are subject to editing for length, clarity, libel, and other considerations.
Please limit your letter to approximately four hundred words. Letter
submissions are due by the twentieth of the month prior. Please
see the Contact Us page for submission
options (e-mail, web, fax, mail).
By submitting your comments to the
Sandoval Signpost you are granting us permission
to reprint all or an edited portion of your message.
letters, opinions, editorials
Peace On Earth, stereogram, by Gary Priester
Relax your eyes and look “through”
the image, not focusing on the foreground. Let your brain work to
see the picture above in 3-D. (No hidden image.)
re: Zócalo correction
I need to apologize for one huge mistake in my article on the Zócalo
in the November 2007 Signpost. The list of highly accomplished
artists in the former Zócalo threshold entrance is highlighted
by Leo Romero, not Garcia as I had written. This is a lapse of great
dimension and I can only seek redemption by suggesting everyone
should know his truly great 3-D geographic portrayal of Albuquerque
in the Rio Grande Valley that is the highlight of a wonderful civic
park at the corner of Rio Grande Blvd. and Zearing NW.
Leo Romero is a civic geographic artist of remarkable talent and
wonderful personality. I hope he can forgive me.
—TERRY LAMM, Albuquerque
re: winter driving woes on Camino de las Huertas
As winter approaches and icy roads become a peril, driving on Camino
de las Huertas requires some special skills. For those unfamiliar
with the passage, Camino de las Huertas exits north off 165 shortly
after passing the U.S. Post Office in Placitas. For the first few
miles, it is paved and home to our newly remodeled Community Center,
historic rock art panels and the well-published and talked about
washed-out Huertas Creek crossing.
That being said, the passage can become a black ice covered slippery
driving experience with well-named curves and dips such as Dead
Man’s Curve, Drop Off and Guard Rail Dip. My wife and I have
labeled these curves and dips for good reasons.
To our knowledge, no one has ever died traversing Dead Man’s
Curve. However, on two occasions, I have witnessed vehicles sliding
off the sides of that Curve and dropping down several feet into
our backyard arroyo and a county snowplow truck and propane vehicle
buried waist deep in snow and mud at Drop Off.
Now comes the interesting part. Guard Rail Dip during icy conditions
is usually the first point county road workers salt during the early
morning hours. On many occasions, my wife has observed several vehicles
slipping and sliding in their two-wheel-drive vehicles as they traverse
the Dip. Barely spinning and grinding their way to the top of the
Dip, they are then confronted with the steep incline which signals
the passing of Pine D Ranch Road.
Most of the drama results in multiple delays, fender benders, rises
in blood pressure, and frustration. There are plenty of solutions.
The first would be the obvious—stay home when the weather
gets foul. Second and more costly would be to trade up to an all-wheel-drive
vehicle. Third, have the County strategically place fifty-five-gallon
containers filled with salt compounds that will thaw the ice. Finally,
what I chose to do is slap on the snowshoes or cross country skis
and enjoy the day.
—RON SULLIVAN, Placitas
re: proposed commuter Web site to combat high gas prices?
Dear Editors of the Signpost,
With the price of gasoline forecast to increase by another twenty
cents by the end of the year and very possibly $4 per gallon by
spring, something has to give. Placitas needs to act now to bring
direct commuter bus service between our homes and work places and
schools in Albuquerque. We need a cyber site where prospective riders
can provide basic information: the location and time of their destinations
in town, their return time, and their home address. Such information
could be easily plotted to show clusters of riders, destinations,
and times. As soon as enough riders are identified, we could apply
to the Park and Ride authority or Sandoval County transportation
people and request help in establishing one or more routes. Ideally,
the routes would drop most riders at their place of work or school,
rather than having them make connections with Albuquerque buses.
As an example, a bus could originate from the village or above,
pick up passengers from the tributary roads joining highway 165,
then go express to major destinations such as UNMH/UNM, hospitals
and downtown, and make a return run at the end of the work day.
If we can establish this Internet site now, publicize it, and make
it visible to commuters, we may be able to keep ahead of the curve
of rising gas prices. Also, if the site posted all commuters seeking
alternative transportation and their times and destinations, it
would facilitate carpooling and van pooling. Although I don’t
have the computer expertise to set up such a site, I would be willing
to help out.
