Dear Friends,

As 2016 draws to a close, we  thank you for supporting our organization and its mission of protecting the environment and our only source of drinking water, the Rio Grande. 

To those who:
- volunteered at any of our MANY community events, or
- renewed your membership, or 
- became a first-time dues-paying member, or
- sponsored a project, or 
- helped us bring awareness and change where it was needed most --

We are the "first responders" for the environment, and  can't do any of this work without you. 
Thank you for making 2016 a special year for RGISC. 

We look forward to accomplishing great things together with you in 2017!

Tricia Cortez
Executive Director

Hello fellow RGISC members,

Our mission since 1994 of protecting the Rio Grande, one of the 10 most endangered rivers in the world, and it's surrounding environment has remained our top goal and this past year our environmental non profit continued to grow and have a greater presence in the community.

Thanks to the leadership of our Executive Director, Tricia Cortez, and her hard working staff, along with individuals such as yourselves, RGISC was able to do the following in 2016:

- Sustain the growth of its annual golf fundraiser, "Birdies on the Rio";
- Keep an eye on key issues such as the proposed oil refinery, PERC Landfill and plastic bag ordinance;
- Grow our annual Earth Day event which brought families together to learn about our environment;
- Our founding board member, Dr. Tom Vaughan, won the Jefferson Award and thus RGISC was the recipient of a second and new endowment fund.

I personally thank each of you for choosing to be members, volunteers, and sponsors of RGISC.  I'm certain that together we will keep growing in 2017 and beyond!

Juan Livas
Board President 

VIVA EL RIO!                GO GREEN IN 2017!

Photo: Amelia Solis/Dia del Rio 2016 paddle with Dr. Tom Vaughan
2016 Annual RGISC Awards
Recognizing individuals who have gone above and beyond 
in their service to the organization and protection of our environment.

Dr. James M. Earhart 
Volunteer of the Year: 
Jim Fulgham

Junior Volunteer of the Year & 
Louie Zapata Memorial Scholarship recipients: 
Maria Eugenia "Maru" Espinoza
Lily Nguyen 
Vanessa Ochoa
(Manadas Creek & Wetland Restoration)
Educator of the Year: 
Erika Buentello
Sandra Gonzalez
(RGISC Dia del Rio murals at North Central Park)
Special Community Recognition: 
State Sen. Judith Zaffirini
(Aerial spraying of Carrizo cane)
Laredo Plastic Bag Ordinance -- Under Threat

As of late December 2016, the lawsuit involving the Laredo plastic ban ordinance was still in the hands of the Texas Supreme Court. 

All eyes are on Laredo. The Court's decision will have long-lasting consequences on the entire state.

After the plastic bag ordinance passed in Laredo in 2014 and took effect in 2015, a small group of downtown merchants that has styled themselves Laredo Merchants Association sued the City of Laredo in 2015.

They lost in district court and appealed to the Fourth Court of Appeals, which issued a ruling, 2-1 vote, in their favor. 

The City has now appealed that ruling to the Texas Supreme Court. 

We have worked too hard (10 years) and come too far (end the consumption of 120 million plastic bags each year in Laredo) to overturn a measure that has done so much good for Laredo and its future generations.

Since the ordinance took effect, the positive effects are evident -- Laredo  is a cleaner and more beautiful place to live, and the economic gloom and doom that was to occur because of this ordinance never materialized.
We applaud Sen. Judith Zaffirini's strong support of this ordinance and her filing of legal documents with the courts to protect it. We will keep you updated of the legal outcome. 
Rally held at City Hall on July 3, 2016 - the eve of the Fourth Court of Appeals hearing in San Antonio.
Environmental Threats:
Proposed Oil Refinery

Plans are afoot to build an oil refinery four miles away from Bruni, about 45 minutes from Laredo. 

It would be the largest refinery to be built in the U.S. in the past 40 years.

The Houston company, Raven Petroleum, would process crude oil from the Eagle Ford into jet fuel, diesel, gasoline, and ship all of it -- about 50,000 barrels per day -- thru Laredo by rail into Mexico.

We are gathering more information and are concerned abou t its proposed location and the significant environmental (air and water) and public health risks that are involved with oil refineries.

