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Archive for the ‘Rio Grande’ Category

Reclaim the RiverOn Sunday, August 12 from 9 am to 2 pm people will gather on the banks of the Rio Grande at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas to celebrate the river which made our communities possible. Despite its iconic status as a meeting point between two cultures or the fact that is the region’s only source of fresh water and the anchor of a burgeoning nature tourism and recreation industry, the Trump administration intends to wall off the Rio Grande entirely. And this Spring Congress voted to pay for his wall here with Democratic support.

The threat is almost unimaginable. Residents in Hidalgo County would lose access to the river entirely, except a small segment at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. Seventy percent of the National Butterfly Center’s 100 acres would be walled off, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Executive Director Carter Smith is on record saying that Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park may have to close. Border walls in Starr County are planned for construction in the floodplain, raising the risks of catastrophic flooding on both sides of the river.

The event, Reclaim the River is free, family-friendly and meant to raise awareness of these issues and educate the public about the importance of this important national resource.

Planned activities include sand sculpting by the award-winning artist, Sandy Feet of South Padre Island; Segway test drives by SegValley; guided nature hikes; angler education and fishing for youth; Project WILD Aquatic lessons; guerrilla gardening for pollinators; tug o’ war; a wildlife petting zoo; pet adoptions by Mission Pawsible; and a blessing of the river and the flotilla by Father Roy Snipes of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. There will be lots of ways to take action to help stop the border wall, as well.

All of these activities will take place on the Center’s property south of the levee, where cyclists and joggers are welcome! Families are encouraged to bring their bikes, beach chairs and a picnic.

Sign up and invite your friends on Facebook.

If you are unable to attend but would like to sign and send some postcards to elected officials, you can print these on cardstock:

Save Bentsen postcard

Save National Butterfly Center Postcards

(Check out our directions for holding postcard party!)

It’s more important than ever to show up and show your love for our state park, the Butterfly Center and for our Rio Grande.

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Last Saturday dozens of Rio Grande Valley residents spent their morning showing their love for Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park and World Birding Center. They gathered under the shade of beautiful Texas ebony trees to draw attention to the threat posed by the Trump administration’s border wall. This March Congress voted to pay for a levee-border wall that would split the state park in two, destroy acres of native forest, and wall off the state park’s entire trail system.

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At the center of the event were postcards sent by participants to Texas Governor Greg Abbott and U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar, who represents the district in which Bentsen is located. They asked the two officials to advocate for the state park and save it from the destruction of the border wall and from possible closure. The crowd generated 113 postcards for each leader, and the campaign is still ongoing.

You can print your own Save Bentsen postcards here!postcard color_edited-1

In addition, local artists donated original drawings of plant and animal species commonly found in the park to create a Bentsen State Park bilingual Lotería. Kids and grownups alike took tours of the park with local naturalists and returned to color in those species on the Lotería card that they had sighted. There was a lot of excitement when one group spotted a Western diamondback rattlesnake, and birders were thrilled to see an Olive-sided flycatcher, just one of the hundreds of species of migrating birds that use Bentsen for a waystation on their journey across two continents.

When the guided tours returned, participants gathered to hear local naturalist and Sierra Club member Tiffany Kersten recount the story of when brothers Lloyd, Sr. and Elmer Bentsen agreed to spare the park from the plow after they grew to appreciate the very ebony grove where the picnic was taking place, and how they donated the land to the state for the enjoyment of all Texans in 1944, with the state park officially opening in 1962.

Then Martha Garcia of the Environmental Awareness Club at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley talked about how her first experience at Bentsen on a school fieldtrip reminded her of her family’s first home in Tamaulipas, México and the importance of being able to connect with that natural heritage.

Border wall expert and Sierra Club member Scott Nicol explained how the levee-border wall would cut off the trails from the Visitor Center and how the plans called for chopping down the native forests 150 feet south of a levee-border wall to create a gravel-covered “enforcement zone.” He also spoke about the danger of the park being shut down for good, noting that the trail system connected to another World Birding Center—the one at Hidalgo Pumphouse in the City of Hidalgo–had been walled off in 2009 and was no longer accessible to the public.

The event wrapped up with families picnicking under the ebonies, whose beauty had compelled the Bentsen brothers to save the forest here for us. The question is, what will we save for future generations?

