Thursday, March 12, 2015

Memorandum of Understanding Shortchanges Rio Bosque Wetlands Park

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A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the El Paso Water Utilities (EPWU) and the El Paso County Water Improvement District #1 (EPWID) shortchanged the amount of water promised to the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park. Because the EPWU built a pipeline over EPWID land (rather than using its own right-of-way), they had to cut a deal with the water district that will deny water to the wetlands. When Johnny Stubbs, the President of the EPWID, told conservationists and Friends of the Rio Bosque that the Board was their best friend, it seems that he may have been exaggerating just a bit. Earlier enthusiasm over the water district's permitting EPWU to build a pipeline over its land, has now been dampened. That permission has come with a cost to the EPWU and most especially to the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park.

Of interest is the fact that the water district's permission for EPWU to build the pipeline was granted on January 28, 2015. The details of the Memorandum dated January 15, 2015 is only now coming to light. 

In a report, the President of the Friends of the Rio Bosque, Richard Teschner, wrote:

The reduced water availability under the MOU means there will still be four months each year (February, March, April and October) when the Park’s wetland cells are dry. Habitat will be lacking in the cells for wintering and migrating water birds during those months, and groundwater recharge will not take place. Due to work on the pipeline, the cells were dry for most of this past fall and winter, and groundwater levels at the Park are currently the lowest they have been in March since groundwater monitoring began in 2001. (The Park’s wells do not contribute to net groundwater recharge. They deplete vicinity groundwater and redistribute it in the Park but bring no new water into the system.) [Emphases mine.]

Dr.Teschner's full report can be seen HERE.

Former PSB member, Dr. Rick Bonart, a candidate for District 1 City Council Representative, was outraged:

"I am absolutely livid about this! 

"Completely not what was suppose to happen. That pipeline should have been built over our [PSB/EPWU] right-of-way. That would have given EPWU/PSB control over 15K acre feet of water. Then the Citizens of El Paso would have had an asset to sell and give to Rio Bosque as well.

"This thing was to be $400k and 6 months to design and build in house. If done properly it would have been profitable in the first 6 months.

"This IMO was an expensive squandered opportunity to benefit the Bosque and the rate payers!"

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