Monday Interview: KRTS Astronomy Series: McDonald Observatory Superintendent Craig Nance

On this episode of our Astronomy Series, Ian Lewis speaks with the new Superintendent of the McDonald Observatory, Craig Nance, about the upcoming Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment (HETDEX), the construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope, and ensuring the sustainability of the McDonald Observatory.

West Texas Talk is broadcast at 6:30 pm each weekday.
The BJ Bishop Wetland in Presidio, Texas lies between a water treatment plant and the Rio Grande. The man-made wetland is filled with treated waste water from the plant. Construction is largely funded Congress. A bipartisan bill before Congress proposes to extend federal funding for wetland construction. (Lorne Matalon)

The BJ Bishop Wetland in Presidio, Texas lies between a water treatment plant and the Rio Grande. The man-made wetland is filled with treated waste water from the plant. Construction is largely funded Congress. A bipartisan bill before Congress proposes to extend federal funding for wetland construction. (Lorne Matalon)

Border Wetland Using Treated Wastewater As Congress Considers Wetland Funding

 

PRESIDIO, Texas–A man-made wetland is now under construction on the Rio Grande.

And this new wetland will be the first on the Rio Grande to use treated wastewater to restore habitat.

This comes as Congress is considering a bipartisan bill to extend funding for the construction of man-made wetlands.

The Rio Grande has lost huge swaths of bird and wildlife habitat as water has been diverted for farming and human consumption and the population of the southwest has grown exponentially.

The new man-made wetland leverages geography and a blend of private and federal funding.


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A stretch of the South Orient Railroad near Alpine that hasn't been used in years. The Texas-Pacifico railroad is in talks with Energy Transfer and Pumpco, Inc. to ship sections of the Trans-Pecos Pipeline farther south on parts of this line. (Travis Bubenik / KRTS)

A stretch of the South Orient Railroad near Alpine that hasn't been used in years. The Texas-Pacifico railroad is in talks with Energy Transfer and Pumpco, Inc. to ship sections of the Trans-Pecos Pipeline farther south on parts of this line. (Travis Bubenik / KRTS)

Pipeline Shipments Could Head South On Old West Texas Railroad

The San Angelo-based railroad that’s already shipping pipe into the Fort Stockton area for Energy Transfer’s planned Trans-Pecos Pipeline is in talks with the company and its building contractor Pumpco, Inc. to carry pipe farther south on the South Orient Railroad.

The entire railroad stretches through Brewster and Presidio Counties to the U.S. – Mexico border at Presidio, though its southern lengths beyond Fort Stockton haven’t been used in years.

Elizabeth Grindstaff, V.P. of Sales and Marketing for the Texas-Pacífico Railroad, says there’s not a set plan for the shipments yet, but that if the deal comes together, it would be the farthest south the company has carried loads since 2006.

“Really our customer base, which is mostly based on frac sands, ends in Fort Stockton,” she said. “So that would require a lot of upgrade on our part, which we’re interested in doing, but it also has to make sort of financial sense for us.”


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Staging ground for the Trans-Pecos Pipeline in Alpine, TX. (Travis Bubenik / KRTS)

Staging ground for the Trans-Pecos Pipeline in Alpine, TX. (Travis Bubenik / KRTS)

Work at Alpine Staging Ground for Trans-Pecos Pipeline Can Continue Amid TCEQ Investigation

This post has been updated to reflect new developments.

Update Friday, May 16

Work at the Alpine staging site for the Trans-Pecos Pipeline can continue amid an ongoing Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) investigation into complaints that the site is being cleared without proper stormwater controls in place.

“The TCEQ has not taken any action to cease the operations/activities at this site,” TCEQ spokesperson Terry Clawson said in an emailed-statement.

Information is still being gathered as that investigation continues, though TCEQ has said the nature of the complaints do not fall under its jurisdiction.

In an email, the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) indicted it also does not have authority over pipeline staging areas such as the one in Alpine.

