The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


The ruins of the L. B. Putney Mill stand on the first piece of land bought for Bernalillo's rail-transit station.

The ruins of the L. B. Putney Mill stand on the first piece of land bought for Bernalillo's rail-transit station. The mill, built some time before 1920, operated until 1939 and milled flour, coffee, salt, and sugar before going bankrupt in 1939, according to Bernalillo MainStreet administrator Maria Rinaldi.

Bernalillo plans one, maybe two, train stations

Bill Diven

Bernalillo town officials wasted no time in buying downtown land for a commuter-train station expected to be operational next year.

And state officials now say the town may get a second station stop near US 550 if the rail system expands as hoped to include service to Santa Fe.

Governor Bill Richardson had barely announced $75 million was available to begin commuter-rail service between Belen and Bernalillo when the town bought one and a half acres adjacent to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. On July 22, the town paid $118,000 for the parcel, site of the adobe remains of the three-story L. B. Putney Mill, according to town administrator Lester Swindle.

The town, without revealing itself as the potential buyer, has been working through an agent since January to acquire four and possibly five parcels for the station, parking, and related commercial tenants, Swindle said. The properties opposite town hall extend from Camino del Pueblo to the railroad and include the current Rustic Imports, Bernalillo Barber Shop, and Bernalillo Car Wash.

A small working group will be set up to plan the project, which could include reuse of the existing buildings, Swindle said. Town planner Kelly Moe said the four main parcels total five acres, while the fifth piece, currently part of the Bernalillo Baptist Church property, fronts on the tracks and would add another half acre.

The combined cost of the five parcels is estimated from $250,000 to $500,000. The town bought the mill property from the Gurulé family, which has owned it for several years, Moe said.

The state currently plans to begin train operations by November 1, 2005, according to Bruce Rizzieri, public transport planner for the Mid-Region Council of Governments. The MRCOG is the lead agency in establishing the operation using existing tracks and conventional railroad equipment.

The town of Los Lunas previously purchased land next to the tracks for a transit center, but Bernalillo is the first to act since the state released money for the project, Rizzieri said.

The state currently is courting the federal government to provide operational money for three years before local taxpayers, through a regional transit district, are asked to cover the difference between fares and expenses. Operating the Belen-Bernalillo segment through Albuquerque currently is estimated to cost $10 million annually.

Studies have just begun on extending rail transit to Santa Fe, which requires new right-of-way to connect existing track to the capital, Rizzieri said. Should that happen, the second station stop near the park-and-ride lot at US 550 and South Hill Road likely would be necessary, in part to keep the extra traffic out of downtown Bernalillo, he said.

Trains would stop at both stations, Rizzieri added. Both he and Swindle said the success of the overall system depends on a network of bus and van routes feeding the rail stations, he said.

“What we don’t need is everyone who wants to ride the train bringing their individual cars to downtown Bernalillo,” Swindle said. One goal of the effort is reducing traffic in the already congested US 550 corridor from Rio Rancho through Bernalillo to I-25, he said.

Designing the downtown-station property will conform to the recently enacted MainStreet Overlay style and architecture guidelines, even though some of the land is outside the MainStreet district, he added.


State might get first Wilderness Area since 1987

Peter M. Pino, Daymon B. Ely, and Martin T. Heinrich

For more than three years, the Pueblo of Zia and the Coalition for New Mexico Wilderness have been working together in a partnership to protect one of New Mexico’s hidden natural treasures, the Ojito Wilderness.

This special area, only an hour’s drive from Albuquerque, is characterized by dramatic land forms and rock structures, multicolored badlands, a high density of cultural and archaeological sites, paleontological resources, and rare plants and diverse wildlife species.

The Bureau of Land Management and  former Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan recommended this area—currently referred to as the Ojito Wilderness Study Area—be designated wilderness by Congress more than a decade ago.

The Ojito area and surrounding land managed by the BLM also hold important religious and cultural sites for the people of Zia Pueblo and are part of the pueblo’s traditional homeland. The Zia people have a longstanding interest in acquiring land adjacent to the Ojito area in order to reconnect two separate pieces of their reservation and to ensure the preservation of this rugged and beautiful region.

Zia Pueblo has worked actively with the members of the congressional delegation, the BLM, and New Mexico conservation groups to come up with a plan to protect the Ojito Wilderness and provide for the sale of adjacent BLM land to the pueblo.