—DAN GIPS, Placitas
re: avian anger (an act so fowl)
Dear Friends Back East:
It was mighty nice to have a visit from two more old friends from
back east. Thanks for coming! You seemed to have a great time except
for that forgettable day at the bird sanctuary.
I’ve visited the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
several times since moving here, but never experienced such an event—sandhill
cranes and snow geese depositing their fully digested intestinal
remains of high-fiber diets onto the heads and shoulders of visitors—in
this case each of you—and doing so with obvious intent and
bewildering accuracy. Had I even the slightest inkling of this possibility,
I most assuredly would have advised you to wear protective clothing,
including hats. And the fact you were each wearing hair pieces gave
new meaning to the term “carpet bombing.”
I am not, however, making light of this apparently unprovoked poop
attack upon you by these wonderful creatures, and have searched
for an explanation. I just may have found it.
The Albuquerque paper of that morning contained an article describing
the outrage of a New York City councilman over the feeding of pigeons
in your city. He has recommended a ban on such charity and seeks
fines of $1000 for violators. He maintains that the tonnage of pigeon
excretions is corroding your city’s infrastructure—even
more than the political utterances of its former mayor. The councilman
has called pigeons—distant relatives of the Bosque del Apache
migratory birds—“rats with wings.”
I’m not entirely certain how the snow geese and cranes knew
you were from the Big Apple. Perhaps your distinctive “fugheddaboudit”
manner of speaking stood out from the ….less adorned…
New Mexican parlance, thereby making you suitable targets of opportunity.
Your [once-natty] Yankees sweatshirts may also have been a tip-off.
And perhaps our feathered friends detected a lingering odor of mustard-laden
Nathan’s hotdogs on your persons. We may never know, but they
were apparently making a statement on behalf of their New York City
pigeon brethren, responding to an avian messaging system every bit
as effective as email and saying, “There’s a lot more
where this came from.” At least that’s my theory.
And the birds probably committed their fowl act not knowing how
much you loved and admired them, having adopted the human preference
for knee-jerk, stereotypical, broad-brushed, bird-brained, shallow-minded,
ego-based actions. It’s a very sad possibility, as I always
thought birds operated on a higher plane.
Since moving here, birds have also impacted the life experience
of my fine old former Rhode Island stray Coon cat, Patrick. I’m
reasonably certain he was, in his days as a homeless derelict, an
accomplished serial killer. Now, aged and neutered, he will not
enter his fenced-in yard for limited daytime explorations without
cautiously scanning the skies, including wide, yellow-eyed looks
at the tops of nearby telephone poles. Thanks to airborne attacks
by various birds of prey, Patrick has adapted to this role-reversal
knowing he has now become part of their food chain.
Well….at least the rest of your visit was very pleasant,
and I hope you come back. I also hope that that Councilman pays
for the damage to your Yankees garb and chooses his words more carefully.
In the meantime, I hope to stop dreaming about rats with wings.
—YOUR FRIEND, HERB, Placitas
The state of Bernalillo
Greetings from west Bernalillo. I’ve been told the view from
here is a little different than the usual superb panorama of the
Sandias. My view takes in the wonders of local government and the
possible future of Bernalillo.
The view of the mountains from here is much like yours, beautiful
but often taken for granted. Until recently, local government was
pretty much taken for granted, too. Then this TOD thing came up.
Transit Oriented Development, some of us noticed, was about our
Rail Runner depots. ‘Fine,’ we thought. ‘Let them
fix up the depots. It doesn’t affect me.’
Well, it turns out that what they were really doing was devising
a plan to change the heart of our town. A few locals did notice
and stopped by to see what they were dreaming up. But not until
a week before the plan was to be voted on were we informed that
the “depot plan” would bring in hundreds and maybe thousands
That train cost like $340 million, and now it’s time for
Bernalillo to pony up. And it’s not enough to fill all the
vacant land available with houses and streets, they want to squeeze
forty or fifty people onto one acre. They call it density, but some
of us just call it dense!
Most of us live here for one reason: we like it here. Bernalillo’s
been here for a long, long time and has always been slow to change.
The living’s easy, relaxed, and comfortable compared to the
big city. We don’t have the higher incomes they have, but
the cost of living is less too.
We have a multicultural, rural New Mexican atmosphere that Rio
Rancho will never have. So the logical thing to do is make Bernalillo
like Rio Rancho and jam in as many people as planners and developers
can manage. Start with sixty-four acres running from 550 down to
Avenida Bernalillo. And when that starts taking off, the rest of
the town will soon follow.
