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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Water release vote is tabled by Red Bluff

Staff Writer

PECOS, Tues., April 8, 2003 -- Red Bluff Water Power Control Board members put off a decision on water releases from Red Bluff Lake to farmers downstream on the Pecos River for another month, during their monthly meeting today in Pecos.

The board tabled any vote on the release, opting to wait until May before making any decision on releasing water downstream, after the lake gained only 633 acre/feet of water during March. The additional water brought the lake's total to just over 60,000 acre/feet.

No water was released downstream in 2002, as the ongoing drought dropped lake levels to just over 40,000 acre/feet. Rains at the end of the year plus a water release from New Mexico raised the lake's level by 33 percent, but board members are still concerned the 60,000 acre/feet isn't enough for a release downstream.

"We'll wait until next month and see if we get a good thunderstorm before then," said managing director Randal Hartman at the end of today's meeting.

Only about 50 percent of the water released from Red Bluff Lake ever reaches farmers downstream, and the earthen dam at the lake requires at least 20,000 acre/feet of water in the lake to maintain its structural integrity.

The water release decision was one of only a handful of items the board covered in its 30-minute meeting.

Hartman told the board that Sun West Salt Co. had begun pumping salt water away from the river at Malaga Bend and into ponds on March 13. Board member Lloyd Goodrich said the water from a salt spring at the site was being pumped away at the rate of 502 gallons a minute.

The water is being pumped into ponds built next to the site. "When it gets full, they'll switch to another pond," Hartman said. "It's a switching operation - they let it evaporated and then they lay down another layer."

He said the water is fully saturated with salt and should cut the level of salt in the Pecos River and Red Bluff Lake, though initial readings have not come in yet. "I know when it evaporates really quick on a windy day, and it makes salt real fast," he said.

The board supported installation of outlet gauging stations at Imperial Reservoir, and approved work to underpin a weir that had some ground washed out by a water release. Cash disbursements, fund balance reports and accounts payable were also approved.

Board members were also told the Pecos River Compact Commission would be holding their annual meeting on Thursday, beginning at 9 a.m. CDT in Carlsbad, N.M. Agency reports will be heard, along with updates on several projects, including the Malaga Bend project.

Meeting held to coordinate Pecos Trails Program

PECOS, Tues., April 8, 2003 -- The TransPecos Foundation and the Texas Historical Commission hosted an organizational meeting March 25 in Iraan, for the Pecos Trail Region in an effort to coordinate cooperative regional support for the Texas Heritage Trails Program.

The March 25 meeting brought together 47 representatives from 13 of the 22 counties in the region, which stretches from north of Odessa to northwest of San Antonio, and resulted in broad based support for the project. A core committee was formed to handle the application process. However, it was emphasized that input at the community level was essential to the success of the application process.

The Pecos Trail Region is one of 10 heritage trails regions within the state. It encompasses 22 counties which include Andrews, Crane, Crockett, Ector, Edwards, Glasscock, Kimble, Kinney, Loving, Martin, Maverick, Midland, Pecos, Reagan, Reeves, Sterling, Sutton, Terrell, Upton, Val Verde, Ward and Winkler. It includes the cities of Pecos, Fort Stockton, Monahans, Odessa, Andrews, McCamey, Sanderson, Del Rio, Sonora, Ozona, Junction and Eagle Pass.

The Texas Heritage Trails Program aims to accentuate and preserve the region's existing cultural heritage and historic venues while also encouraging visitors to these destinations. The revitalization of local economies through regional marketing and the increased awareness of the importance of historic preservation are key aspects of the program. The Pecos Trail Region is full of unique historic sites that could generate revenues for small, rural West Texas communities.

As a designee, the Pecos Trail Region would allow communities to be eligible for partnership grants which would help fund community development and cultural heritage projects through advertisements and marketing efforts. Heritage tourism is a means to focus on the region's distinct past and encourage visitation.

Janie Headrick, Program Director for the Texas Heritage Trails Program, commended the participants for actively getting involved in this initial phase. She added it would take community support for all levels within the region to help passage of the Pecos Trail. Communities within the region are encouraged to support this initiative. The success of the region in earning trail designation depends on the region's ability to develop cooperative regional partnerships between communities supporting heritage tourism.

TransPecos Foundation is a non-profit community development corporation and subsidiary of TransPecos Financial Corp., which is the parent company of Security State Bank of Pecos. It was formed to pursue community and regional development projects like the THC's Texas Heritage Trails Program.