“Pipeline safety regulations address the safe operation of a pipeline, not staging areas,” RRC Spokesperson Ramona Nye said in an email. “Generally, the Railroad Commission has no authority over the routing or siting of pipelines.”

Read our original story below for more.

Original Post

After construction was halted on a staging ground for Energy Transfer’s planned Trans-Pecos Pipeline amid an investigation into six complaints filed against the site, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) said Thursday afternoon it has learned the nature of the complaints do not fall under its jurisdiction.

Thursday morning, TCEQ spokesperson Lisa Wheeler told KRTS the commission launched an investigation after the complaints were filed to the commission’s El Paso regional office on Wednesday.

The complaints allege the plot of land behind the old Coca Cola bottling plant in Alpine has been cleared by Pumpco, Inc. without proper stormwater runoff controls in place.


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Area residents crowd a Presidio County Commissioners meeting to hear an update on the Trans-Pecos Pipeline from Energy Transfer (Travis Bubenik / KRTS)

Area residents crowd a Presidio County Commissioners meeting to hear an update on the Trans-Pecos Pipeline from Energy Transfer (Travis Bubenik / KRTS)

Presidio County Commissioners Receive Update on Trans-Pecos Pipeline

An overflow crowd packed Tuesday’s Presidio County Commissioners meeting in Marfa to hear from Energy Transfer, the company that wants to build the Trans-Pecos Pipeline through Pecos, Brewster and Presidio counties from the Permian Basin.

Rick Smith, Energy Transfer’s V.P. of Engineering, said the company is negotiating with an unspecified number of landowners, including one with land on the Rio Grande where natural gas would enter Mexico.

“We’re talking with the landowner now,” Smith said. “That was a pre-determined point by the proposal, so we know where we’re at and we’ve already done the surveys down there.”

At the meeting, two people who gave comments said they support the pipeline. Eight others said they’re concerned the cultural fabric of the region will be compromised.

Some commissioners, including Presidio County Judge Cinderella Guevara, expressed concern about responding in the event of an accident.

“My main concern is what if an accident happened, or what radius are we looking at?” she asked. “I don’t feel that I got a very definite answer on that.”

Smith said he has no knowledge of four previous accidents on pipelines either co-owned or operated by Energy Transfer or its subsidiaries between 2008 and 2013.

But, he said, the Trans Pecos Pipeline will exceed safety codes already in place.


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Entrance to the Marfa Golf Course in Marfa, TX. (Travis Bubenik / KRTS)

Entrance to the Marfa Golf Course in Marfa, TX. (Travis Bubenik / KRTS)

Man On “Walk Across America” Pitches An Upgrade for Marfa Golf Course

A California man who wants to upgrade the Marfa Golf Course was grilled on his plan at an executive session of the Presidio County Commissioners Court on Tuesday.

Commissioners asked about his finances, specifically about how he could make assurances that the project would be economically viable.

Larry Lunsford, the head of a company called Pro Tour Events, was hoping to secure a long-term lease to turn the course into one that would attract well-heeled golfers and contribute tourism dollars to the local economy.

Seemingly unrelated to the Marfa Golf Course proposal, Lunsford is also in the midst of a 2800-mile “transformational journey” from Florida to California.

The El Paso-based director Tony Dueñez, owner of Sir Realistic Productions, is working on a film about Lunsford and his cross-country journey.

The film’s synopsis describes Lunsford as a one-time successful entrepreneur who, after falling on hard times, decides to embark on the journey to regain a sense of peace and happiness.

On Tuesday, in a 3-to-1 vote in favor, Lunsford was told he can take a non-binding “letter of intent” from the county to would-be investors and then report back to the commissioners.


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FWTSR image

Report for May 13th

A solid South swell fills in to the Big Bend region. Punch Kennedy’s got the full report, and tells of a book for the American swimmer. Music by G. Wayne Thomas from Albert Falzon’s 1971 Morning of the Earth, courtesy of Anthology Recordings.

The Far West Texas Surf Report airs each Wednesday at 11pm.
Become a Community Correspondent, learn new skills and make new friends.

