Thursday, September 17, 2015

Give One to Chuy Reyes

Earlier I posted that the El Paso Water Improvement District (EPWID) was at it again. They were mowing grass along the Franklin Canal at the El Paso Zoo. I asked some wildlife and horticulture experts and discovered three things. First, it's not nesting season so legally the mowing is allowed even though other wildlife uses the drain. 

Secondly, I was also told that mowing keeps the vegetation low and somewhat manageable. Not mowing would mean unmanageable vegetation, which can leave a breeding ground for different animals and insects, some good some not. The grasses do help to hold the canal bank together.

Mr. Reyes, the Manager of EPWID, stated that "the mowing is part of the maintenance of our property, we have to keep the vegetation down so that our vehicles can patrol the canal banks." The water district is responsible for the maintenance, operation and upkeep of 400 miles of canals and 350 miles of drains from the New Mexico State borderline to the Hudspeth County line. Reyes said: "Simply we patrol to make sure water flow is not blocked and could cause over topping and flooding and we deliver irrigation water to some 32,000 accounts from small gardens to large farms and to the City of El Paso for treatment and utilized for potable water."

All of this sounds reasonable. The fight that we picked in the past had to do with the destruction of habitat and nests. The vegetation in that case did not impede patrolling and, in fact, served to shade the water and thus cut down on evaporation. 

As far as the canal at the Zoo, it is probably a moot point about mowing anyway. The Zoo has plans to concrete that section and build over the canal to create more area for their educational programs. After I emailed Reyes and expressed my concern about mowing the riparian area, he responded: "Sorry for your concern about the riparian zone but we are in the process of working out an agreement with the El Paso Zoo where they want to concrete that area of the canal so there won’t be any riparian to worry about."

And that's the third thing that I learned. It's true that Reyes is reasonable. However, when he says "there won't be any riparian to worry about" because the Zoo will concrete the area, there is a values difference at play. I'm not criticizing Reyes. I am, however, observing once again a common value in El Paso that makes environmentalism and conservation so difficult: we don't have to worry about nature as long as we can build over it, plow it down, build on top of it, etc. There is no attempt to live in community with nature in spite of the fact that architects and landscapers throughout the world are finding better ways.

It makes sense to mow. It also makes sense to blend in and preserve.

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