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tat Gin International Headquarters Enjoy our organic, in house roasted coffee. Watch the kids play as you catch up with a friend. Listen to local musicians and relax with a beer or wine. Game see our new space, 3601 S. Congress off E. Alpine Penn Field under the water tower check our site for monthly calendar it Padre, continued from page 5 anticipate that BNP would be working to build the well during turtle nesting season. The Park Service did not officially request an opinion from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on how drilling would impact the endangered species on the beach. But through April and May 2002, after the turtles began to arrive on the beach to nest, as many as 149 trucks traveled the beach each week to access the site, according to the Sierra Club’s complaint. BNP notes that despite the drilling, last season was a record nesting year for the Kemp’s ridley. “We’ve drilled one well and there was no impact,” contends Steve Ray, a BNP spokesman. Ray casts BNP as a model green company where employees must go through “turtle sensitivity training.” The drilling became an issue in the state senate campaign between BNP owner Barbara Canales Black and her opponent Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa. Some in Corpus Christi believe that negative publicity from the drilling contributed to Canales Black’s loss. In November 2002, the Park Service approved two more wells. Responding to criticism, they noted in an Environmental Assessment the dangers to nesting turtles from drilling. Ruts made by heavy trucks in the soft sand are diffi cult for the small turtles to cross. Compacting the sand makes it hard for them to dig their nests. Trucks which fail to detect the nests can crush the eggs or hatchlings. Finally, there are unknown factors. Nobody knows why the turtles always return to the same place to nest. Truck traffic and drilling could foul the imprinting process through noise, vibrations, smells, and light pollution. But park personnel determined that if BNP trucks drove slowly with a small vehicle in front of the convoy to watch for signs of turtles and Park Service staff Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson has thrust himself into the debate, arguing that to prevent the drilling would deny royalties to the Permanent School Fund. The choice, he asserts, is turtles versus school children. members closely monitored the work to wildlife would result.” “We think that if they are following our measures there is no way that they can run over a turtle or their tracks,” insists Jock Whitworth, park superintendent at Padre Island National Seashore. Whitworth says that because of these mitigation efforts Interior Department attorneys didn’t believe that they had the right to stop BNP from drilling during nesting season nor was it necessary to ask for a formal opinion from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service before giving the two permits. The Sierra Club argues that the Park Service broke the law by not consulting Fish & Wildlife. But the club wants more than to simply force BNP to stop drilling during the nesting season. They hope that controversy over the fate of the well-loved turtles and the destruction of the tranquility of a popular recreation spot will force the Bush administration to buy out the mineral rights underneath Padre Island. They point to Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida where the administration did so, in what some viewed as a cynical bid to help Jeb Bush’s reelection effort. Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson has come out firmly against a buyout or a halt to drilling. His office has filed for intervenor status on behalf of the Interior Department in the Sierra 28 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 2/28/03