After years of effort and compromise, the Ojito Wilderness Act (S. 1649/H.R. 3176) was introduced in September 2003 by senators Jeff Bingaman and Pete Domenici and representatives Tom Udall and Heather Wilson. It would designate the approximately eleven thousand-acre Ojito Wilderness Study Area as wilderness and allow Zia Pueblo to purchase about thirteen thousand adjacent acres managed by BLM that holds great cultural and religious significance to its people. These lands are almost entirely surrounded by Zia lands and would be managed under the law as open space. The lands would also remain open to the public.

We commend and thank our congressional delegation for introducing this legislation, and urge them to continue to work together to move the Ojito bill this session.

Despite overwhelming local support, there are some in Washington who would seek to insert controversial and unnecessary language into the bill that would hurt its chances of passage and remove the strong bipartisan support that exists.

We urge our congressional delegation to oppose such moves.

If this legislation is passed, it would create the first new wilderness area in New Mexico since 1987 and would serve as an inspirational model of cooperation among federal, tribal, state, and local governments, conservation groups, business, and interested citizens. It would protect twenty-four thousand acres of spectacular New Mexico country while ensuring that ranching and other traditional uses continue. The Ojito Wilderness Act will benefit New Mexico for generations to come.

Peter M. Pino is governor of the Pueblo of Zia, Daymon B. Ely is a Sandoval County commissioner, and Martin T. Heinrich is an Albuquerque city councilor.


State commission reviews regulations for rainmaking

Tim Nadeau

Paul Krehbiel, Chairman of the New Mexico Weather Control and Cloud Modification Commission gives his recommendation to the proposed weather modification regulations to be adopted by the NMISCWMC. Doug Murray, profject manager, confers with ISC attorney Daniel Rubin.

Paul Krehbiel, Chairman of the New Mexico Weather Control and Cloud Modification Commission gives his recommendation to the proposed weather modification regulations to be adopted by the NMISCWMC. Doug Murray, profject manager, confers with ISC attorney Daniel Rubin.

Interstate Streams Commission Program Manager Doug Murray (left) enters the official weather modification licensing regulations into public record. Presiding over the public hearing at the state capital was Blaine Sanchez.

Interstate Streams Commission Program Manager Doug Murray (left) enters the official weather modification licensing regulations into public record. Presiding over the public hearing at the state capital was Blaine Sanchez.

While commissions, committees, and lawmakers discuss regulations, western America is faced with a seven-year drought not seen since the Great Depression, with forest fires raging out of control. Millions of dollars in manpower and resources are being poured into saving homes and trees—tax dollars desperately needed to finance solutions instead of fighting symptoms. Despite the grim headlines, New Mexico rainmaker’s long-range forecast looks optimistic.

Engineers and scientists of the recently formed New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission Weather Modification Committee held a public hearing on July 20 in Santa Fe. Topics were the proposed regulations for licensing of weather control and precipitation-enhancement operations (i.e., cloud seeding). The NMISCWMC filed its proposed regulations on April 22 with all district offices of the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer, where all such regulations are available for public inspection.

Doug Murray, ISC project manager, testified that proposed regulations for weather modification had been compiled by Dr. Conrad Keyes Jr., ScD, of Mesilla Park, New Mexico, after careful review of other states using weather-modification control. These states include Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah.

The New Mexico State Legislature last year turned over the issuance of weather-modification licenses—a responsibility formerly held by the Weather Modification Commission—to the Interstate Stream Commission. House Bill 78 provides for administration and enforcement of the Weather Control Act by the ISC.

Scientists, meteorologists, and weather-modification consultants were then given the opportunity to address the commission regarding the twenty-five-page draft of proposed licensing regulations. Paul Krehbiel, weather researcher at New Mexico Tech and chairman of the original New Mexico Weather Control and Cloud Modification Commission, suggested changes to the pending licensing-application criteria. Krehbiel recommended, “ ... that suspension criteria should include severe drought or smoke from forest fires. These conditions are much more likely to occur and are ones in which any adverse affects would probably be magnified; that of the three weather control committee members two should be scientists or meteorologists, technically knowledgeable in the field of cloud physic; that the weather control hypothesis plan submitted should include a detailed operational plan; to raising the one million dollar surety bond required for each license, and that the commission would be responsive to written protests of an application and/or renewal by quantity and time frame.”

Other speakers were also heard by the NMISCWMC panel members. After conferring, it was announced through their attorney, Daniel Rubin, that the commission had accepted most of the suggestions to improve the wording and the spirit of the licensure regulations. Those suggestions not immediately adopted by the panel were set aside for further review by the commission and its staff.