The foundation is a vehicle which will be used in continued efforts to help encourage growth and economic development in the TransPecos region. If you wish to support the Pecos Trail or help in the application process, contact

New proposed CHIP cuts could affect local families

From Staff and Wire Reports
A proposal to cut another 55,000 Texas children from the Children's Health Insurance Program could impact a number of families in Reeves County by this fall, critics of the plan say.

Faced with a state budget deficit of between $5 and $10 billion, legislators have been looking at a number of places to cut cuts, including the CHIP program. The restructuring bill by Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, part of in an omnibus spending bill, would change CHIP eligibility rules, cutting another 55,000 kids from the program.

More than half a million children are signed up for CHIP, a low-cost insurance program for working families. Under budget proposals already adopted by the House Appropriations Committee, an estimated 220,000 youngsters would no longer be eligible for the pared-down program.

According to Press Officer with the Health and Human Service Commission, Kristie Zamrazil said that in Reeves County there was an average of 551 children who benefited from the CHIP program.

"The price benefit was about $657,000," Zamrazil said. "That is the coverage cost which includes the cost of their drugs."

However, she added that they are currently going full steam in enrolling children that qualify.

"We are still operating the way it's always been run," Zamrazil said. "We are still enrolling children that qualify."

Martin Lujan, Chief of Staff for State Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, said that the Appropriations Committee has come up with about $2 million for the CHIP program but the bill remains on the floor till next week.

"Last week the committee came up with extra money specifically for CHIP," Lujan said.

Wohlgemuth says her omnibus bill would save the state $1.1 billion in the 2004-05 budget cycle by consolidating agencies and making money-saving changes to programs. The savings could ensure the cash-strapped state provides services to the neediest Texans, she said.

"I don't agree with that," said Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston. "I think there's a lot of people out there who are on CHIP right now who think they're going to be covered and come September, they're not."

"There are regrets about cutting any and all services. These are not the only people in our state who would be losing services," said Wohlgemuth, adding that if more money is found, her bill could change.

"This is a very difficult judgment call, who is the neediest? That's where the hard decisions are made," said Wohlgemuth, R-Burleson.

CHIP is for youngsters whose families earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid. More than 500,000 children are enrolled.

Wohlgemuth's bill eliminates exemptions for a number of sources of income for parents applying for CHIP, including child support payments between divorced parents and credit for transportation costs.

Disregarding that income could make a family eligible for the CHIP program with as much as $46,000 annual income.

"The disregards really bump it up a lot," said Wohlgemuth, chairwoman of the budget panel's health and human services subcommittee.

Eiland saw it differently.

"If those people are not and/or cannot afford commercial insurance coverage, then that's bad for the health of children," he said.

Eiland had supported a previous proposal to eliminate CHIP altogether, saying it was a terrible option but necessary to provide lifesaving services for elderly Texans.

The committee got a late funding infusion of $2.75 billion and restored the elderly programs and the stripped down CHIP program.

Under the CHIP changes approved last week, children would have to wait 90 days before receiving health care, and then would have to reapply for coverage every six months. Under the current plan, when a child qualifies for CHIP coverage, the child can see a doctor immediately and coverage is continuous for 12 months.

Now, families at twice the poverty level are eligible for CHIP. That would change to 150 percent of poverty.

A family of four with $27,600 annual income is at 150 percent of poverty, and a family of four with a $36,800 income is at 200 percent of poverty.

Texas is facing a $9.9 billion shortfall.

Book fair held at Kindergarten throughout week

PECOS, Tues., April 8, 2003 -- Pecos Kindergarten is hosting a scholastic book fair throughout this week.

The fair began on Monday and will run through Friday during school hours, from 8:10 a.m. until 3:45 p.m., at the kindergarten at 10th and Hickory streets.


PECOS, Tues., April 8, 2003 -- High Monday 84. Low this morning 43. Forecast for tonight: Clear. Lows in the mid 30s. East winds 5 to 10 mph. Wednesday: Sunny. Highs in the lower 70s. Southeast winds 10 to 15 mph. Wednesday night: Clear. Lows in the mid 40s. Thursday: Increasing cloudiness. Highs in the lower 80s. Friday: Partly cloudy. Lows in the lower 50s. Highs in the mid 80s.

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Pecos Enterprise
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