-cost tanks to homeowners? Created a whole new employment sector of people trained to install such systems? How about requiring all air-conditioned buildings to reuse their A/C condensate for flushing toilets? I could go on and on, but I see no cutting edge thinking in this proposed plan, just the same old stuff: build reservoirs, move water from point A to B, desalinate, etc."
In an email response, water resources expert Mike Mecke says that the 2012 TWDB Water Plan "goes to the old engineer's and planner's philosophy that 'a project can't be any good unless it costs millions and is very complex!'" (He might as well be talking about El Paso with all of our huge ponds and no apparent knowledge of green infrastructure/low impact development and rain water harvesting.)

Now enter Proposition 2 which "would amend the Texas Constitution to authorize the Texas Water Development Board to issue additional general obligation bonds on a continuing basis for one or more accounts of the Texas Water Development Fund II, with the restriction that the total amount of bonds outstanding at any time does not exceed $6 billion." Wow!

The TWDB calls for too many reservoirs in their 2012 Plan. Proposition 2 gives the TWDB almost unlimited power to grant the building of these expensive projects. These projects have nothing to do with water conservation. They have everything to do with a few contractors making lots of money.

The Independent Texans PAC doesn't like Proposition 2 and neither do some anti-tax groups.

Proposition 2 is bad news. Vote NO. But then there is Proposition 8, the water stewardship amendment.

Mecke sees in Proposition 8 "no drawbacks and no lost tax base and a management alternative to properly manage lands for watershed and riparian purposes." He goes on to say:

"Conservation is always the 'cheapest new water'. Land Stewardship efforts, especially in some regions, the best 'win-win' for city users and rural folks. Concerted rainwater harvesting programs for all towns (and rural homes) would be very beneficial - require it on all new construction, at least for outside uses or flushing toilets in public buildings, etc. Stormwater catchments could help water public areas and reduce street flooding and stream pollution too."

Simply put: YES on 8. NO on 2. (And keep your eye on those Perry rascals on the TWDB. Perry's no conservative and no friend of tax payers. He's for enriching his cronies.)

Must Read Rio Bosque White Paper

John Sproul wrote the following white paper for the Open Space Advisory Board which heard him and others yesterday regarding the Rio Bosque. The others included Chuy (Brother of Silvestre) Reyes who said that he loved the Bosque and took his children there. He also says that a turnout will be constructed for water to get from the Bustamante to the Drain to the Park and construction will just take days. He hedged on the exact date of the construction. Anyway, John's paper is a must read. In his introductory summary, he writes:

"This paper is divided into two sections. Section 1 summarizes the history of the wetlands project at Rio Bosque Park, which is helpful for understanding the gap between the original goals for the project and current conditions. Section 2 focuses on water at Rio Bosque. It discusses:

•water availability since the start of the project,
•projects underway to bring additional water to the park,
•volumes of water needed to achieve management goals at Rio Bosque, and
•five potential strategies for securing water during the critical growing season.

Other strategies exist as well, but the common feature of the five strategies discussed here is that El Paso Water Utilities would be an essential participant in each."

Please read the paper:

White Paper - Rio Bosque Water 11-10-25
Click on the first icon after the Scribd "S" on the left side of the tool bar for full screen.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Song of the Day: Velia Christina and Transmountain

Singer, songwriter and petition gatherer, Velia Christina Gurrola, did this track with Zyme One. The song, of course, is about Transmountain.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Vote for Proposition 7

Please vote “YES” for the Regional Park District for El Paso County (Proposition 7). Our State legislative delegates carried the ball in Austin to get it on the ballot. Of course the next step, and it may take 2-3 legislative sessions, is to pass another constitutional amendment that will allow the District to become a taxing district. So – this vote in November is just the beginning.

I serve on the City's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. Because the City of El Paso can never provide enough money for parks and neither can the County, this is a good idea. Some fear such a District could lead to double or excessive taxation. The City and County will eventually remove Park funding from their budgets because the Park Authority would be a stand alone district with either an appointed or elected board and can tax (similar to community college or hospital district) for its funding. Those details will still need to be worked out for the 2013 Texas legislature.

Proposition 7 must first pass. Please vote "YES".