U.S. Water News reported in June 2003 that “[t]he cost of needed water projects in New Mexico approaches $4 billion, which is as much as the yearly budget of the state’s government.” About half of that money would go for community drinking-water systems and wastewater projects over the next five years. “Long-term projects to develop new supplies will cost at least $1.5 billion,” with the remainder being spent and invested in storm and surface water control, community upgrades to federal standards and obtaining water rights. “The New Mexico Finance Authority outlined the preliminary costs to an interim legislative committee .... The finance authority is a quasi-public agency that issues bonds and makes loans to provide low-cost financing for local and state government projects.”

By definition, “water planning” relates to the conservation and use of existing water resources. “Water development” relates to the acquisition of additional water as through cloud seeding, desalination, and pipelines.

There are three viable options to the southwestern water-shortage problem being tried in neighboring states: cloud seeding (weather modification), desalinization, and pipeline. The cloud-seeding option is by far the most controversial—”neither side of the debate is right or wrong, or likely to change their minds,” stated Terry Kastens of Kansas State University Research and Extension.

What if we could make it rain? Well, then it wouldn’t be a desert! What if there’s a drought in the desert? We have the technology to help Mother Nature produce more precipitation, formerly known as cloud seeding, now more accurately categorized as weather modification, due to its varied and sometimes undesired outcomes.

Cloud seeding to produce rain has been effective in California, Colorado, Texas, Utah, and Kansas. Current drought conditions in New Mexico raise the prospect of it being done here. An attempt was made along the Texas-eastern New Mexico border in 1999 and 2001, at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars, which yielded some additional rainfall. Other New Mexico regions plan to apply for cloud-seeding permits and raise the needed funds. Currently approximately $150,000 is needed for the licensing process and $400,000 per year for the actual cloud-seeding operations.

After fifty-eight years of experimentation, scientists and meteorologists are still reluctant and afraid to “mess with” the weather. Fooling with Mother Nature should not and is not taken lightheartedly. Disastrous results have occurred when well-intentioned modern technology has collided with the forces of nature. Early in its experimental phase with cloud seeding, the General Electric Company became concerned that it would be held legally responsible for damages caused by the storms. Today, legal issues still abound.

No matter what you call it, cloud seeding, cloud modification, weather modification, or atmospheric-resource management, it is the deliberate introduction of materials (dry ice or silver iodide) into clouds with the intent of changing their characteristics, thus “managing” to some degree, atmospheric water. Cloud seeding does not alter weather or redirect storms, but affects those clouds specifically selected for treatment. Seeding can be used to enhance rainfall production, reduce hail, and weaken or destroy hurricanes.


Pueblos to receive funds for libraries

Several pueblos will receive funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. These funds, part of the federal Native American Library Services Basic Grants Program, will support core library operations and ensure that Native American communities are able to provide their residents with a basic level of library services. 

The following pueblos will receive library funds:

    Jemez Pueblo—$6,000

    Sandia Pueblo—$4,000

    Santa Ana Pueblo—$4,000

    Zia Pueblo—$4,000

The Institute of Museum and Library Services fosters leadership, innovation, and a lifetime of learning by providing museums, libraries, and archives across the country with the funds necessary to serve their communities. In total, over 250 tribal libraries will receive funds from the program this year.


A lot stake and wellhead mark the proposed Piñon Ridge subdivision south of NM 165  opposite the main Placitas fire station.

A lot stake and wellhead mark the proposed Piñon Ridge subdivision south of NM 165 opposite the main Placitas fire station. The well would serve five homes, although neighbors contend there's not enough water to go around.

Piñon Ridge construction on hold pending possible appeal

Bill Diven

When the lawyers, neighbors, and water experts finished wrangling, the Sandoval County Commission found no reason to block a new Placitas subdivision.

However, construction at Piñon Ridge on NM 165 opposite the main Placitas fire station can’t begin just yet. Attorney David Campbell, representing neighbors in the adjoining Puesta del Sol subdivision, said his clients have thirty days to decide on an appeal once they get written notice of the commission decision.

An appeal could be based in part on whether the neighbors got a fair hearing on their concerns related to a well in the five-lot subdivision affecting nearby wells. “The State Engineer has said four times it’s not okay because there’s not enough water,” Campbell said.

During the July 15 public hearing, attorney Catherine Davis, representing Homes by Hostetler, argued the State Engineer’s objections were based on earlier plans for a sixteen-acre subdivision. Originally a condominium project, it was scaled back to eleven lots and then to five on eight acres, she said.

Three wells have been drilled, including one that turned out to be on the state highway right-of-way, she said. According to water expert Dr. William Turner, the third well is better than the one studied by the state and more than adequate for five homes.