Refineries release large quantities of toxic chemicals, one of which is benzene, a cancer causing chemical that also causes neurological disorders in humans.

Stay tuned for more in 2017.

Other Threats: 
Aerial Spraying along the River, PERC Landfill

RGISC supports the scientifically successful USDA methods that include the release of biological agents and mechanical topping of the cane with special fitted tractors. 
In this photo, one of these tractors is about to tackle the cane, and conduct a demo with U.S. Border Patrol and RGISC at the Big Island of Las Palmas, near international Bridge II.
We have been closely monitoring state plans to aerially spray chemicals onto the riverbanks. Their goal is to eliminate the invasive giant river cane, carrizo (Arundo donax).

While we support efforts to reduce the presence of the water-hungry carrizo, we oppose any aerial spraying of chemicals, of which some are carcinogenic and banned in other states.

We thank state Sen. Judith Zaffirini for working to prevent this from occurring in her district counties of Webb, Zapata and Starr.

We will continue to conduct outreach to other river communities along the Rio Grande. To date, we have received resolutions from the following cities and counties: 
Cities -- Laredo, Eagle Pass, El Cenizo
Counties --  Webb, Zapata, Starr, Val Verde.

In the spring of 2016, we raised questions with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality about the proposed Class I landfill that would bring in industrial and municipal solid and liquid waste.

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini and the TCEQ presided over a packed audience at a state hearing this summer held at the Casa Blanca Ballroom to get feedback regarding the proposed Pescadito Environmental Resource Center (PERC).

As of December 2016, the state has found several deficiencies with the application. Additionally, new legal issues have been brought to the courts. 

RGISC raised questions regarding the floodplain, potential air impacts for nearby colonia residents, and types of industrial waste that would be brought in, such as coal ash, among others.

If built, this  landfill would be one of the largest in the state and process between 1 million to 3.65 million tons of waste per year. 
Colonia opponents, above. Developer, below.
Photos: San Antonio Express-News

The PERC would be located about 20 miles east of Bob Bullock Loop (Loop 20), between highways 59 and 359. It would sit on a 1,000 acre tract within the 12,200 acre Yugo Ranch.
On the River!
Monthly Water Testing

Every month for more than 20 years, RGISC Board member Dr. Tom Vaughan has conducted water quality testing along the river in Webb and Zapata counties. 
RGISC submits data to the Texas Clean Rivers Program, whose Rio Grande office is based in El Paso at the International Boundary and Water Commission.
Dr. Tom Vaughan
Rio Research Roundup  (7th Annual) 
Each October, thousands of students and their teachers  descend on the river or one of its tributaries via RGISC's award-winning Rio Research Roundup. 

This year, nearly 90 teams from the U.S. and Mexico participated in our annual binational water testing program for the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo watershed basin, and several smaller river basins in Texas that also drain into the Gulf of Mexico. 

Teams test for phosphates, nitrates, pH, temperature, turbidity, biochemical oxygen demand, and coliform bacteria levels, and other water quality measurements. 

Students learn how the actions of one community upstream can affect another community downstream. They  also document what they see in the field and incorporate it into a series of tasks: short video, short essays, free writing, and a piece of literary or visual art. 

The Roundup is a superb way for students to get hands-on field experience as well as express their creativity and love of nature. Judges are currently in the process of submitting results. Winners of the 2016 Rio Research Roundup will be announced soon. So standby...

Zapata HS/Zapata,TX
Sacred Heart HS/Halletsville, TX
Gonzalez MS_Laredo_ TX
S. Gutierrez MS/Roswell, NM
Hot Springs HS/Truth or Consequences, NM
Alamosa HS/Alamosa, CO

Salvador Garcia MS_Rio Bravo_ TX
Hot Springs HS/Truth or Consequences, NM
Alamosa HS/Alamosa, CO
LBJ HS/Laredo, TX
Nixon HS/Laredo, TX
United MS/Laredo, TX
CBTis 34_Piedras Negras_ Coahuila
Bosque School/Albuquerque, NM
Bosque School/Albuquerque, NM
Corpus Christi Grant MS/Corpus Christi, TX
St. Augustine HS/Laredo, TX
Cigarroa HS/Laredo, TX
 Laredo Birding Festival 2016  (4th annual) 
Partners: Monte Mucho Audubon Society, Laredo Convention & Visitors Bureau
In early February, birders from as far away as Canada flock to Laredo to marvel at our hundreds of species of birds, from the White-collared Seedeater, kingfishers, Grey Hawk, warblers, Crested Caracara, orioles, and wintering waterfowl, among many other species.