Please read this fact sheet:

Regional Park District Fact Sheet (2)
Click on "Fullscreen" to better read the document.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Song of the Day

Here's a great song from Quaker, Carrie Newcomer.
"Come on and look inside you
That's the best place to start.
The greatest revolution
Is a simple change of heart.
I can't put the sacred in such a little box
Because it's not."

Let's Not Reduce Landscaping Requirements for Central El Paso

"Landscape Development Infill Area". Click on image to enlarge.

In an email message to leaders and neighborhood associations in the central El Paso district that she reperesnts, Rep. Susie Byrd writes about the "Landscape Development Infill Area" that reduces required landscaping by 30% - essentially stripping new landscaping requirements for new building projects in the area of town that needs greening-up the most. She writes:

Dear Central Area Neighborhood Associations:

I wanted to make you aware of a change to our landscaping code that will result in new commercial developments in Central having 30% less landscaping than other areas of the City. This change to the code was made yesterday without notification to Central Area Neighborhood Associations or input from these associations. The 30% reduction in landscaping for Central was recommended by the development community and supported by City staff. All three citizen advisory boards who reviewed the changes recommended that the 30% reduction in landscaping for Central be eliminated.

Because of the lack of notification and input from Central Area Neighborhood Associations and because all three citizen advisory boards had voted against it, I urged City Council to postpone action on this section of the landscaping code until such time as Central Area Neighborhood Associations could be advised of the change and have a chance to participate in the decision. Rep. Niland, who made the motion, and Rep. Lilly, who seconded the motion, refused to accept the friendly amendment and the whole ordinance with the 30% reduction in landscaping for Central passed seven to one. I supported other changes in the ordinance but could not support the 30% reduction for Central. Because of this, I was forced to vote against the entire bill.

Some background. We used to ask that developers only landscape 7.5% of their commercial developments, half of what our peer cities in the Southwest ask. In the spring of this year, we changed the code to require 15% of a development be landscaped plus adding trees to the parkway and the frontage buffer to increase shading and comfort for pedestrians. This brought us up to par with our competitor cities in the Southwest. The development community felt like we went too far and so asked for some concessions. They asked us to allow the parkway and frontage buffer landscaping and trees be included in the 15% calculation at a meeting of a Legislative Review Committee (LRC). This seemed like a common sense change. We agreed to expedite the changes as long as all of the citizen advisory boards who provide input in matters related to the Landscape Ordinance had a chance to review the changes. During this LRC meeting, no mention was made of a 30% reduction in landscaping for new commercial developments in Central.

I am not sure at what point this change was added, but I do know that none of the impacted Neighborhood Associations were notified of the change or given a chance to participate in the decision-making.

Rationale for the change. At yesterday’s meeting, City staff told us that the 30% reduction for Central change was requested by the development community and that the rationale for the change was to encourage more commercial investment in Central by reducing the costs to developers. No analysis was provided about how much of a cost reduction this would be. No analysis was provided about what this would look like for these types of commercial developments. No examples were given to demonstrate that this disparate treatment in Central would encourage more of the kind of development we want in Central.

Policy considerations. I get calls from you guys all the time wanting to know how the city can encourage more commercial investment in Central. We want better grocery stores, more restaurants and entertainment and better retail. We are all bothered by the flight of capital out of the Central core and to the edges of town. To combat this, the City has put together a very aggressive set of incentives to encourage this type of development. We have standard administrative waivers to waive setback requirements, parking maximums and other regulatory hurdles that don’t make sense for Central Area development.

But what I hear from you again and again is that you want new development in Central and Downtown to take on the character of the neighborhood. You don’t want eastside suburban development to take over Central. You don’t want strip center development that you would see on Zaragoza to land in Central. That’s why we live in Central. We love the character of Central. The great thing about the landscaping code is that if you build in the character of Central (buildings up to the lot line, parking in the rear), you only have to put in trees in the parkway because you don’t have any area to landscape. You already get a reduction in landscape BUT ONLY IF YOU BUILD TO THE CHARACTER OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD. If you build in Downtown or Central up to the lot line and respecting the design of the existing neighborhood, your landscaping requirements are minimal.