Reid Bandeen, the opponents’ water expert, argued the third well had not been extensively tested. He also noted the subdivision covenants make no reference to water conservation and added the well likely will be recharged by the homes’ septic systems.

“The good news is that in a few years you’ll be drinking raw sewage,” Campbell said. “The bad news is there’s not enough to go around.”

Puesta del Sol resident Roger Fox complained to commissioners about what he called an “administrative loophole” that allowed the subdivision to be approved by the county planning and zoning staff. That so-called loophole is the summary subdivision regulations aimed at but not limited to allowing a family to split one piece of land into as many as five parcels for family members.

“This move is solely to avoid public review,” Fox said. “The letter and spirit of the law should allow for public review.”

Jack Hostetler conceded he might in the future develop the additional eight acres. He added, however, he recognizes the summary regulations require him either to wait seven years or go through a full public review.

“This is not about water,” Hostetler said. “This whole thing is about views,” which are not a consideration under the subdivision ordinance.

Commissioners voted 5-0 to deny the appeal.


HUD awards thousands to Santo Domingo Pueblo for housing improvements

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has allotted over $919,214 in federal funds for Santo Domingo Pueblo to support an array of pueblo housing services.

The funding awarded through HUD's Indian Housing Block Grant Program is a formula grant that provides a range of affordable housing alternatives on Indian reservations and Indian areas. The block-grant approach to housing for Native Americans was enabled by the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act of 1996.

According to the National American Indian Housing Council, 40 percent of current tribal homes are overcrowded, 69 percent of the population must endure severely overcrowded conditions, 37 percent of the population lives in poverty, and two hundred thousand housing units are immediately needed to address housing shortages. 


Restraining order still in effect for same-sex marriage licenses

Bill Diven

The New Mexico Supreme Court has refused to lift the temporary order barring Sandoval County Clerk Victoria Dunlap from issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

The one-page decision issued July 8 kicked the case back to Judge Louis McDonald without further explanation. The court, in the same decision, rejected the request of the religion-based Family Research Council to join in the case.

The justices acted after Dunlap and her attorney, Paul Livingston, requested clarification of an earlier decision referring the temporary restraining order to the lower court. The order has been in effect since March, and Dunlap and Livingston said it wasn’t clear whether the district court was being asked to rule on just the temporary order or the issue of whether state law allows same-sex marriages.

Attorney General Patricia Madrid then submitted an eighteen-page brief that argued in part that Dunlap didn’t provide the justices with sufficient grounds to rule on the marriage issue.

Dunlap gained national attention when she issued licenses to sixty-six same-sex couples on February 20. Later that day she agreed to stop until the law could be clarified.

County commissioners and the attorney general sought and won the temporary restraining order a month later when Dunlap said she would resume issuing the licenses. She contends state law is gender-neutral and that she is denying people their civil rights if she refuses to issue the licenses.

Madrid argues the license application form clearly requires a male applicant and a female applicant.


Hantavirus confirmed in Sandoval County man

A 54-year-old Sandoval County man was diagnosed with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome and was hospitalized at University Hospital in Albuquerque in critical condition. The case was confirmed by testing done at the University of New Mexico's Health Sciences Center and TriCore Reference Laboratories. An environmental investigation of potential exposure sites will be conducted by the Office of Epidemiology, New Mexico Department of Health.

New Mexico’s last two recent cases of HPS were in a woman from Rio Arriba County with severe HPS during December 2003 and a woman from San Miguel County in January 2004 with a milder hantavirus infection. Both recovered.

“In the past we have seen more cases of HPS during the summer months when rodent activity increases and human activity that can put people in contact with rodents also increases,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, the state public health veterinarian with the Office of Epidemiology. “All New Mexicans should be aware of this disease and take precautions to avoid rodents and their droppings.”

The New Mexico Department of Health urges health-care workers and the general public throughout the state to familiarize themselves with the symptoms of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, especially in people who have been exposed to rodents or their droppings. The virus is excreted in the urine, saliva, and feces of rodents, especially the deer mouse (the main reservoir for hantavirus in New Mexico).

Early symptoms of HPS are fever and muscle aches, possibly with chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and cough. These symptoms develop within one to six weeks after rodent exposure. Although there is no specific treatment for HPS, chances for recovery are better if medical attention is sought early.

The best preventive measure people can take is to avoid contact with mice and other rodents. The important steps are to:

    Air out closed-up buildings before entering.

    Seal up your homes and cabins so mice don't get in.

    Trap up mice until they are all gone.

    Clean up nests and droppings using a disinfectant.

