Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Plan to Attend and Support the Rio Bosque

Please plan to attend and speak out for the pipeline to be extended from the Bustamante Treatment Plant to the Rio Bosque without further delay:

El Paso County Water Improvement District #1 Board Meeting
Wednesday, January 14, 2015 at 8:30 AM
13247 Alameda Avenue, Clint, TX 79836-0749 (MAP)

Here's the background:

In July 2014, El Paso Water Utilities (EPWU) Public Service Board awarded the contract for a pipeline to allow effluent form BWWTP (Bustamante Waste Water Treatment Plant) to flow to the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park.  Construction of the pipeline is almost complete except for where it would cross a drain owned by EPCWID#1. The drain, abandoned for at least 30 years, has been filled in and is nonexistent in the area of the pipeline. Without a license to cross the drain from EPCWID#1, the project will be delayed increasing the costs and unnecessarily complicating the pipeline design. 

EPWU owns the effluent from the RBWWTP which produces an average of 28 million gallons per day, but they have no facilities to hold that water.  Once water enters infrastructure owned by EPCWID#1, as happens today without the pipeline, the water belongs to EPCWID#1.

In the early 1990s Rio Bosque Wetlands Park was identified as the preferred site for a wetland project to mitigate for natural habitat loss caused by the American Canal Extension.  The wetland project at the Park was designed to utilize effluent from the adjacent BWWTP.  Currently, the Park only receives water from BWWTP for a few months in the winter.  To realize its potential for critical habitat restoration, ecosystem services, aquifer recharge, and economic benefit from eco-tourism, the Wetlands Park needs water.

Wetlands ecosystem services provide a myriad of benefits to El Pasoans including clean air, clean water, and aesthetic, cultural and spiritual value. Services provided by wetlands include stormwater storage, nutrient removal and climate regulation.  Using extremely conservative estimates by Robert Costanza, Professor of Public Policy at the Crawford School of Public Policy, the value of the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park ecosystem services would be over $1 million per year.  Using data from the nonprofit independent research group, Headwaters Economics, elpasonaturally (30 September 2011) estimates that the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park could bring $18 million in Eco-Tourism dollars to El Paso. 

Farmers benefit from having water in the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park because it will recharge the aquifer they pump from to irrigate their fields.  The water from the BWWTP will improve the quality of the water in the aquifer which according to Art Ivey is so salty, "We're pouring poison on our [pecan] trees.”  (El Paso Times, 15 Dec 2014).  There is also the possibility of extending the pipeline to a proposed regulating reservoir immediately south of the Park which will capture “tail” water and make it available to farmers.

The Water District maintains that they have reasons to extort money from the EPWU concerns about the project which need to be addressed. John Balliew, CEO of EPWU, says that they are trying to respond to those concerns so that the pipeline can be put on the water district agenda soon. That agenda item has been effectively tabled since the October meeting.

Question to raise: What are the concerns that they have about the pipeline going across abandoned, unused land? (Question for John Balliew and the PSB/EPWU: Why did you not know in the first place that you didn't need easement across this land?)

In spite of State law requiring the water district to post agendas and minutes, the EPCWID#1 still does not do so. No agenda for tomorrow's meeting is posted on their website anywhere.

Several members of the El Paso conservation community plan to attend tomorrow. A letter from State Rep. Joe Moody (District 78) in support of the pipeline will be read.

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