This year, in early February, RGISC held its 4rd annual Laredo Birding Festival. 

Professional field guides led daily field trips and hit hotspots and private South Texas ranches to observe birds that live in habitat as diverse as riparian river vega  and Tamaulipan scrub.
We also hosted the 4rd annual "Birds of the Brush" art contest at the Laredo Center for the Arts that drew in 300 beautiful submissions from students and adult artists. At  the library, we held the 4rd annual "Fun with Feathery Friends" event where youngsters learned how to use binoculars and spotting scopes, make bird feeders, and identify prized birds in our area. 

We look forward to seeing all of you in 2017!  Until then.....Happy Birding!! 

For more information on the Festival,  CLICK HERE
All photos taken locally by Laredo birders: Carlos Escamilla and Raul Delgado

Crested Caracara/Raul de Laredo
Vermilion Flycatcher/Raul de Laredo
Northern Bobwhite Quail/Guillermo Lopez Jr.
Pyrrhuloxia/Guillermo Lopez Jr.
Golden-fronted Woodpecker/Carlos Escamilla
American White Pelican/Raul de Laredo
Black Phoebe/Raul de Laredo
Audubon's Oriole/Carlos Escamilla
Black-throated Sparrow/Raul de Laredo
Loggerhead Shrike/Raul de Laredo
High School category winners with judge, Armando Hinojosa (far R)
Birds of the Brush art contest submission

Bird Alert
Amazon Kingfisher is back!
Amazon Kingfisher _female_ _Kathryn Gilson

After making her first recorded U.S. debut in Laredo in 2010, the AMKI is back. Her first visit to Zacate Creek drew in nearly 1,000 birders in the first 10 days that she was here. 
Six years later, in November 2016, this green beauty was spotted once again and is still creating a sensation for birders who have come to Laredo to visit her from near and far.
1st RGISC Earth Day Celebration at Lake Casa Blanca 
Kayak Relay Races

Native Tree Planting Ceremony with Event Sponsors

Monarch Butterfly Initiative
Partners: City of Laredo, Sheriff's Office, Lake Casa Blanca, Keep Laredo Beautiful, AgriLife, Monte Mucho Audubon Society
In October, RGISC helped launch the Mayor's Monarch Pledge for Laredo.

This is part of a national campaign led by the National Wildlife Federation to help restore the plummeting population of this magnificent butterfly species. Its numbers have declined by 80-90 percent over the past two decades
Nearly 190 cities have made the Pledge. But our goal is to put Laredo on the map as a "Champion City" since we sit along the main migration route of the Monarch Butterfly.
As a Champion City, Laredo would pledge to fulfill 24 action items over the course of a year to help create suitable pollinator habitat and educate citizens about where and how to grow milkweed, a critical food source for the monarch.
Work has already begun to help restore habitat in Laredo by constructing a Monarch Way Station at Lake Casa Blanca with a Texas Parks & Wildlife grant, and a butterfly garden on the northwest corner of City Hall. 

More related events coming up in 2017 so stay tuned!

Manadas Creek & Wetland Restoration
We continued making monthly visits to the Manadas Creek wetland in the first half of 2016 to help restore one of Laredo's last remaining wetlands. 

In this quiet gem of nature, Washingtonia palms, sedges and rushes, climbing milkweed, and tall cattails share an ecosystem with tilapia, beavers, racoons, kiskadees, egrets, and kingfishers, among many other species of animals and plants. 

Unfortunately, these critters also share the same space with tons (literally) of trash and hundreds of shopping carts that have collected here over the years from rain events. The culprit? North Creek Shopping Plaza which lies across I-35, along Del Mar Ave. 

The enormous quantity of trash drew the attention of St. Augustine HS students in 2015, and expanded to include other high school and college student groups throughout 2016. 

