Thursday, May 29, 2014

Riverside Canal at the Rio Bosque Should be Preserved not Lined with Concrete

Click to enlarge image. Canal is red line at top of park boundary.

I attended the meeting of the Texas Water Development Board at the TecH2O Center this morning. The reports were basically nodding-off boring with the exception of Malynda Cappella's briefing on Zero Discharge Desalination. ZDD's not exactly a party pleaser but the presentation made it so. I didn't stay for the report on the Texas v. New Mexico litigation. I did hear Chuy Reyes, the General Manager of Water Improvement District #1. You can always count on Chuy to say some things that make you shake your head and wonder if God at some point ran out of neurons.

Mr. Reyes trumpeted the cornucopia of El Paso farmers: pecans, Pima cotton, corn, wheat, chili, onions and alfalfa. Then he said that "some of us" are working to get dairy farms back to El Paso. Mind you that his remarks were made in the context of water conservation and what the water district was doing for water conservation. Pecans, cotton, dairy farms - these are all pretty heavy consumers of water. When the Texas State Wildlife Biologist, Lois Balin, addressed the board following Chuy, she began with a suggestion that less water hungry crops could replace our current guzzlers. Her words fell on the deaf ears of what could pass for the Dallas Country Club - a board of 4 men, 1 woman and no Hispanics or blacks. Not one asked Ms. Balin a follow-up question about crops or the Rio Bosque.

Reyes went on to talk about the need to concrete all canals. There is some virtue in concreting canals - but there is never any virtue in destroying wildlife habitats and precious ecosystems in the process. Balin's principal point was the need to preserve the less than one-mile stretch of canal which borders the Rio Bosque. It is earthen - river alluvian. Ms. Balin said that, on her most recent visit to the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, she counted 25 species of birds using that canal, observed soil invertebrates and, of course, the rich plant life. Concrete some of the canal beyond the borders of the wetlands sure, maybe. But don't concrete line that portion that makes up the precious ecosystem of the Rio Bosque. People who see only the dollar and cents of concrete lining canals can at least understand the dollars to be gained by ecotourism. Again, a similar area in New Mexico brings in $18 Million a year in tourism.

It would, however, be nice if these concrete loving folks would understand one other very simple concept. If I lose a gall bladder and a kidney, I can limp along. If other vital organs start shutting down, I'm in trouble. An organism needs the complexity of organs, glands, skin, blood and sinew working together to be healthy, live and keep on living well for a length of time. Now think of the living world as one big organism. It's made up of vertebrates such as ourselves, invertebrates, things flying, things crawling, microscopic things making processes work in soil and in gut. If you start shutting things down in this organism, life becomes less healthy and less lengthy. 

A less than one mile stretch of canal with a rich ecosystem should be preserved. 

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