But if you are bringing suburbia to Central, you used to have to landscape to the same code as all other suburban development. 15%. Why should we be treated any different? But because of the change that Council made yesterday--with no consultation with affected Central neighborhoods--if you are going to build a strip center in Central you only have to provide landscaping for 10.5% of the developable area (that is the 30% reduction). Essentially, City Council provided an incentive to build strip centers in Central that are out of character for our neighborhoods. And they did this all without asking you whether you thought this tradeoff was necessary or in keeping with your values for development in Central.

There might be a chance to have this reconsidered if enough people from Central weigh in with City Council. Rep. Acosta and Rep. Ortega seemed open to consultation with impacted neighborhoods. Rep. Niland and Rep. Lilly seemed especially keen on just passing the ordinance without taking it to the neighborhoods for consideration. Maybe if they hear from enough people they will re-consider.

Let me know what you think about the change to the code as it impacts Central. If you need more information about the change, City staff has said they would be glad to meet to provide information about the change. I could host a meeting.

Hope all is well. Let me know if you have any questions.


If you agree with Ms. Byrd (and I hope that you do), please contact City representatives and let them know that you want the "Landscape Development Infill Area" portion of the new landscaping code re-visited. Citizens should have know that they are being heard - and not just the development community.

Here's the distinction that developers and some members of Council fail to make: They see landscaping as an expense that deters building and infill in the central corridor. In fact, landscaping – greening up the area – is an investment which will have significant paybacks for business owners, the City and the general wealth and economy of the City.

In a study by the Center for Urban Horticulture trees were found to have a positive impact on consumer behavior. Shoppers were willing to pay more for parking in well-landscaped lots and actually pay more for goods and services – a definite positive force for community wealth and the metropolitan economy. See a graph on product pricing in shopping areas with trees and those without.

Developers, businesses, Chambers of Commerce and City Council members would do well to see that adding landscaping (not subtracting from it) actually encourages business profitability and can lead to an increase of wealth in the City as a whole and, thus, give added revenue to the City itself for services that can further promote the quality of life in El Paso.

Take time to read several studies showing the business benefits of urban landscaping.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Scenic Drive Tagged and Trashed

Click on image to enlarge. Then weep.
Photo by Vallarie Enriquez, Vantage Point Visual Studios, Inc.

Last Sunday morning people attending the Celebration of Our Mountains' "A Walk through Time" on Scenic Drive as well as the regular Scenic Sunday crowd were shocked to find the amount and size of tagging on the strata above Scenic Point and Murchison Park. Along with the tagging were piles of garbage (not just trash) above and below Murchison Park. (Pictures)

Along with pictures, I emailed officials on Monday:

When El Pasoans, their guests, visitors and tourists go to Scenic Drive (a spot that we have pointed to with pride so often in the past), they will now find the once beautiful rock stratas above Murchison Park/Scenic Point heavily tagged. Some of the tagging is obscene. If they take a short hike up and to the other side of the strata ridge, they will find more. What greets people now is what you see in these pictures. (I have higher res photos as well.) If anyone peeks over the side of the walls above and surrounding Murchison Park, they will see piles of not just trash but garbage.

This issue is not just a District One or District Two issue. It is an issue for all El Pasoans. The length of Scenic is strewn with beer cans and condoms. I took the above pictures today after General Services had cleaned the areas near the trash cans. I can tell you though that, yesterday when we had our Celebration event, the evidence of the weekend partying was all about.

I suggest that, if the EPPD is so stretched out that they cannot stop the drunkenness that results in chunks of the Scenic Drive walls from being gouged out on a regular almost weekly basis now by intoxicated drivers and they cannot stop the littering and tagging and make a real effort to do so, perhaps they can be assisted by the County Sheriff. If both cannot put a stop to it, perhaps the Commander of Ft. Bliss should be asked for his help by deputizing some of his troops. If we really crackdown over a month or two of weekends, much of this will finally be stopped. As it is now, the tagging, the garbage, the consumption of alcohol and the misbehavior is done with impunity and with the result of a Scenic Drive becoming a place of shame for all El Pasoans and not a place of beauty.

If it isn’t stopped, then we should all be ashamed to take anyone visiting our homes and our City on a tour of Scenic Drive.