Gorgeous 30-second TV spots
(click on each icon to view)
Gorgeous 30-second TV spot for Birding on the Border!
Bird on the Border PSA
Plastic Bag PSA
Plastic Bag PSA

Commissioned by RGISC and the Monte Mucho Audubon Society.  Filmed and produced by Vincent Moreno of Iris Productions. 
Commissioned by RGISC.  Filmed and produced by Vincent Moreno of Iris Productions

Dia del Rio 2016
22nd annual celebration of the Rio Grande!
For 22 years, each October, communities across the entire Rio Grande watershed basin have celebrated the waters of this life-giving river and its tributaries. 

The river - fed by countless small and large streams - covers two countries and multiple Pueblo nations and supplies water for nearly 6 million people and 2 million acres of farmland. 

For more than two decades, RGISC has celebrated Dia del Rio in Laredo for more than two decades.
DDR Proclamation
Tres Laredos Park, next to international bridge I

DDR Work Day
Paso del Indio Nature Trail
Partners: Lamar Bruni Vergara Environmental Science Center, Keep Laredo Beautiful

Dia del Rio Kayak Excursion
On the Rio Grande with Dr. Tom Vaughan

"A River Runs Through Them"
DDR Guest Lecture
Bob Zimmerman of the Boston-based Charles River Watershed Association
( Funded in part by a Humanities Texas grant)
1st DDR "Rivers and Shivers"
Father McNaboe Park
Partners: Councilman George Altgelt, City Parks & Leisure Dept.
1st Dia del Rio "Rivers and Shivers" event at Father MacNaboe Park 
in partnership with city Parks & Leisure and Councilman George Altgelt
Community Cleanups: 
Lake Casa Blanca, Falcon Lake
In 2016, we held large-scale blitz cleanups at two natural gems:
- Lake Casa Blanca -- post Easter blitz when thousands of visitors over the holiday weekend leave tons (literally) of garbage and litter behind
- Falcon  Lake - end of school year clean-up with Zapata HS math classes.
Lake Casa Blanca - St. Augustine HS, under the direction of instructor Art Smith

Falcon Lake - Zapata HS, under the direction of instructor Kamel Shrek
"Birdies on the Rio" Golf Tourney (7th annual)
Ruben Soto Jr.

Committee Members: 
Erika Saenz, Yenesey Ramirez, Tracy Vasquez, JJ Flores, Danny Gunn Sr., Selinda Martinez,  Juan Livas, Tricia Cortez

Max A. Mandel Municipal Golf Course
2017 Tournament Results
Championship Flight: 
1st Place Joey Martinez/Mauro Lerma  53
2nd Place  Raul Medellin/Balt Ramos 62

A Flight: 
1st Place  Mike Garza/Bobby Mancha    63
2nd Place  Jorge Arechiga/Victor Lara 64

B Flight
1st Place Rafa Vargas/Joey Cruz 61
2nd Place Joe Murillo/Arthur Raymond 64

C Flight: 
1st Place  Albert Garza/Gustavo Morales 70
2nd Place  Felix Velasquez/Rick Garza    74

D Flight: 
1st Place Victor Garcia/Peter Garcia  78

Hole contest winners:
Joe Murillo, Bob Contreras, Mike Sosa, 
Rick Rangel, Mauro Lerma, Emanuel Martinez, Victor Lara, Milton Haber, Alfredo Espinoza, Stephen Dzurenda, Nano Flores
Putting champ: 
Ernie Laurel
Chipping champ:
Milton Haber

Championship Flight winners: Joey Martinez & Mauro Lerma
Thank you to our amazing Golf Sponsors!
Platinum Sponsors
Anderson Columbia Co. 
Laredo Pharmacy
Arena Gun Club
Ruben Soto Jr.

Gold Sponsors
Bruni Well Services
Cantu Safety Consultants
HNTB Corp.
LQ Property Investments LLC
Law Office of John R. Solis
J. Cruz & Associates LLC and Locke Lord LLP
Luis A. Pellicia-Ramos, MD
R&P Ramirez Ltd.
Superior Nursing Care
Silver Sponsors
Martinez Pharmacy

Bronze Sponsors
Alessandro Vallone DDS
BBVA Compass
El Bufalo Pawn
Escamilla Ford Inc.
Frank Architects Inc
LaCentral Inc.
LNV Inc.
Specialty Sponsors
Medina Electric Cooperative
John B. Britton, OMFS
Motor Carrier Safety Solutions, Inc.
Salah Rafati, MD
Cougar Bus Lines
Brewster Environmental Quality Services 
David & Armando Hinojosa
Luis Perez Garcia
Chavarria's Plumbing Inc.
Service Master
Councilman Alex Perez Jr.