Become a Community Correspondent, learn new skills and make new friends.

Become a Marfa Public Radio Community Correspondent

Never miss a city council meeting? Always finding interesting stories in the Big Bend? Go to a lot of community events or concerts? If you’re interested in sharing your knowledge and experience with Marfa Public Radio listeners, become one of our volunteer Community Correspondents.

We’re looking for engaged citizens from across the Big Bend. A Community Correspondent assists Marfa Public Radio with news gathering and producing stories from the community you live in.
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Colin McDonald at Marfa Public Radio, Spring 2015.

Fri. May 22 Interview: Replay: Colin McDonald, The Disappearing Rio Grande Expedition 2.0

After traversing the Rio Grande and gathering water samples and anecdotes from both sides of the river, journalist Colin McDonald talks about his journey and discoveries along the diminishing river.

McDonald’s expedition aims to add empirical evidence and attention to the declining water levels of a river that provides water for millions of individuals on both sides of the border.

He visited the KRTS studios before, speaking to Tom Michael in October 2014. In this conversation, he talks about the natural and political history of the Rio Grande and addresses its future.

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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Lonn Taylor

Hinkle and Dean and Giant and Marfa

This week on Rambling Boy, historian Lonn Taylor regales us with stories of Bob Hinkle. Hinkle worked as James Dean’s dialogue coach on the 1956 movie Giant filmed in Marfa, Texas. Hinkle taught Dean to walk and talk like a Texan. The two men, both age 24, became great friends and spent their time in Marfa shooting rabbits and making what would be known as one of Hollywood’s classic films.

To learn more about Hinkle, Taylor suggests reading Bob Hinkle’s autobiography Call Me Lucky: A Texan in Hollywood (University of Oklahoma Press, 2009).

The Rambling Boy is broadcast Mondays after the 10 am newscast and again after the 7 pm newscast.
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Rae Anna Hample, holding her shadow puppet, Skeleton of the Altar Valley Who Walks Until His Bones Are Ground To Dust (KRTS/ Anna Rose MacArthur)

Thu. May 21 Interview: Rae Anna Hample Tells The Stories of The West Using Shadows and Light

Puppeteer, Rae Anna Hample, mixes light, sound, music, props, and puppets to tell stories of the West. Today she discusses her shadow puppet show, Cowgirl: A Western, which tells the tale of a little girl who dreams of becoming a cowgirl. Hample recently performed this show at El Cosmico in Marfa, Texas.

Hample’s work combines puppetry, performance, and stop-action animation. She is a member of the Hag Society, an arts collective based in Brooklyn, New York, and she has toured the United States and Canada by bicycle as a puppeteer with the Petal Puppets. She graduated from Bard College and is currently interning with the Education Program at The Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas.

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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photograph courtesy Borderlands Research Institute

Don’t Fence Me In: Pronghorn in West Texas

Pronghorn are a species unique to North America. Their bodies and instincts are exquisitely adapted to life on the West Texas prairies. They’re swifter than the wind, and tawny as the grassland itself. But those grasslands are changing. And pronghorn … Continue reading

Nature Notes is broadcast Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:35 am and 4:45 pm, and again on Thursdays at 7:06 pm.
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Neil Gaiman

Wed. May 20 Interview: Neil Gaiman on Suspense, Childhood Memories, Radio Plays, Comic Books, and Dr. Who

British author Neil Gaiman is our guest on West Texas Talk. The British author first came to notice as a writer of the comic book series, The Sandman. He’s known for the novels Stardust, American Gods, and The Graveyard Book. He wrote an episode of Doctor Who and a dramatic radio series called Neverwhere.

 

He’s speaking tonight at the Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center in the Permian Basin. His talk is being hosted by the Odessa Council for the Arts & Humanities and by the Friends of the Ector County Library.

 

His book Coraline, for children, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, for adults, are featured as this year’s One Book Odessa. It’s Neil Gaiman‘s first stop in West Texas.

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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