I hope to get a response. Believe me – I will pursue this until the problem is permanently corrected.

Jim H. Tolbert

Representative Byrd responded as did Representative Ann Lilly's office which followed-up by working with General Services and other departments in the City. General Services is in the process of developing a volunteer page for groups to help clean-up Scenic. One wonders what has happened with Walgreen's which has seemingly disappeared from Scenic although they have a sign posted about their efforts to keep it clean. As much of the tagging was done on privately owned land (if you can believe that our mountains have private owners - much of the southern area is so owned), Environmental Services became involved as the issue became a matter of code compliance.

Clean-up began almost immediately. Sadly, clean-up cannot be the final solution.

Unfortunately the one person who has failed to respond to my email and is also missing in action is the Chief of the El Paso Police Department, Gregory Allen. I'm glad that volunteers will help clean-up the Drive and I'm grateful to all El Paso taxpayers for funding anti-graffiti efforts. However, shouldn't those who tag and trash bear the responsibility and shouldn't they be held accountable? The only department in the City who can significantly change the behavior of those whose mayhem mars our mountains is the Police Department. They should be out in force weekend after weekend, handing out tickets, stopping the public drinking that is increasingly leading to punctured walls along the Drive, making arrests, bringing to justice those who need to change their behavior and who need to be required by courts to clean-up their filth. No response yet from Chief Allen. Zilch. Zero. Nada.

At Least Save the Chimps

We all have heard by now the gruesome tragedy in Ohio of animals having to be put down after they were let out of their cages by their keeper who then killed himself. Most agree that little could be done once the animals were released near nightfall unlike the unnecessary killing of a mountain lion in downtown El Paso because of a total lack of crowd control by authorities.

International wildlife expert and Education Curator at the El Paso Zoo, Rick LoBello, had this to say about the tragic killings of animals in Ohio:

"We need federal laws to help prevent tragedies like this in the future. Unfortunately in this country we are often more reactive than proactive in addressing a whole range of national issues and concerns. What happened in Ohio is a perfect example. There were plenty of warnings that something was seriously wrong with the individual who owned these animals, yet the local authorities were not able to find a way to legally do anything about it. When it comes to animals and the environment more people need to get involved , speak out and step into leadership roles. Unfortunately too many of us are sitting on the sidelines."

Well, there is a way locally to get involved and not just sit on the sideline. LoBello explains:

Save the Chimps, the world’s largest chimpanzee sanctuary, cares for nearly 300 chimpanzees rescued from research laboratories, entertainment and the pet trade. They currently have 10 chimpanzees living in Alamogordo that will be transferred to their sanctuary in Florida sometime between now and Christmas and are in need of enrichment items. UTEP Student Arturo Rocha is collecting items and has asked the Zoo to provide a drop off point for donations between now and noon October 28. If you would like to help out a list of items they need follows. Donations can be dropped off at the El Paso Zoological Society Office at the front gate.

Here is how you can help:

Treats: Peanut butter- creamy only, powered Gatorade or Powerade (any flavor), fruit juice (any kind- no sugar added), nuts in shells (any kind, unsalted), sunflower seeds (unsalted), raisins, Craisins, pasta, rice, oatmeal, grits, applesauce, jams or jellies (any flavor), dried fruit

Blankets, toys and enrichment items: blankets – preferably fleece (no quilts, comforters, mattress pads or sofa covers), stuffed animals (not stuffed with pebbles, beans, pvc, pellets or foam), small plastic sturdy toys (age appropriate 1-3 years no chocking hazards), kiddie pools (hard plastic), basketballs, picture books, magazines

Household: antibacterial hand soap, hand sanitizer, laundry soap, liquid dish soap

Save the Chimps was established in 1997, under the leadership of founder Carole Noon, Ph.D., in response to the U.S. Air Force's announcement that it was getting out of the chimpanzee research business. At the end of the long giveaway process, most of the chimpanzees, described by the USAF in a Wall Street Journal article as "surplus equipment," were sent to the Coulston Foundation (TCF) in Alamogordo, NM, a biomedical laboratory with the worst record of any lab in the history of the Animal Welfare Act. Save the Chimps sued the Air Force on behalf of the chimpanzees given to TCF. After a year-long struggle, Save the Chimps gained permanent custody of 21 chimps, survivors and descendants of the baby chimps captured in Africa in the 1950's and used by the Air Force in the original NASA space research program. The vision of Save the Chimps was -- and remains -- to create a sanctuary where rescued chimps can live out their lives without the threat of ever returning to a laboratory, entertainment, and the pet trade. Save the Chimps is entirely funded through donations from individuals like you and private foundations.