    Place hay, wood, and compost piles as far as possible from your home.

    Get rid of trash and junk piles.

    Don’t leave animal food and water where mice can get to it.

The total number of cases of HPS in New Mexico is now sixty one, with twenty-six deaths, since it was discovered in the Four Corners area in 1993. The total number of HPS cases in the United States confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is 366, with 135 deaths.


Sandoval County visitors guide highlights area attractions

Have friends or family underfoot with no place to go? Have them pick up a fresh copy of See Sandoval, the county’s newest visitors guide, and they will see parts of Sandoval County and New Mexico that even a few old-timers may have overlooked.

The just-off-the-press 2004-2005 edition of the popular guide is packed with information on day trips, attractions, cultural sites, and more. Full-color photos display many of the area’s scenic and cultural wonders, including six national and state scenic byways, two national monuments, seven Indian pueblos and much more.

The thirty-eight-page guide also highlights local restaurants and popular tourist stops, along with area motels and inns, campgrounds, and bed and breakfast establishments.

Need more information? The guide provides the county visitors information center phone number, (800) 252-0191, and Web site,, to obtain up-to-the minute listings of latest festivals, fiestas, and events.

“The guide really portrays our tourism motto “See Sandoval County and see all the reasons you came to New Mexico,” said Donna Wylie, administrator of the county’s tourism and economic-development department. “It offers an extensive sampling of the many scenic sites and cultural diversity that makes our county highly unique.

“Tourism is vital to the economic well-being of many of our communities, and the guide is just part of our coordinated effort to entice more and more vacationers to turn off I-25 and see all that Sandoval County has to offer,” Wylie said.

The guide is available at the county visitors information center in Bernalillo, at many area businesses and attractions, local chambers of commerce, and at state visitor centers. Copies also may be obtained by calling the Sandoval County Center, 867-TOUR.

The guide was designed by Sandoval County’s department of tourism and Legacy Media, and printed by Starline Printing.



County Line—Polarization between political parties

Daymon Ely
Sandoval County Commission

By reading the front pages, one would think political parties attacking each other and the resulting “polarization” is a new phenomenon.

It’s not.

During George Washington’s first term as president, our political leaders split into two distinct camps: Federalists led by Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, and Republicans led by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and the “father”of the constitution, James Madison. Hamilton wanted a unified central government with strong financial institutions designed to spur economic development and make America an industrial powerhouse. Jefferson and Madison, meanwhile, wanted a loose central government with weak financial institutions and a largely agrarian society.

The principals in this debate attacked each other repeatedly, viciously, and largely anonymously. Jefferson accused Hamilton of wanting to defeat the Constitution and install a monarchy. In fact, Hamilton was the principal author of the Federalist Papers that defended the Constitution and fought for its ratification. Hamilton, in turn, accused Jefferson of aspiring to be a Caesar and hinted that Jefferson had had an affair with Sally Hemings.

I bring up our nation’s history to remind people that the blood sport that is politics is not of recent origin.

Then and now, division in politics is a necessary, indispensable, and healthy part of our democratic process. Even personal attacks, although loathed by the public, have been around as long as there have been political parties.

So why do we feel that something is different? Because, on a national level, campaigning—the period where candidates and parties go after each other—is now never-ending. Money and technology allow politicians to enter our homes all the time. And with nonstop campaigning comes a constant need to vilify the opposition. This has caused the parties to be in constant warfare. Again, on the national level the philosophy now appears to be, “We’re going to do it our way unless we have to work with the other side.”

This is different from the philosophy of politics not so long ago. It used to be understood that the party in power would work with the other side unless it absolutely had to go it alone. Now, however, the party in power sees no value in partnerships. This new unilateral approach is both unhealthy and antithetical to our democratic process.

Fortunately, it is not followed at local level.

Campaigns for local races—county and municipal offices and State House and Senate seats—generally begin to heat up about now, and attacks will get shriller until the general election in November. People will complain about the negative advertisements and personal attacks. But after the election, the campaigning will stop, partnerships will begin anew, and the business of government will go on.

In my time as commissioner, the best possible use of taxpayer money has come when both parties worked toward common solutions. That has produced an innovative approach to health care—the Health Commons, a one-stop shop for all health-care needs that uses computer technology and a team approach to treat several problems at once. Local partnerships have meant better emergency services and better law enforcement. And the partnerships we have formed have led to the development of a unique approach to solid waste so that within the next five years more than half of the waste destined for the county landfill may be composted for use as soil additives.

None of those projects could have occurred without a bipartisan partnership of local entities working across political lines to solve problems.






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