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Big Bend Regional Sierra Club
Regular Public Meeting
October 21, 2003

Don called meeting to order at 7:05 p.m. in room 309 Lawrence Hall, Sul Ross State.


Sad but true

Several states have deemed the EPA rules that pertain to air quality so bad that they have created their own, more stringent rules.

Big Bend National Park is 3rd on the list of most dangerous national parks in the United States, and was referred to as “a ranger accident waiting to happen.” The park has 12 rangers, with two more on the way.

“Water for People and the Environment,” the west Texas regional water conference, will be on October 25, 2003 at Holiday Inn Suites in Midland. BBRSC members are encouraged to attend.

The Hal Flanders Fund was established to raise awareness in Vermont about Texas legislation pertaining to establishment of a radioactive waste dump. To date, ~$360 has been raised. One strategy will be for Vermont to legally claim that there is no longer a “compact” and that therefore “compact waste” does not exist.

2004 Sierra Club calendars are now available. BBRSC members may sign-out calendars for sale.  Wall calendars are $11.95 and engagement calendars are $12.95.

BBRSC members may purchase Sierra Club backpacks and t-shirts through the club as a fundraiser. Examples of available products will be provided at the November meeting.

BBRSC ExCom has discussed changing our meeting room to 200 Lawrence Hall and our meeting date to the 2nd Thursday. Members should provide comments to Lue Hirsch.

Program – “The Unknown Pecos: West Texas’ Hidden Treasure”
John Karges, Biologist, The Nature Conservancy of Texas

John presented a travelogue of his recent trip down the lower Pecos River (from Pandale), with 9 people in 5 canoes. He also discussed the environmental importance of this stretch of river – a hidden treasure.

The headwaters of the Pecos are in the Sangre de Cristo in northern New Mexico. The river enters Texas at Red Bluff Reservoir and “loses itself” at what is left of Lake Amistad, where it enters the Rio Grande. Near Imperial and Grandfalls, the Pecos is briny and the water flow is just a trickle. In the lower stretches, however, the river is clear and strong-flowing. The lower Pecos is by far the most biologically important stretch of the river.   Independence Creek, near the middle of the Lower Pecos Conservation Area, provides 45% of the stream flow.

The Pecos is a “Chameleon River”. There are braided channels in the bedrock at Pandale. Downstream, pools get bigger and the river stronger. Portage is required where channelized bedrock, whitewater rapids, and/or dense cane thickets occur. In other areas, there are clear, deep pools bordered by high cliffs and underlain by room-sized boulders. Plant life includes some riparian woodlands and a mixture of Chihuahuan Desert and Edwards Plateau species.

The river terminates at Lake Amistad, 60 river miles from Pandale. The river has been up to 50’ low over the past few years, as measured at Shumla Crossing, but has risen several feet recently.

Notable wildlife on the lower Pecos includes American Beaver, Rio Grande River Cooter, Spotted Gar, Green Kingfisher, and migrant Osprey. Rare fishes include Rio Grande Shiner, Rio Grande Darter, Headwater Catfish, and Proserpine Shiner. Two introduced fishes are a threat to native fish populations: Sheepshead Minnow and Gulf Coast Killifish. One rare plant, Turner’s Crevice Thistle, was found to be plentiful on vertical bluffs.

Pictographs (some polychrome) representing 9000 years (or a bit less) were encountered, including prehistoric and historic elements. The Lewis Canyon petroglyph site is on horizontal bedrock approximately 2 acres in size. Here, some deterioration is evident due to exposure. The site may be repatriated with natural overburden.

Lake Amistad is actually divided in two because of a large sediment dam under the Highway 90 bridge.  A series of photographs illustrates changes in the river/lake at this point over time.

Questions and Answers:

What was the purpose of the trip? Book by Pecos Jack was an inspiration.

Why no salt cedar? Natural flooding cycle is intact enough to prevent it.

Source of introduced fish? Unknown.

Business Meeting:

GLO/Rio Nuevo: Fran Sage provided a copy of an upcoming column about the General Land Office (GLO) and Rio Nuevo exporting our groundwater for profit. The GLO seems to be making up rules as they go along. There are many unanswered questions pertaining to the relationship of GLO to water districts, the absence of an EIS, and the lack of input from local elected officials, water districts and residents.  We are entitled to know what is going on with our water and we should insist that the GLO (Commissioner Jerry Patterson) come out and talk to us. Contact information for Commissioner Jerry Patterson: 512.463.5001, 1700 N. Congress, Suite 835, Austin, TX 78701, email:
webmaster@glo.state.tx.us.   Grassroots dissent is growing rapidly. Dallas Morning News may include GLO/ Rio Nuevo issues as part of a series on water issues (exporting).

La Entrada: Fran also provided a copy of her upcoming letter to the editor, stating that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the government should study the impact of increased air emissions on border-state communities before allowing Mexican trucks to enter the United States. Written comments may be submitted to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, NAFTA EIS, PO Box 4050, Merrifield, VA 22116, email: NAFTAEIS@fmsca.dot.gov, fax 800.260.9702.

Roger Siglin contacted National Public Citizen and put together a short letter which we can sign as petition.

Minutes from September meeting were approved.

A letter by Barbara Walker was published in OneEarth urging use of canvas bags.  Use them!

Meeting adjourned.

Submitted by Linda Hedges, Secretary


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