Dr. Steve Ross of Lincoln Park Zoo who is chair of the Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan and founder of Project ChimpCare, endorsed Save the Chimps and their efforts in a phone call yesterday. Today in the United States there are over 2,000 chimpanzees living in a variety of circumstances: from zoos (both accredited and non-accredited), laboratories and sanctuaries to lives as pets and performers under private ownership. While many of these chimpanzees enjoy appropriate care and management and the security of long-term housing, many others do not. Furthermore, there is very little known about many of these chimpanzees, and there has been relatively little communication between these communities.

Project ChimpCARE is a non-partisan group committed to improving the wellbeing of chimpanzees, regardless of current circumstances, and opening the lines of communication between disparate groups to achieve this singular goal. Our objectives are based on the approach that accurate information is the basis for effective change.

Map and directions to the zoo are found on this page.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Options and Obstacles for Water at the Rio Bosque

Friends of Rio Bosque Board member, Judy Ackerman, has well outlined the options and roadblocks for getting water to the Rio Bosque. Her document is a must read:

Friends of the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park currently see four options to get water to our wetlands park: Effluent from the Bustamante Water Treatment plant, Turnout from the Riverside Drain, a Connection between Basin G and the Riverside Drain, and More wells.

Overview of four Options

1. Effluent from the Bustamante Water Treatment plant.

Cost: NONE

Infrastructure Requirements: NONE

Agreements and legal hurdles: Agreement from El Paso County Water Improvement District Number One (ElP #1)

Drawbacks: Agreement from ElP #1.

2. Turnout from the Riverside Drain.

Cost: ~ $ 10,000

Infrastructure Requirements: The turnout itself, connection to the Old River Channel in the park, and a bridge for the Tornillo Trail.

Agreements and legal hurdles: Donation of water rights and more.

Drawbacks: unknown

3. Connection from Basin G to the Riverside Drain
Cost: unknown

Infrastructure Requirements: Building the connection and more.

Agreements and legal hurdles: unknown

Drawbacks: Could only deliver water when Basin G, Feather Lake, or Feather Lake 2 has storm water.

4. More wells.

Cost: Considerable initial investment and then cost of electricity and maintenance.

Infrastructure Requirements: for drilling wells, and creating appropriate electrical infrastructure.

Agreements and legal hurdles: unknown

Drawbacks: Requires electricity or noisy generators that will need considerable continuing maintenance. Removes water from the Bosque’s groundwater to put on the surface.

More details:

Currently the Bosque is watered by John Sproul with a water trailer owned by the Friends of the Bosque that carries 750 gal. He spends all his available time, all day, 5 days per week, hauling water from the Bustamante Treatment plant to deliver to individual trees and plantings in the park. By this labor intensive process, the Bosque received approximately one acre foot of water in 2011.

There is extensive documentation on water quality improvement, natural habitat and quality of life improvements achieved by utilizing wetlands to processes effluent. The advantages of doing this at the Bustamante Treatment Plant and the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park are beyond measure.

Effluent from the Bustamante Water Treatment plant.

The Bustamante Water Treatment plant is directly adjacent and upstream from the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park. The volume of water from the plant is about 30,000,000 gal / day (about 92 acre-feet per day, during the summer months). The Rio Bosque Wetlands Park started to receive water from Bustamante in 1998. In 2001 and 2002, the park received water almost all year, including the growing season and plant life in the park responded with profusion.

The Rio Grande Project 2001 Implementing Third-Party Contract obligates EPWU to give about two thirds of the Bustamante effluent to ElP #1. Because ElP #1 owns the infrastructure, they decide where ALL the effluent goes. The infrastructure allows two possibilities: the effluent can go into the Riverside Cannel (the irrigation channel) or the Riverside Drain (also known as the Hudspeth Drain).

