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An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988

Piedra Lisa Dam flood exercise held

—Jon Couch, Supervisor CSWCD

It is late July, and a typical monsoon pattern is established. The Bernalillo watershed is saturated, and water has been flowing in many of the arroyos in the area. Most of the detention basins in and around the town are near capacity. A particularly strong storm moves into the area with the majority of the rainfall occurring in the foothills…

This is the scenario that Dave Bervin, Assistant Chief in charge of Emergency Management for the Sandoval County Fire Department (SCFD), presented on June 25 to a group of eighteen government agency representatives who met to test and update the Emergency Action Plan developed for Piedra Lisa Dam. The Town of Bernalillo and Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District (CSWCD) jointly operate the flood control dam under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). The dam, built in 1955, and improved in 2007, overlooks the southeast corner of the I-25/N.M. 165 intersection.

The “tabletop drill” exercise held in Building C of the Sandoval County Government Complex was attended by representatives from the Town of Bernalillo, SCFD, Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office, Eastern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority (ESCAFCA), New Mexico Railrunner, NRCS, Office of the State Engineer-Dam Safety Bureau, and the New Mexico Environment Department. CSWCD District Manager Carolyn Kennedy organized the event and handled all its logistics.

As the scenario developed and “worsened,” Assistant Chief Bervin quizzed participants on their actions and responsibilities as outlined in the Emergency Action Plan. In an unusual or emergency event, the plan tasks Acting Town Manager Maria Rinaldi or CSWCD Chairman Lynn Montgomery, or their representatives, with monitoring the dam, identifying potential problems, determining the level of the emergency, and reporting to the County’s 24-hour Emergency Response Dispatcher who contacts the others. The NRCS dam engineer then provides advice on remedial measures, with approval from the OSE Dam Safety Bureau.

Although the tabletop drill took the group through dam failure, Montgomery told the assembly that Piedra Lisa Dam was rated as one of the safest dams in the country.

Everyone agreed that in an event such as the one described, the Town and County would be the ones responding, due to the strain on limited state resources caused by widespread flooding. The gated primary dam access off NM 165 would need to be used in a flood event. The secondary access from the frontage road would be inundated by swiftly moving water from the dam’s spillway. Participants saw the necessity to begin early preparations for the next level of the emergency well before it is declared. It was also noted that in the event of a dam failure, an earlier evacuation notice would need to be given to livestock owners.

Piedra Lisa Dam is also known as Sandia Mountain Tributaries Site One because it was one of several dams that were envisioned in 1955 to control runoff from the west face of the Sandias. Since no more dams were built, it has fallen to the Pueblo of Sandia and Eastern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority to continue the work of flood control in the areas not protected by Piedra Lisa.

County residents urged to register their mobile phones with CODE RED

—Sidney Hill

As we move deeper into the summer fire season, Sandoval County residents are urged to register their mobile phones and email addresses with the CODE RED emergency notification system.

The CODE RED system uses GPS technology to access telephone networks in any area affected by an emergency—such as a fire, chemical spill, or other disaster—and notify residents of actions they should take to avoid danger. The system is used by local emergency response organizations across the country, including the Sandoval County Fire Department.

The system proved valuable during the 2011 Las Conchas Fire, when it was able to identify every land-based telephone line in a broad area surrounding the fire and call residents who needed to evacuate. However, because the system only has direct access to landlines, residents who were not home at the time—or didn’t have landlines—did not receive the notice.

CODE RED will call mobile numbers and send messages to email addresses that have been registered with the system, which is why emergency responders are urging county residents to take that step.

Dave Bervin, Sandoval County’s assistant fire chief for emergency management, said that the Las Conchas Fire illustrated perfectly why residents should register their mobile phones with CODE RED.

“The system worked, but communication needed to extend beyond landlines to cell phones, work phones, and other communication devices,” Bervin explained. “If residents had registered their cell phones, they could have received the message. Then they would have been able to call a neighbor’s landline or cell phone to check on a family member or pet.”

Sandoval County residents can register their cell phones and work phones—or even sign up for email alerts—by going to the county’s website ( and clicking the CODE RED logo at the bottom of the homepage. There also are mobile apps available that will send CODE RED messages to users traveling through areas affected by an emergency.

“That happened to me when I was driving through Colorado during the fires last year,” said Mike Scales, Sandoval County communications administrator. “I received an alert to my cell phone as soon as I entered the area.


Guadalupe Ruin by day —Photo courtesy of Chaco Lodge Hacienda

Guadalupe Ruin by night —Photo courtesy of Lorran Meares

Guadalupe Ruin: a Jemez outlier along the Rio Puerco?

—Matthew J. Barbour, Manager, Jemez Historic Site

Guadalupe Ruin is the eastern most Chaco Outlier, or Great House community, outside of Chaco Canyon. Located on a bluff overlooking the Rio Puerco, it consists of at least 39 rooms and seven kivas. The village is one of many constructed along the Puerco, which, at first, played host to Chaco and later Mesa Verde migrants. However, Guadalupe Ruin has an interesting third component.

During the late-thirteenth and early-fourteenth centuries the pueblo appears to have been occupied by Jemez People. Most popular literature does not recognize this third component. However, the occupation of Guadalupe Ruin by Jemez People has been known to archaeologists since as early as the late 1970s.

Between 1970 and 1981, Eastern New Mexico University did a large archaeological survey of the Middle Rio Puerco. They examined over one thousand sites south of Cuba in the vicinity of Cabezon Peak. Among these sites was Guadalupe Ruin.

At Guadalupe Ruin, archaeologists noticed the presence of large quantities of Vallecitos Black-on-white Pottery. Vallecitos is considered a precursor, or early form, of Jemez Black-on-white. Like Jemez Black-on-white, it has a distinctive white slip and carbon-based paint. In fact, many archaeologists believe that Vallecitos is the transition from Gallina Black-on-white, a type produced north of Cuba between 1050 and 1300, and Jemez Black-on-white, produced in the Jemez Springs area after about 1350.

The Vallecitos Pottery was not evenly distributed across the surface of the site. Instead, it was clustered in association with specific areas of the site, including several habitation rooms with bins flanking the deflector. In the Gallina, these traits typify both pit house and unit house architecture. In the Jemez area, we call these Class C rooms. Such rooms have been documented at almost every major Jemez Village excavated, including Giusewa, Unshagi, and Vallecitos.

Combined, the architecture and pottery provide a clear indication of Jemez People occupying the site. Exactly how many remains unclear. However, the site provides compelling evidence of the connection between Gallina Culture, located north of Cuba, and the Jemez People. What at first glance appears to be an outlier may in fact provide evidence of the migration from one area to another. Like their Chaco and Mesa Verde counterparts, the Gallina may have traveled along the Puerco during their migration into the Northern Rio Grande.

Guadalupe Ruin is not the only site that bears the hallmarks of early Jemez (Vallecitos) occupation. Yet the extent of ancestral Jemez Sites in the Rio Puerco Valley remains unknown. Archaeologists working on the Middle Rio Puerco project lamented that much of the Vallecitos Pottery was “lost into the Loma Fria Black-on-white category” due to difficulty in distinguishing it from other transitional wares. Without the proper identification of Vallecito Black-on-white pottery, it was impossible to link many of the Rio Puerco sites with occupation by Jemez People.

In the end, Guadalupe Ruin is likely not an outlier. It is a case example of a wider social undertaking that we do not fully comprehend. Even now, it expands our perception of the Jemez Culture area to include regions outside of the Jemez Mountains and provides strong evidence of the connection between the Jemez and Gallina Cultures. In the end, there is more to learn, and we are only beginning to know what we don’t know.

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