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save santa ana bumpersticker

On Saturday, January 27th people from all over the country will gather in the field outside Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, which is threatened by Trump’s border wall. They will be joining South Texans in taking a stand against the terrible damage that border walls will cause to border communities and the borderlands.

If you are not able to get to Santa Ana for the rally, please commit to participate in one or more of the following solidarity actions this week. Click on the links for details:

Spreading the word on social media

Making calls to Congress

Writing a letter to the editor

Santa Ana Solidarity postcard party

There are lots of talking points available in this toolkit. You can also direct questions to dan.millis@sierraclub.org. Thank you very much for standing in solidarity with Santa Ana and with South Texans in opposition to the border wall.

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Krista Santa Ana

The fight to stop Trump’s damaging border wall is starting in Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, and local organizers are asking people around the country to come to South Texas to join in a rally and concert immediately next to the refuge entrance on Saturday, January 27 from 11 am to 2 pm.

The Trump Administration has announced that if Congress allocates funding for the border wall, the first wall will be built through Santa Ana, flattening acres of habitat, degrading its value to wildlife and ecotourism, and possibly even leading to the closure of the refuge.

Home to more than 400 species of birds and located within the territory of endangered cats like the ocelot and jaguarundi, Santa Ana has been called the “jewel” of the National Wildlife Refuge System because of its stunning diversity. For 75 years it has protected some of the last remaining riparian habitat along the lower Rio Grande River.  Walling through it would be a national tragedy.

The event is being organized in an effort to raise awareness of the imminent threat to Santa Ana and the devastating impacts of any border walls and other security measures on the natural environment in the borderlands, on people’s private property, on important cultural and historical sites, and on border communities. Local organizers want to send the message that border communities are among the safest in the nation and that the push for more border security is based on xenophobic fear rather than reality. They believe that DACA recipients, 1 out of 5 of whom live in the border region, deserve a Clean Dream Act to protect them from deportation and offer them a stable future.

The rally is being held in conjunction with Santa Ana NWR’s 75th anniversary celebration and will feature speakers, musicians, and food, as well as ways to take action. There will also be organized activities in the refuge next door, which is offering free admission for the day.

Please help us distribute flyers for the event: Santa Ana Rally Poster English / handbill version and Santa Ana Rally Poster Spanish/ handbill version Spanish

The event is also listed here on Facebook.

Thank you to our supporting organizations:

ACLU Texas
Action South Texas
Aqui Estamos RGV
AWIA
Border Action Network
bridges across borders
Call to Action-Rio Grande Valley
Center for Biological Diversity
Coalición de Derechos Humanos
Conservationist Wild Rivers Commottee
Defenders of Wildlife
Earthjustice
Friends of Friendship Park
Friends of Laguna Atascosa NWR
Frontera Audubon
Garcia & Garcia Attorneys at Law
Humane Borders
La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE)
Neta
PFLAG Harlingen
Proyecto Azteca
Resist the Wall
Sierra Club
Sierra Club Borderlands
Southwest Environmental Center
Texas Civil Rights Project
Wildlands Network
#PoetsAgainstWalls

To be listed as a supporter for the Save Santa Ana Rally fill out this form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACLU Texas
Action South Texas
Aqui Estamos RGV
AWIA
Border Action Network
bridges across borders
Call to Action-Rio Grande Valley
Center for Biological Diversity
Coalición de Derechos Humanos
Conservationist Wild Rivers Commottee
Defenders of Wildlife
Earthjustice
Friends of Friendship Park
FRiends of Laguna Atascosa NWR
Frontera Audubon
Garcia & Garcia Attorneys at Law
Humane Borders
La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE)
Neta
PFLAG Harlingen
Proyecto Azteca
Resist the Wall Community Coalition                                                                                                Sierra Club
Sierra Club Borderlands Team
Southwest Environmental Center
Texas Civil Rights Project
Wildlands Network                                                                                                       #PoetsAgainstWalls

If you are interested in being listed as a supporting organization, please fill out this form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Levee-border wall under construction in Hidalgo county 10-12-08

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is accepting comments about their extreme border wall plans in South Texas which include

  • Concrete levee-border walls topped with 18-feet-tall steel bollards which will wall off all of Hidalgo County from the Rio Grande.
  • Border walls built in the Rio Grande floodplain in Starr County that will be 20 to 30-feet-tall.
  • A 150-foot wide enforcement zone on the south/river side of all these walls where they will rip out trees and keep all vegetation from growing.

