Archive for November, 2012

By Jim Chapman

I am voting “no” on Tuesday’s  Hidalgo County Drainage Bond Issue for two reasons.

First, I am still angry about a similar drainage bond issue that passed in 2006.  It was for $110 million.  I even supported it.  But instead of being used for drainage projects it was diverted, and $44 million was misused to build 22 miles of concrete levee-border wall that was neither wanted nor needed.  The levee-border wall was placed where DHS wanted walls, not where the levees were deficient.  The International Boundary & Water Commission has always been in charge of maintaining our river and floodway levees, and after Hidalgo spent our bond money they have brought all the rest of our levees up to FEMA standards with federal stimulus funds.  The Department of Homeland Security was in charge of building the loathsome border wall, and did so, except where the Hidalgo County Commissioners decided to do it for them, at our expense.  Except for providing some temporary construction jobs, Mr. Godfrey Garza and the Commissioners might as well have thrown our money down a rathole.

Second, the plan to rush all our storm run-off into the Laguna Madre is a bad idea.  The Laguna Madre is hypersaline, meaning it is more salty than the Gulf of Mexico, and many experts believe this is the key to its enormous productivity.  Huge inflows of fresh water (like the 2010 flood that required opening our floodways) do great damage, particularly to the sea grasses.  A better drainage plan would impound as much of our runoff as possible.  Could we double or triple the size of Delta Lake, or create other lakes?  After all, most of the time the Valley is a water-shortage area.  Impounding water would increase our water supply, create more wildlife habitat, provide more recreational opportunities, and not further damage our Laguna Madre.  It would be a win-win-win.

When our county officials come up with a better plan, one that looks at the overall big picture, I’ll vote for it.  Until then, my vote is no.


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By Mary Thorne

The Day of The Dead is a Mexican tradition that coincides with the annual migration of billions of monarch butterflies to their winter residence in the mountains in central Mexico. Traditionally the monarchs are believed to be the souls of the dead returning to earth. This year the connection between butterflies and The Day of the Dead has a different meaning for me. Instead I think of dead butterflies.


School kids are taught at an early age about habitat. Every living thing needs food and water for nourishment, shelter from weather and predators, and space. In order for a species to continue they must mate and have an environment where their offspring can mature.


Nature has an amazing capacity to adapt. All butterflies go through four stages of metamorphosis, egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly. Each species of butterfly has different needs, or different habitats depending on where they live. Monarch butterflies are unique. During the summer they drink nectar from flowers and lay their eggs on milkweed. The eggs hatch into caterpillars. The caterpillars grow quickly and within two weeks they have finish growing and change into chrysalises. After another two weeks a butterfly will emerge from the chrysalis ready to mate and start the cycle over again.


The Monarch butterflies that emerge in the fall in North America cannot survive the freezing temperatures of winter. Instead, they have adapted the ability to fly thousands of miles to a different habitat. They spend their winters in the mountains of Mexico.


Monarchs heading south for the winter still need food and shelter. They get their energy by drinking nectar from many types of flowers during the day. At night they seek shelter by roosting in trees. Millions of monarchs can be seen migrating through Texas in late October.


In the spring those same Monarchs that flew all the way to Mexico begin the return trip north. The butterflies leaving Mexico will only travel as far as south Texas before they die. Somehow they manage to find milkweed and lay their eggs before they die. Within a few weeks the new freshly emerging butterflies will continue migrating north for the summer. The cycle will repeat itself until fall when once again the migration south begins.


It seems so simple. Give them food, shelter, and a place to raise their young and they will continue as they have in the past, for thousands of years.


I am a little bit like the monarch. I don’t like winter so I migrate south too. I came to The Rio Grande Valley because of butterflies. The natural habitat here provides a safe haven for migrating Monarchs as well as a home for many other species of butterflies. And it is warm. I like warm.


Because I like butterflies I planted many butterfly plants in my yard. Most of the plants I planted are considered native plants. They are called native plants because they occur naturally in this region. Native plants create a perfect habitat for native butterflies since the plants survive in the hot dry climate of the region.


My return to the valley coincides with the monarch migration. Eagerly I returned to my garden anticipating the sight of hundreds of butterflies in all shapes and sizes gracefully floating around the plants I had planted in my garden. Before leaving in spring I had carefully placed mulch around each plant to help them survive the summer. Mulch helps by keeping moisture in the soil and prevents weeds from popping up in unwanted places. I had even taken a class at Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen and proudly displayed my Backyard Habitat sign in my garden.


There were no butterflies in my garden when I returned, just mulch. No habitat. No butterflies.


What has happened in my yard is nothing new, it happens all over. Why? Maybe the habitat was destroyed because someone wanted to cement in a new drive way. Maybe someone cut down the tree because they thought it was too messy. Maybe someone sprayed insecticide to get rid of the bugs. Maybe someone sprayed herbicide to get rid of the weeds. Maybe someone just thought the flowers weren’t pretty enough.


It doesn’t really matter why. What matters is that it happens.


So I am in mourning over the loss of a habitat which eventually will mean the loss of butterfly which will eventually mean the loss of a tradition that has existed for thousands of years.


How can I celebrate the returning monarchs with the Day of the Dead if all the Monarchs are dead?


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