RESPONSE TO MS.

ACKERMAN’S REQUEST FOR INFORMATION  Recognizing the importance of land and water policy for El Paso’s future, City Council created the Public Service Board in 1952 to de-politicize decisions about land and water use. Six decades on, the PSB includes scientists, engineers, and conservationists. It is important that these community members – not politicians – remain vested with the authority to declare land inexpedient. This ensures that development does not outpace our water resources and lead to unnecessary infrastructure costs.  The PSB is avowedly anti-sprawl. According to the Rules and Regulations governing EPWU, “It is the intent that the Utility will be expanded contiguously without ‘leapfrogging’.” More recently, utility staff sought to encourage infill development through contributions to Plan El Paso. These actions ensure development only occurs when and where water can be sustainably and cost-effectively supplied.  The PSB has demonstrated a commitment to finding open space solutions. In addition to mandated open space and arroyo acquisition for stormwater purposes, the board has deeded thousands of acres to the Franklin Mountains State Park and plans to deed hundreds more. The PSB has a long history of master planning large tracts of land which preserves arroyos and sets aside open space.  The PSB has been on the front lines of ensuring sustainable economic development in El Paso. Construction of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant was key in securing Fort Bliss’ expansion in El Paso. The Board also requires all large water users to implement a water conservation plan.  The possibility of importing water from outside of El Paso County is not a “scare tactic.” The PSB identified the need to look outside our area for water resources in long-range planning which began in 1991. In 1997, the Legislature required all water utilities to follow El Paso’s lead and engage in such long-range, collaborative planning. As a result, leaders from seven Far West Texas counties now work together to update our region’s long-range water plan; it is part of the Texas Water Plan which is approved by the Legislature and updated every five years.  Attempting to accelerate the sell-off of PSB land runs counter to adopted Smart Growth principles. The Congress for the New Urbanism identifies “rapid development” and “pressure for rapid development” as key factors which undermine Smart Growth by “(shrinking) the time for, and the quality of, decisions.”

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