When ElP #1 does not want or need the treated water in the Riverside Cannel, it directs the water into the Riverside Drain by turning valves at the Bustamante Treatment Plant. When water is in the Riverside Drain, park managers can divert it through the park in the old river channel and, if desired, by a series of gates, to three wetland cells. In recent years, water is available in the Riverside Drain for 2 – 3 months in the winter (NOT the growing season). The park can accommodate between one half and all the water from the drain. At the southeast (downstream) end of the park, the water is returned to the Riverside Drain.

By simply turning the valve, the park could receive at least the one third of the treated water that is not obligated to ElP #1. This is an easy, no-cost solution, which would greatly benefit the citizens of El Paso.

Turnout from the Riverside Drain.

Chuy Reyes, General Manager ElP #1, says that ElP #1 will construct the turnout this winter (2011 – 2012), but not pay for the construction or the design costs. Bosque Program Coordinator/Manager, John Sproul has secured funding grants from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and from the IBWC to cover the cost of the turnout and the connecting channel between the turnout and the old river channel. The Friends of the Rio Bosque have committed to covering installation of the footbridge for the Tornillo Trail.

Charlie Wakeem had been trying to donate his water rights to the Bosque. His application has been pending with ElP #1 for five years. This would be a test case for HOW to donate water rights to the Bosque. El Paso County owns 137 acres of water rights at the Tornillo Port of Entry. Many people, including Chuy Reyes, General Manager ElP #1, and Ernie Carrizal, the County’s Acting Public Works Director, agree the county should donate those water rights to the Bosque.

Connection from Basin G to the Riverside Drain

This option may be of interest in relation to storm water issues.

More wells. The Bosque has a well near the northwest corner of the park that pumps 400 gal/min. In the winter when groundwater levels are at their highest and evaporation at its lowest, the pump can deliver water to approximately one quarter of the Old River Channel. At the height of the summer, the pump can flood about one-eighth of the channel. More wells would require too much cost, noise and maintenance to be a viable option at this time.

Other points:

El Paso Water Utilities (EPWU) is aware of issues with water at the Bosque and Rudy Valdez is the primary contact. In public forums, Ed Archuleta, President/Chief Executive Officer, said, “we can fix that” referring to no water at the Bosque.

Stealing water from El Paso citizens by pumping groundwater from the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park: ElP #1 owns the water under their own land along the Riverside Canal. They operate 6 wells that pump water from the land immediately adjacent to the Bosque. This summer, and as of 13 Oct 2011, these pumps are running 24/7, each pumping up to 1,750 gal/min from the groundwater into the Riverside Canal for irrigation use. In 2011, this pumping is primarily responsible for dropping the groundwater level in the park by 15 feet – below the roots of the cottonwood and other trees.

El Paso County Water Improvement District Number One (ElP #1) and lining the Riverside Cannel with cement:

This “finding of no significant impact” is in direct opposition to the facts and considerable data on file at UTEP.

Note that Chuy Reyes, brother of Congressman Silvestre, has not addressed Charlie Wakeem's offer of five years. He now says (with a fork tongue?) that they will build a turnout but not pay for it. The improvement district is clearly "stealing" water from the Bosque. Environmental studies are now just political covers for some to do whatever they want to do to the land and water. Someone remind me to check to see Silvestre's footprints all over that "environmental" document.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Begin the Process!

By a unanimous vote today, City Council gave the City Manager a green light to sign an agreement with Dover Kohl which includes updating the NW Master Plan to Smart Growth/SmartCode plan and providing a plan for the permanent preservation of the Scenic Corridor view shed. Preserving open space as called for by petition now includes preserving that open space in the context of a much better plan for Northwest El Paso.

Here is the full text of the Dover Kohl proposal:


Two sections were amended and all parties agreed to the amendments:

Page 4, Task 3.1


The two preferred development scenarios will be presented to the PSB and City Staff. Once DKP receives comments from the City and a selection of the one final development scenario, then the one final development scenario will be revised and resubmitted.