All this development will take money from the town as it costs
us plenty to provide them with services. They’ll need streets
and lights, water and sewer, police and fire protection, and of
course more schools. We’ll be lucky to ever have enough money
to provide the existing town with the very same things.
No, the town and the developers won’t take your land with
eminent domain. It says so right on the resolution causing this
mess. I’m sure the folks from Albuquerque who wrote it mean
every word. The people we chose to represent us were pretty much
born and raised here, so they know how we all feel about keeping
the Bernalillo way of life. They voted this in while being told,
‘it doesn’t change anything.’ Sounds like a great
plan, doesn’t it?
Readers may email Max at email@example.com.
re: NMDOT and FHWA study to evaluate road improvement
alternatives to Chaco Canyon—Those proposed improvements?
NONE! NADA! NO!
For the 35 years, I've known about the ongoing attempts to both
improve road access and allow gas and coal development within this
World Heritage Site. We who are trying to protect it are getting
sick and tired of the continuous efforts by all exploiters—federal,
state, county, private—who can't understand that this is a
fragile archaeological treasure sustained by virtue of its very
isolation. Here we go again—another voice joining the many
to remind whomever that the impact of more visitors (as explained
over and over again by archaeologists, historians, environmentalists,
many more) will create irreversible damage to the archaeological
treasures in Chaco.
If the exploiters want to do anything, then the study should suggest
that San Juan County properly maintain the existing road which it
fails to do. Why does this subject keep coming up? Who is behind
it? Why ask why? Why ask who? Money vs. the preservers of something
very special on this planet.
NO ROAD IMPROVEMENTS on San Juan County Road 7950 or any other
roads leading to Chaco. To find out how to express your voice on
this issue, go to: http://www.dont-pave-chaco.com/.
—CHRIS HUBER, Placitas
Data: Up in flames
Each year, federal agencies fork out billions to fight fires, and
a big chunk of that cash goes to blazes in the Wildland Urban Interface
(WUI), areas where public land meets up with forested private land.
• $1.3 billion: Average annual cost to fight fires on public
lands from 2000-2005.
• 80: Percentage of that used to protect homes.
• $14.54: Amount each taxpayer forked out to protect homes
in 2006, compared to $7.65 in 2003.
• 3,290: Square miles in the western WUI.
• 915,072: Number of homes in the western WUI.
• 1 in 5: Ratio of those homes that are second homes or vacation
properties, compared to one in twenty-five on all other western
• $1 billion – $1.5 billion: Amount that the October
San Diego wildfires cost insurance companies.
• $835: Average insurance premium for California homeowners,
seventh-highest in the nation.
• 14: Percentage of western WUI that currently has homes.
• $3.3 billion: Projected annual cost to protect homes if
half of the western WUI was developed.
This article originally appeared in High Country News (www.hcn.org),
which covers the West’s communities and natural-resource issues
from Paonia, Colorado.
Since when did hunting become target practice?
It started over the long Labor Day weekend and went on from dawn
to dusk—the constant report of gunfire echoing against the
Organ Mountains here in southern New Mexico. Another dove-hunting
season had descended upon us, and all lovers of wildlife could do
was wait for it to end while so-called hunters blasted to smithereens
as many birds as their permits allowed—fifteen per day, thirty
in possession at any one time. As I listened to the barrage of gunshots,
I must admit I wondered about the mental stability of those shooters.
I know that many responsible hunters exist. Members of my father’s
family, who live in upstate New York, were avid deer hunters. They
owned a hunting cabin in the Adirondack Mountains, and trophy heads
featuring huge antler racks were proudly displayed on the walls.
But they also utilized everything they could from those kills, making
hundreds of pounds of venison steaks and roasts, and, according
to the stories, using the intestines to make sausage.
I’ve been a hunter, but never that kind of devoted hunter.
It only took one incident to convince me I was not a killer for
sport. I was a teenager when I shot a cottontail in the woods of
northeastern Ohio, but when I went to pick up the dead rabbit, it
was gone. The wounded animal had dragged its bloody body into a
dense thicket where I couldn’t reach it. Although I’d
never intended to skin the rabbit to bring it home for dinner, the
idea of leaving an animal to suffer and die in the underbrush made
me feel sick. I decided then that if I wasn’t going to kill
for food, I couldn’t be a hunter.
