Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988

c. Rudi Klimpert

New Placitas radio station organizers seek advisory board members

—Joan Fenicle

Las Placitas Association received a permit to build a Low Power FM Radio Station to serve the Placitas area, and we are beginning the process of forming an advisory radio board and fundraising in anticipation of being able to broadcast a pre-recorded test signal on FM 99.9 as early as October, 2014.

If you have skills that will help us get KUPR on the air, and you live within the broadcast area—estimated to be Placitas, Bernalillo, Algodones, and parts of Santa Ana and San Felipe Pueblos—consider applying for a position on the advisory board. Email your information—name, address, preferred contact info, along with a statement on why you feel you would be an asset to KUPR—to Joan Fenicle at

ESCAFCA ponders moves for more flood control

—Bill Diven

Bernalillo’s centuries-old battle against flooding continues, although no one thinks the next round of possible funding will solve the problem.

Last month, a year after damaging storm runoff hit the town and entered homes, board members of the area flood-control agency considered asking voters in the November election to okay roughly two million dollars in new borrowing. Instead, they deferred the decision until the August meeting to gather more details on the bond issue and its impact on taxpayers.

The two million dollars, when combined with funds from past bond issues, would provide about five million dollars for current and new projects, according to Larry Blair of the Eastern Sandoval Arroyo and Flood Control Authority. That would allow the authority to repair and expand two holding ponds and start work on three more, he said at a recent Bernalillo Town Council meeting.

Still, five million dollars is but a small fraction of the cost to dam the major arroyos aimed at the town to protect against a statistical measure of raging water: the one-hundred-year flood. That could total fifty-to-eighty million dollars for five structures similar to the recently upgraded, sixty-year-old Piedra Liza Dam, Blair and town officials agreed.

“We’re pretty much limited to finding places where we can build small ponds,” Blair said.

The runoff that flooded eastern Bernalillo in July and August in 2013 flowed at three to five hundred cubic feet a second. A one-hundred-year flood charging down the main branch of Cañon de Agua Arroyo could run at ten times that, Blair said.

A flood in September of 1949 destroyed a one-hundred-year-old convent, ten homes, and the Bernalillo and Sandia Pueblo irrigation canals, according to federal records. That flood led to building Piedra Liza Dam to protect a northern section of the town. The Office of the State Historian lists a 1735 flood that destroyed a convent. The town has survived numerous other assaults from the river and Sandia Mountains since then.

The Legislature established ESCAFCA in 2007, and it came alive the next year when voters approved six million dollars in bonds to fund it. The authority covers the Bernalillo and Algodones areas and originally included Placitas, which the Legislature removed in 2010 over complaints, including the property tax increase being nearly double what boosters claimed before the election.

Placitas residents remain on the hook for paying back their share of the six million dollar bond issue but are not responsible for future ESCAFCA debts.

For now, ESCAFCA has a holding pond on Athena Road that drains into the aquifer and another on South Hill Road, which drains as its arroyo always has into the Bernalillo acequia, the town’s main irrigation ditch. The 2013 floods damaged the South Hill pond and breached the acequia with repairs and a small expansion of the pond estimated to cost four hundred thousand dollars.

Current plans are to expand the Athena pond, connect it to drainage improvements that the town is about to build along South Hill Road, and extend existing storm sewers farther into the Mountain View neighborhood. The sewer extensions may be put off if new bond money allows the authority to build three holding ponds on the north branch of Cañon del Agua Arroyo, Blair later told the Signpost.

Two of the proposed ponds are on the north side of the MCT Industries property between Interstate 25 and South Hill Road. The other is on the Fisher Sand and Gravel property east of I-25 where the company is offering to donate 7.5 acres to ESCAFCA.

Bernalillo town councilors earlier this year tabled a request to annex the Fisher property over concerns about how long a quarry would operate before a planned commercial development took place. Beyond free land, Fisher’s quarrying could benefit taxpayers, according to Blair.

“If they’re allowed to mine gravel and leave a hole in the ground, we’d love that,” Blair told town councilors. “It would save us about four hundred thousand dollars in construction costs.

“The combination of Fisher and the two ponds north of MCT would give us one hundred year protection in this area and allow us to take it out of the flood plain.”

Removing town properties from the federal flood-plain map also removes the requirement for pricey flood insurance. The map issued in 2008 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency shocked residents by taking in most of the town due not just to local flooding but by the substandard levee protecting Bernalillo from the Rio Grande.

The levee, built by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District at the same time it was building the current acequia system, is considered by the feds to be little more than piled dirt. Federal requirements now demand an engineered levee with a price tag currently estimated to be at least ten million dollars.