The two preferred development scenarios will be presented to the PSB and City Staff. Once DKP receives comments from the City and a selection of the one final development scenario, then the one final development scenario will be revised and resubmitted. The final version will be submitted for approval by the PSB Board before consideration by the Mayor City Council.


On Page 5, Under Item II


6.) Open Space Plan: for land to be preserved as open space to include the option(s) of a conservation easement, land trust strategy, zoning, or other mechanism for the T1 land along Transmountain Road. A conceptual plan for conservation shall be designed for the property


6.) Open Space Plan: Consultant will prepare an Open Space Plan for land to be preserved IN PERPETUITY as open space along the Trans Mountain corridor. The Plan will include the option(s) of a conservation easement, land trust strategy, or other mechanism for the T1 land along Transmountain Road. A conceptual plan for conservation shall be designed for the property.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Conservation Easements

By more than one expert, I have been told that a conservation easement is "an extremely flexible tool." I asked Richard Teschner, the man who helped save Resler Canyon and who is a Board member of the Frontera Land Alliance, a land conservation organization, to summarize a longer document about conservation easements. His summary also makes its application relevant to the situation with the El Paso Transmountain Scenic Corridor. Here is his summary:

Frontera Easement Summary

Click on "Fullscreen" to enlarge.

Open Letter to the El Paso City Council

This past Tuesday, the Dover Kohl proposal to re-do the Northwest Master Plan was presented to Council. Council was asked to authorize the City Manager to sign what is a fourth amendment to the existing contract with Dover Kohl. Dover Kohl's work is an essential part of the process which all agreed upon when the petition to preserve the Transmountain Scenic Corridor came before Council. Unfortunately some key players were absent on Tuesday: the Mayor, Ann Lilly and Steve Ortega. Some Council members were concerned that the $200,000+ cost for the services of DKP was too costly given the possibility that petitioners and the PSB may come to some deal readily. Unfortunately, such a deal would only be between some petitioners (myself for instance) and Mr. Archuleta. It would not and could not be representative of the desires of all petitioners and, indeed, all stakeholders. On Wednesday, the PSB agreed to a similar resolution to contract with DKP and to pay half of DKP's fee.

Today I wrote the following letter in an email to the Mayor and other members of City Council:

An Open Letter to the El Paso City Council Regarding the Previously Agreed Upon Process

Dear Mayor Cook and Honorable City Council Representatives,

I urge you to pass the resolution authorizing the City Manager to sign the Fourth Amendment to the Agreement with Dover Kohl and Partners, Item Number 5 on next Tuesday’s agenda. You postponed action on this matter for one week. I sincerely appreciate and value the desire of Council to be careful with our money. However, this is one expense that makes sense for several reasons especially given the context of the petition which called for permanent preservation of the Scenic Corridor and no major roads through the preserved land.

Although the PSB’s latest map keeps Paseo del Norte, opens up a new road from Paseo to the State Park, drops in a “resort” (previously a school on the old master plan), and cuts through the southern arroyo (FEMA 39), it does come closer than prior suggestions to preserving the desired view shed. It might be easy for any one of us to conclude some kind of arrangement with the PSB. Unfortunately, that would be a back room deal between myself and Mr. Archuleta, or the Chairman of the Open Space Advisory Board and Mr. Archuleta, or between some other limited number of stakeholders. It would not represent the views of all involved. The process which we all agreed upon and which includes the hiring of Dover Kohl, allows for a democratic and transparent approach that will result in a defined view shed to be preserved permanently and an agreeable solution regarding any roads.

It also should be pointed out that a conservation easement, for example, requires some forethought about what is included and what is excluded in the land being preserved. The process that we agreed upon allows for the conditions of such permanent preservation to be well thought out and deliberately defined.

The process also means that the view shed once defined and permanently preserved will fit into the entire new plan for the northwest properties. It should be our goal that a beautiful view shed should fit beautifully into a beautifully planned area. The City has seen too much hodgepodge development and here we have a chance to have a coherent, holistic design that uses Smart Growth/SmartCode and utilizes the principles of green infrastructure/low impact development. The process offers the possibility for not only achieving the principles behind the petition but also of creating a more sustainable, livable space for El Paso’s Northwest.