The naturalist Joseph Wood Krutch once said, “When a man
wantonly destroys one of the works of man we call him vandal. When
he wantonly destroys one of the works of God we call him sportsman.”
I may not be that radical in my assessment of hunters, but I’ve
begun to think that hunting doves brings out the worst in people.
A few days after the season began, my dog and I went for a hike
in the desert behind a mountain outside of Las Cruces. The first
thing I saw was what looked like a tornado of turkey vultures—fifteen
or twenty birds spiraling at various heights above the desert floor.
Then, not twenty yards off the paved road near a new subdivision
called Tierra Escondida, we came upon hundreds of twelve-gauge shotgun
casings, an empty twenty-four-pack of beer, and a dozen assorted
wings and other body parts of decimated doves. Whoever had hunted
here had blasted away, relishing something other than the taste
of succulent dove meat.
That’s what’s unsettling. How do you educate these
people? And what can be done about them? If officers from New Mexico
Game and Fish had made contact with these shooters, the hunters
could be cited only if they failed to possess valid licenses and
stamps for that specific area. If game wardens returned later and
found that the site had not been cleaned properly, the hunters could
be cited only for littering. But short of having psychologists doubling
as conservation officers, there’s no way to determine a hunter’s
motivation. Even if an officer could cite somebody for an illegal
motive, what would it be—taking too much pleasure in the kill?
Perhaps if the requirements for getting a license were more stringent,
some of these miscreants could be weeded out of the system. Maybe
if all applicants were required to take the hunter education class,
which is mandatory for potential licensees under the age of eighteen
here in New Mexico, people would balk at the inconvenience and lose
interest in dove hunting. Or perhaps we need a more draconian measure—banning
dove hunting in the state, as Michigan did in 2006—to reduce
drastically the number of shooters who kill doves for target practice.
But as it stands now, anyone eighteen or older can go to a local
Wal-Mart and buy a license.
I favor a ban on dove hunting, but there is no chance one would
ever pass in this gun-loving “land of enchantment.”
All I can do is wait out another September to December hunting season,
and pray that my dog and I don’t happen upon too many other
scenes of slaughter.
Robert Rowley is a contributor to Writers
on the Range, a service of High
Country News in Paonia, Colorado (hcn.org).
He is a freelance writer and photographer in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Paddling down the Rio Grande near Bernalillo
Here’s an idea: A Rio Grande water plan
—FRANK TITUS, PHD
Management of New Mexico’s water resources, especially those
of the Rio Grande, is disorderly, and the way we are doing it is
increasingly dangerous for our state. It’s dangerous because
it leads directly toward a time when we can’t meet our water
commitments. If we get close to that, it’s likely: (a) we
will have a constitutional crisis, (b) we may have to take property
rights from many unwilling owners, and (c) we will pay a high cost—very
high. The state’s fundamental water management problem is
that we have purposely managed this resource as if it can provide
for continually increasing demand even though it basically is a
fixed supply. Quite obviously it can’t.
We have done this by manipulating water rights. What began in the
days of the Old West as simple, rigid rules governing surface-water
rights and delivery of wet water to water-right owners under a priority
system has evolved into a set of arcane rules supposedly affecting
both groundwater and surface water, but which have been applied
selectively by various New Mexico State Engineers based on political
economics and their individual interpretations of geography, hydrology,
In the early 1900s, improved technology made it practical to drill
high-yield water wells in some of our state’s major river
valleys and to produce large volumes of groundwater for municipal
use or irrigation, thereby adding depletion of this water to depletion
from continuing to irrigate with surface water. In our river-connected
aquifers, nearly every gallon of groundwater pumped eventually reduces
river flow by a gallon, but wells far from the river have a substantial
time lag. Therefore, it was easy to delude ourselves with the pretense
that impacts on river flows were far off in the future, hence not
a worry. While New Mexico was the first state to recognize in its
water laws that groundwater and surface water in a large river basin
are likely two interconnected parts of the same hydrologic system,
we never managed to fit the junior rights the state engineer grants
for groundwater use into the older priority timeframe of surface-water
Maintaining river flow is essential for delivery of compact water.
So a system called “dedications” was devised whereby
the Office of the State Engineer (OSE) grants a groundwater permit
based on a promise to retire surface water rights when the effects
of groundwater development actually reach the river. Thus, in theory,
flow losses in the river will be fully offset, but the groundwater
user doesn’t have to buy surface water rights until later.