You can read about their destructive plans in the letter they sent to a handful of organizations.

Please cut and paste the following email addresses  and send a comment in order to express your outrage about this drastic action to both CBP and to Texas Senators Cornyn and Cruz:

commentsenv@cbp.dhs.gov, Ana_Garcia@Cornyn.senate.gov, Casandra_Garcia@cruz.senate.gov

Email Subject: RGV Wall and Gates Construction

Comments are due October 20, 2017.


Sample letter you can copy and paste from:

I am opposed to the construction of the Trump administration’s border walls. I am also opposed to the construction of levee-border walls, bollard walls, 150-ft enforcement zones, border wall gates, massive industrial lighting, and all-weather roads.

These border wall structures are symbols of racism and xenophobia, they involve the condemnation of farms and ancestral lands, and they destroy wildlife habitat and refuges. This border wall project would also violate the treaty that establishes the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo as the United States- Mexico border which forbids either nation from building structures in the floodplain that would worsen flooding.

Levee-border walls would cut off thousands of acres of farmland, put the historic La Lomita Chapel in no-man’s-land between the border wall and the border, and would restrict access to trails at the Bentsen Rio Grande State Park and World Birding Center, the National Butterfly Center, and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. Bollard walls can act as dams and would worsen flooding conditions in communities on both sides of the river such as Roma and Ciudad Alemán.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) should release more information about its border wall plans immediately. They should also host multiple public meetings in the Rio Grande Valley communities that will be impacted by border walls. Undocumented residents attending these public meetings should be assured that they can participate without fear of arrest and deportation. CBP should also comply with all of our nation’s laws, not waive those that it sees as inconvenient.

The Sierra Club has submitted an extensive comment you can read it here.

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Annova LNG is proposing to build a liquefied natural gas export terminal in the Port of Brownsville.  They are hosting an “Open House” about the project tonight from 4 to 7 pm at the Brownsville Events Center.  Here are some images from the site and some important facts to know.

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The Worst Possible Place for Heavy Industry

The land Annova LNG has leased encompasses 650 acres of the Loma Ecological Preserve.  Lomas on the preserve have been called “miniature Galapagos Islands”[1] and are such critical wildlife habitat that until recently Annova’s LNG terminal site was leased by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife as a part of the wildlife corridor. In 1998 an ocelot was documented in this area as it crossed the ship channel traveling north. The ship channel presents no obstacle to the endangered cats, but the bright lights and noise of the LNG plant will prevent them from moving back and forth between the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge and Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

The Annova site contains numerous wetlands that will be filled in, as well as starkly beautiful coastal prairie and dense brush that will be bulldozed and paved over.  It’s also directly across from the Bahia Grande, the largest wetlands restoration project in North America. Annova plans to dredge a turning basin and widen the ship channel in front of the Bahia Grande Restoration Channel. Dredging increases turbidity and can stir up toxic sediments.

Already On Track to Be the Largest Polluter in Cameron County

Annova LNG has not reported their expected air pollution emissions, but we know that all liquefied natural gas export terminals are major sources of hazardous air pollutants.  We can roughly estimate the level of Annova LNG’s pollution by comparing its planned production capacity with that of other LNG export terminals currently under construction in the U.S. [2]

The emissions associated with Annova LNG’s .93 billion cubic feet per day production of LNG:

Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) 1209 tons per year  67 times what the Silas Ray Power Plant produces
Carbon Monoxide (CO) 1860 tons per year  People with heart disease are especially susceptible.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) 60 tons per year  Carcinogens and neurotoxins: There is no safe level of VOCs.
Greenhouse Gases (GHG) 1.7 million tons per year  35 times the carbon footprint of the Silas Ray power plant
Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) 4 tons per year  Causes acid rain which could harm nearby marine environments
Particulate Matter (PM 10 and PM 2.5) 78 tons per year  Cameron County already has high levels of particulates

A Record of Pollution

Annova LNG is owned by Exelon, the same company which owns the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant. In 2006, it was revealed that Exelon had failed to report multiple instances of radioactive tritium leaking into the groundwater during a decade of operating the Braidwood Nuclear Generating Station in Illinois.[3] In 2010 they paid more than $1 million to settle lawsuits arising from over two dozen leaks of tritium at three Illinois nuclear power plants.[4]

