Monday, April 16, 2012
TxDOT Plans Animal Corridor Not Meant for Animals
Want to see what a TxDOT wildlife corridor looks like? I’ve posted the plan. It’s 600 feet in length and I have it on so many good authorities that no animal is going to traverse this tunnel. Of course, I’m talking about the corridor which is going underneath their Transmountain Freeway. TxDOT did tell the public that they had communicated with the Texas Parks and Wildlife. However, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Urban Wildlife Biologist for El Paso, Lois Balin, said: "I have never seen this design before nor discussed anything even close to a 600 foot culvert." Another wildlife expert told me: “TxDOT is only trying to placate outraged citizenry who do not know much about wildlife and might think that a tunnel is a good faith effort to show that they care about our wildlife.” What is the tunnel for really? Really?
Many of you have noticed how quickly contractors are obliterating a wide swath of natural landscape on both sides of Transmountain on the west side of the mountain. Keep in mind that the Sierra Club is suing TxDOT and asking the court to order a more thorough environmental study. In fact, last week Sierra Club asked the court for an injunction to stop the work and we are still waiting for that result. The faster the land can be cleared, the more an injunction or the study becomes moot. In fact, the easier it becomes for TxDOT to argue that too much has been done already and too much money has been spent. A threat of a counter suit by the contractor, Sundt Construction, becomes a greater possibility as well. Their argument will be that they have too much time and money into the project now. The genii, as they say, is out of the bottle. Stay tuned.
On the other side of the mountain on both sides of Transmountain is Castner Range. Attempts to preserve it have been going on for a much longer time than efforts to save the Scenic Transmountain Corridor on the west. The Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition has been working for a long time with elected officials and Fort Bliss to save the Range as natural open space. Many of you are most familiar with Castner Range during the annual Poppy Fest. This year the poppies were more dazzling than troupes of edelweiss in the Austrian Alps. (El Paso didn’t have Maria von Trapp but we sure had our Native American drummers.) You can see at today’s elpasonaturally post pictures of this year’s poppies along with information and background about the Range and why it is critical that it be preserved. There is also an announcement of an upcoming meeting on Wednesday, April 25th, of the Fort Bliss Restoration Advisory Board at 6:30 p.m. in Chaparral, NM just off the tip of NE El Paso. RAB needs to see more and more and more El Pasoans who want to see Castner Range preserved as natural open space once it is wiped clean of any still unexploded ordnance (the reason for all those “No Trespassing” signs around the perimeter of the range).
UTEP Engineering Professor, Dr. John Walton, gave a presentation about passive rainwater harvesting in the El Paso region to members of the City’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board last week. You can see the slide show from that presentation.
Speaking about water, you are probably keeping up with the serious situation regarding the early release of large amounts of water from the Rio Grande to Mexico meaning less water now for Texas farmers. “State officials are taking a stand against the binational International Boundary and Water Commission over the release of Rio Grande water to Mexico. They say the water payments will cause substantial losses to U.S. crops and run counter to the 1906 pact governing water shares in the West Texas and New Mexico region.” Read more from MySanAntonio.com: Tempers boil over border water battle.
It’s not just nations vying over water: stakeholders along three Texas rivers are unhappy with a TCEQ ruling.
Get used to water wars but know that the public needs to have a greater voice about its water. That is why the Rodriguez bill last year was so egregious. You can get more background from three El Paso Times stories from earlier years here, here and here.
Finally, want to find out how walkable your neighborhood is? Go to walkscore.com. Be sure to read what makes a neighborhood walkable and the benefits of living in such a neighborhood.