The problem is, it is far from clear what the ultimate total of
dedications will be. That is, it isn’t clear how many surface
water rights in Socorro and Valencia counties, the main irrigated
areas, must ultimately be retired to satisfy existing (ignoring
for the moment, future) dedications. That’s because, though
the Rio Grande Groundwater Basin is now more than fifty years old,
there is no central tabulation of water rights, their priorities,
their transfers, or those encumbrances created by dedications.
The OSE about a decade ago began creating a computerized database
called “WATERS” (Water Administration Technical Engineering
Resource System). A marvelous idea; it was to be the state’s
up-to-date, publicly searchable database of water rights. It got
started OK, but the Middle Rio Grande Basin and some other important
areas of active groundwater use have never gotten close to being
completely recorded and up to date. Such information is critically
important. Without ready access to these kinds of data, neither
effective water banking, nor control over unconscionable double-
and triple-dipping, nor even adjudication of water rights in the
Middle Rio Grande will be possible.
The only reliable process for validating Middle Rio Grande water
rights is adjudication. Every water-knowledgeable person knows this.
So why isn’t the OSE focusing on compiling available water-rights
ownership as its top priority, in preparation for adjudication?
Why are OSE personnel not vigorously emphasizing this need and requesting
funding for it above all other requests to the New Mexico Legislature?
Why are some key personnel arguing that such compilation should
be put off until adjudication itself starts, thereby delaying it
and markedly complicating the court-based operations of adjudication?
I suggest it’s because the concept of adjudicating the Middle
Rio Grande ranges from worrisome, to threatening, to terrifying
for individuals who understand its potential ramifications. This
includes personnel of the OSE and many legislators.
Nevertheless, it is time to find out where we currently stand.
It is also time to begin creating a Rio Grande Water Plan that assures
development will occur in an equitable, orderly way. Proper planning
also should allow for preservation of characteristics that we value
in the state’s greatest river valley. If we fail to create
a careful and comprehensive plan, we risk a variety of uncomfortable
discoveries. For example, if dedications continue, their accumulation
may commit more irrigated acreage to being retired than there are
willing sellers. Do we then acquire water rights by condemnation?
And, by the way, do we really want to do away with farming and turn
the valley brown if we don’t have to?
There are alternatives to drying up farms, but they require gutsy
planning. Here are examples. Aggressive conversion of the dense
salt cedar jungle to open bosque forest, or even low-water-use farms,
below Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge would markedly
reduce depletion by evapotranspiration. (I don’t accept that
the issue of the willow flycatcher can’t be addressed innovatively.)
Never allowing Elephant Butte Reservoir to expand into its upper
basin, thereby reducing lake evaporation, is another possibility.
We might negotiate approval by our Rio Grande Compact partners,
Texas and Colorado, of new upstream storage reservoirs where evaporation
is less than at Elephant Butte. Being able to fill Abiquiu Reservoir
to its basin capacity would also help. There are other alternatives.
We are not out of options, but none are cheap—nor is completing
the WATERS database cheap. They would be politically more feasible
if it were clear to the legislature and citizenry that there will
be even higher dollar and environmental costs if we fail to address
future problems and fail to create a bold Rio Grande Water Plan.
The water plan needs to be in place and guiding our operations
long before we begin failing to meet compact deliveries. It must
go well beyond the narrow limits of economics for all parties to
recognize it as equitable. The vision that guides its content should,
I think, partly be defined by openly asking the citizenry what characteristics
they want preserved for future New Mexicans. Past opinion polls
about water have already shown some nearly-universal statewide preferences.
Sherm Wengerd, deceased UNM professor and a character of the first
order in western geology, once remarked to me, “When you’ve
got a bear by the tail, you go where the bear goes.” Isn’t
it time to let go of our bear’s tail, kick butt, and, with
foresight and good sense, develop a plan that secures our water
destiny is equitable and preserves the cultural and environmental
things we New Mexicans value?
[Editor’s Note: Frank Titus has been a New
Mexico hydrogeologist for fifty-one years. He has worked for the
USGS, taught at New Mexico Tech, been science advisor to State Engineer
Tom Turney, and was a charter member of the Water Assembly. This
is part of an Op Ed series sponsored by the Water Assembly, with
each article representing the opinions of the author.]