Hole Sponsors
A&M Organics Ranch
All State Insurance-Kevin Romo 
Angel Care Ambulance Service
Cigarroa Heart Clinic
The Hon. Rosaura "Wawi" Tijerina
Margie Cortez
Tricia Cortez 
Law Office of Ricardo De Anda
J.M. Dickerson Law Firm PLLC
Ernesto A. Dominguez CPA
Jim and Renu Earhart
Madeline & Jimmy Escoto
Estrada Hinojosa & Co.
Law Office of Freeman and Castillon
Jim Hailey
Kazen Meurer & Perez LLP
Laredo HME 
Laredo Professional Services
Poznecki-Camarillo Inc 
Sadaf Rafique
Ramon M. Soriano, MD
Chris Soto and Family
Raffle Sponsors
Academy Sports & Outdoors, Alama Drafthouse Cinema, Armando Hinojosa, 
Basket & Pottery Alley, Border Foundry,  Casa Blanca Golf Course, 
Chili's Grill & Bar - North, Cinemark Theaters Mall del Norte, Cosmo's (Crane Engineering), Danny Gunn Sr.,  Embassy Suites, Federal Tire Firestone, Holloway's Bakery, 
Home Depot,  Joe Brand, Jiffy Lube, La Posada Hotel, Laredo Country Club, 
Laredo Pizza Factory,  La India  Packing Company, Laredo Discount Metals, 
Marble Slab - Mall del Norte,  Marty Malin,  Max A. Mandel Municipal Golf Course, McDonald's,  Olive Garden Italian Restaurant, Red Lobster,  Sam's Liquor, 
Scratch Sandwich Co.,  Siete Banderas, Southern Distributing, Sushi Madre, 
Texas Roadhouse,  Thirty-Thirty Restaurant & Bar, Tony Roma's,
Variety Meats (Lopez Bookkeeping Services), Walgreen's
Webb County Heritage Foundation
2016 Heritage Awards -  Environmental Preservation
RGISC for Laredo plastic bag ordinance campaign
L-R: Tagi Sagafi-nejad, PhD, Tricia Cortez, CY Benavides III

2016 Jefferson Award for Public Service - Dr. Tom Vaughan
THANK YOU to our generous and civic-minded Sponsors
who helped fund various projects and scholarships in 2016: 

Guadalupe & Lilia Martinez Foundation
Webb County
Trull Foundation
City of Laredo
South Texas Outreach Foundation
D.D. Hachar Charitable Trust
Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
International Bank of Commerce
ANB Cattle Co.
Commissioner John C. Galo
Marty and Nancy Malin
El Bufalo Pawn
Humanities Texas
Rheem Manufacturing
Killam Oil Co.
Wells Fargo Foundation
Women's City Club
Texas Roadhouse
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Our dynamite staff
Tricia Cortez
Executive Director
JJ FLores
Office Administrator
Tracy Vasquez Marketing Coordinator
Yenesey Ramirez Coordinator
Erika Saenz Coordinator
Tricia Cortez - Executive Director
Tracy Vasquez - Marketing Coordinator
Erika Saenz - Project Coordinator
Yenesey Ramirez. - Laredo Birding Festival Coordinator
J.J. Flores - Office Administrator
RGISC Board of Directors
J uan Livas - President
Victor M. Oliveros - Vice-President
Selinda Martinez - Secretary/Treasurer
Danny Gunn Sr. - Parliamentarian 
Israel Reyna
Tagi Sagafi-nejad, PhD 
Tom Vaughan, PhD
Becoming a member is one way to advance and support the mission of our organization. 

Memberships only start at $25, and include a variety of gifts and benefits for each level. 

RGISC Volunteers/Farmers Market
Remember,  GO GREEN in ... 
1 West End Washington St. | Bldg. P-11 | Laredo | Texas | 78040
(956) 718-1063 
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