The feds would pick up 65 percent of the construction costs with the conservancy district covering the rest, plus ongoing maintenance as the levee owner. ESCAFCA is paying about $320,000 dollars toward the planning and design costs with the town chipping in an additional ten thousand dollars.

The multiagency project includes Santa Ana Pueblo since the new levee may extend into tribal land and protect residents there.

ESCAFCA also faces the unresolved issue of routing water to the Rio Grande. When the railroad arrived about 130 years ago, its raised roadbed essentially created a dike across the flood plain, and construction of irrigation ditches in the 1920s and I-25 in the 1960s further impeded natural flows across the valley.

Both ESCAFCA and town officials are talking to the conservancy district about widening and strengthening the main canal for flood drainage, but any deal is some years off and can’t threaten Sandia Pueblo, Blair and Mayor Jack Torres said.

“We can’t just dump water in the ditch and let it flow south,” Blair said. The shortest route to the river would be some type of project along Avenida Bernalillo, he added.

ESCAFCA will take up the proposed bond issue again when it meets on August 19 in the Bernalillo Town Council chambers at 6:00 p.m.

Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association

—Chris Daul, ES-CA

The Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association (ES-CA) is holding a General Meeting on August 2, at the Anasazi Winery, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. All residents of Placitas community are invited to attend. Topics of discussion will include: mining, disposition of the BLM land, pipeline, Lafarge Sand and Gravel, Fisher Sand and Gravel, and others.

Concerning the Fisher operation, ES-CA has learned that they intend to come back before the Bernalillo Town Council with a new proposal for annexation. This would then allow them to resume operations. ES-CA will cite the specifics of their proposal on the website as soon as it is made public. It will be imperative for Plaictans to attend the Bernalillo Council meeting when this matter is discussed and ES-CA will notify residents via email and flyers. ES-CA has been working with the Bernalillo Mayor and Council on this issue and will have discussions with Mayor Torres before any hearing takes place.

ES-CA is continuing to work with Sandoval County in their lawsuit against Lafarge. ES-CA has created a Land Use Trust Fund to raise money to retain legal counsel so that ES-CA can monitor, and intervene if necessary, in this matter.

ES-CA has heard proposals from representatives of the Santa Ana Pueblo, the San Antonio de Las Huertos Land Grant, and the San Felipe Pueblo for use of the Buffalo Tract of the BLM land. All have said they will not allow gravel mining, but they vary on public access and range land management. Disposition and use of this land is of great importance to Placitas. The area is rich in gravel and is considered to be a valuable area for mining. Other proposed uses include a new housing development for the Land Grant, a horse sanctuary, open space for public use, and others. The BLM expects to release an environmental study by the end of this year. ES-CA is hoping all residents will become involved in this matter, as it will greatly affect us in terms of land use, water use, and property values.

This is an election year with important races for Governor, U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, and a number of State and County offices. ES-CA will be holding a candidates’ forum on September 20, at the Placitas Community Center, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Invited candidates include: New Mexico Representative for District 22 James Smith and challenger John Wallace; James Dominguez and Gary Miles for Sandoval County Commissioner, District 1; Sandoval County Sheriff Doug Wood and challenger Jesse James Casaus; and, Sandoval County Assessor Tom Garcia and challenger Antonio Montoya. Please attend and voice your concerns and desires.

ES-CA board meetings are held on the first Monday of each month, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at La Puerta Realty on Route 165. All residents are welcome to attend. Visit the ES-CA website at and check out the forum for articles and updates on issues affecting Placitas.

Little free libraries with Robert Shipley

Little Free Libraries (LFLs) are becoming an exciting outgrowth of public libraries because of their low-cost simplicity, enticing structural creativity and ease of 24/seven access in remote corners of literally any community anywhere.

On August 13, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., at the Loma Colorado Main Library Auditorium, Robert Shipley will give a free short PowerPoint presentation of LFLs, with a focus on their role in encouraging literacy, the fun of reading, and building unity in communities locally and all over the world. The presentation will include pictures of stunningly novel LFLs that resulted from a recent design competition held at the UNM School of Architecture and Planning. Guests will receive handouts of engaging stories and the address of the national web site that provides extensive information and will wrap up with a remarkable video of LFLs in New York City. There will be time for questions, answers, and suggestions for creation of LFLs in your neighborhoods.

For more information, call 891-5013, ext 3033 or visit or Loma Colorado Main Library is located at 755 Loma Colorado Boulevard NE in Rio Rancho

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