LNG Threatens Our Existing Jobs

The massive industrialization and pollution that LNG will bring could erode important economic drivers such as commercial fishing, shrimping, and beach and nature tourism. Thousands of jobs here in the Rio Grande Valley depend on clean air, clean water and high quality fish and wildlife habitat.  The lights and fiery flare stack will light up the sky within sight of South Padre Island’s beachfront hotels and condos, and the smog-producing emissions will foul the air.  Those are not the sights and smells that draw tourists.

LNG Processing and Transport Is Inherently Risky

When LNG is spilled it evaporates and can form a flammable vapor cloud that can drift for some distance. If the cloud encounters an ignition source it will burn back to the LNG spill.  LNG fires burn so hot that first responders cannot approach.  A March 2014 explosion at an LNG plant in Washington State forced an evacuation of hundreds of people within a two-mile radius. Fortunately the fire burned itself out and the LNG did not ignite, but a local fire chief noted that if it had, everyone within three-quarters of a mile would have been killed.[5] The LNG refrigeration process also uses fuels such as propane and ethylene to cool the gas, and these are much more volatile than methane.

Annova LNG Will Not Pay Their Fair Share of Taxes

Annova LNG’s parent company has opposed the Federal Wind Production Tax Credit, saying that, “Exelon has long believed that there is no need to promote subsidies for proven technologies,”[6] but that has not stop Annova LNG from seeking to avoid paying local taxes.  The Cameron County Commission is considering a significant tax abatement, ensuring that all of Annova LNG’s profits will go to distant shareholders instead of local schools, fire departments and roads.

Download a PDF of this factsheet:

Annova LNG–Pave Paradise and Put up an LNG Plan

Send a comment to FERC:

FERC Comment Guide for Annova LNG

FERC Comment Form Annova LNG

[1] Richard C. Bartlett. Saving the Best of Texas. University of Texas Press, 1995.

[2] Based on published emissions estimates for Sabine Pass LNG: Sabine Pass Liquefaction LLC et al., FERC DKT. PF13-8, Draft Resource Report 9 at 11-12, Table 9.2-10. http://www.cheniere.com/CQP_documents/SPLQ%2011-15- 10_FERC%20draft_resource_reports_2%20_thru_9.pdf

[3] “ Madigan, Glasgow File Suit For Radioactive Leaks At Braidwood Nuclear Plant” Illinois Attorney General’s Office, 16 Mar 2006. http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/pressroom/2006_03/20060316.html

[4] “Attorney General Madigan / State’s Attorneys Reach Agreement with Exelon on Nuclear Power Safety.” Illinois Attorney General’s Office, March 11, 2010.  http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/pressroom/2010_03/20100311.html

[5] Kristi Pihl, “Evacuation Area Near Plant to Be Reduced.” Tri-City Herald. 31 March 2014. http://www.tricityherald.com/2014/03/31/2904040/natural-gas-facility-on-fire-near.html

[6] “Exelon’s Public Policy Positions.”  http://www.exeloncorp.com/performance/policypositions/overview.aspx

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Mangroves at Boca Chica Beach, just yards away from the proposed lauch siteLast month the Sierra Club submitted comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement that Space X prepared for their proposed rocket launch site at Boca Chica.  You can read the full comments here: Sierra Club – SpaceX Draft EIS comments 2013_Final

The proposed launch site is on private land surrounded by the 10,680- acre Boca Chica tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. The LRGVNWR was envisioned as a wildlife corridor for the ocelot and jaguarundi, which are listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. Boca Chica beach, adjacent to the launch site, is one of the few places where Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles, one of the world’s most critically endangered sea turtles, come ashore to nest in the spring and summer. This area also provides habitat for birds, including the piping plover and red knot, and is visited by millions of migrating birds and bats each fall and spring.

At this time the Sierra Club is not taking a position for or against this project, as we wait for the greater level of detail that will be in the final EIS regarding both the scope of the project and mitigation measures.  In our comments we suggested a number of mitigation measures that would lessen the project’s environmental impact, including the purchase of land that would be transferred to US Fish and Wildlife.

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