As you each are probably aware, the PSB passed a similar resolution this past Wednesday. They have agreed to the scope of work as presented by Dover Kohl and will share 50% of the costs for a Northwest Plan update to SmartCode. They have agreed to the process.

Finally – and I say this from the heart – authorizing this agreement builds trust. When plans are made behind closed doors and deals struck in private meetings, then the dreams and hopes and ideas of many are carelessly and disrespectfully ignored. Like so much hodgepodge development, such deals serve the interests of a few but do not bring us all together as a community of proud citizens of El Paso, Texas.

Please authorize the Fourth Amendment to the Agreement with Dover Kohl and Partners.

Respectfully yours,

Jim H. Tolbert

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Plan El Paso Draft Elements section 8 on Sustainability Recommendation helps to support efforts to protect 800 acres along Trans Mountain Road

Please join me in contacting El Paso's elected officials in support of the DRAFT Plan El Paso report on Sustainability. Here is a copy of a letter I sent to my representative this evening. Please read over section 8 on sustainability and write your own letter of support.

Dear Representative,

As you know ever since I moved to El Paso in 2000 I have been doing all I can to promote the protection of wildlife corridors in the “unprotected from development” PSB public lands surrounding the Franklin Mountains. These lands help to protect important wildlife corridors for many species of wildlife including mule deer, javelina, coyotes, foxes and mountain lions.

This week I was very pleased to read in the Plan El Paso Draft Elements section 8 on Sustainability at a very hopeful sign that the Plan El Paso effort is on the right track in helping to protect our environment. The draft report states that “the City should produce or commission a plan for biological corridors and habitat that identifies existing habitats and corridors and candidate sites and routes for restoration.” This statement alone supports the current citizen effort to protect natural open space along the Trans Mountain Road and if the city adopts the Plan El Paso plan on sustainability and implements it, a biological corridor plan would also help the city achieve important goals of the El Paso Liveable City Sustainability Plan adopted by City Council on September 15, 2009. Goals yet to be achieved in that plan on page 56 include: 1. Achieve international recognition for successful preservation of our Chihuahuan desert natural heritage for all time, 2. Complete a biodiversity inventory by 2011 and 3. Identify and prioritize habitat that will be protected by 2012.

I would like to ask that you support the draft Plan El Paso document and use the recommendation on biodiversity, along with all the evidence you already have of public support for conservation of public wild lands, in supporting the effort to protect the nearly 800 acres of land along the Trans Mountain Corridor.

Finally, to further help you understand the importance of protecting natural habitats that remain in El Paso I would like to recommend that you and others on council obtain a copy of Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity by Eric Chivian and Aaron Bernstein (Jun 2, 2008), a must read for all leaders who care about our environment. There is also a short 8 minute Biodiversity is Life video produced by the United Nations Environmental Program on Youtube at


West El Paso

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tom Lea and the Indian People of the Southwest

The El Paso Museum of Archaeology
in collaboration with the Tom Lea Institute
Tom Lea and the Indian People of the Southwest
by Nick Houser, Anthropologist
A Tom Lea Month Program
Sunday, October 9, 2011, 2:00 p.m.

Snake Dancers by Tom Lea, copyright Tom Lea Institute

Throughout his life, Tom Lea studied the ways of Southwest Indians and depicted these in several paintings. Nick Houser will explore for the audience what some of these paintings tell viewers about of the lives of Native Americans in the Southwest.

Mr. Houser has conducted historical research for the Tigua Indians, created exhibits for museums and cultural centers, and has worked with over 36 Native American communities in the American Southwest and Latin America.

Information: 915-755-4332;
Map to Museum

How It's Done Right

Pay attention City of El Paso law enforcement:

Elpasonaturally did several posts on the killing of a mountain lion in downtown El Paso. One post highlighted videos that revealed that law enforcement failed to manage the crowd and, in fact, contributed to the chaos which ultimately led to the death of the animal from gun fire.

Watch and see how it is done properly:

Read the full story about the safe tranquilization and removal of a mountain lion from the Colorado University at Boulder campus. Note that from the very beginning, the matter was handled tranquilly and professionally rather than as an hysterical Keystone Cops tragic slapstick as what happened here in El Paso.

A hat tip to David Cristiani, The Quercus Group, for this story.