Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988

Pipeline work progressing in Placitas

—Bill Diven

Three pipeline companies remain in various stages of upgrades and fixes in the Placitas area. It was recently revealed that runoff in Las Huertas Creek had exposed a roughly ten-foot section of the Kinder Morgan carbon dioxide line downstream from Camino de las Huertas. A spokesperson for the company said it was working with the Army Corps of Engineers on the permitting process for work in the watercourse.

The work could begin as early as mid-December, and the spokesperson said company residents would first be meeting with nearby residents to discuss the plan.

The Kinder Morgan line transports CO2 under pressure from southwestern Colorado to Texas for use in boosting production from older oil wells.

A mile or so downstream, Enterprises Products still anticipates replacing damaged concrete-cabled mats that protect its three lines carrying natural gas liquids. Flooding last years ripped up a section of the mats at the end of Windmill Trail South without exposing the pipeline. It’s not known when that work may start.

Enterprise is also adding new parallel section of pipe in New Mexico to increase the flow of NGLs from Wyoming to Texas. That work is ongoing but doesn’t include Placitas where the second pipe already is in place.

About a mile north of the Placitas village, Western Refining continues work on its pump station to reverse the flow on a crude-oil pipeline built in the 1950s. The line once carried crude oil to a refinery in the Four Corners area but is being retrofitted to route oil from there to a refinery in El Paso, Texas, by way of southeastern New Mexico.

The company has said it expects to have the pipeline in operation during the first quarter of 2015.

Campbell water permit denied by State Engineer

—Leota Harriman

It took years of legal wrangling on an application for an appropriation of water rights for Campbell Ranch, but last week the State Engineer told Aquifer Science there is no unappropriated water in the Sandia Basin.

The denial of Aquifer Science’s application follows years of controversy over both the proposed development and where the water would come from.

In its early days as a town, Edgewood made a shoestring annexation of some twenty thousand acres of Campbell Ranch, anticipating the gross receipts tax revenue that would come from the large residential and commercial area planned north of Sandia Park, with a projected population the size of Socorro at full build-out.

In the time since then, the master plan, and where water would come from for the eight thousand acre development had been ongoing sources of controversy.

In 2009, a Nevada-based company called Aquifer Science—made up of Campbell Corporation and Vidler Water—applied for 1,500 acre-feet of water for the development, picking up where Campbell Corporation had left off. Previously, the State Engineer had denied various attempts by Campbell to convert agricultural water rights to commercial purposes for the development, located in Bernalilo, Sandoval, and Santa Fe counties.

In 2011, Aquifer Science amended its application to reduce the amount of water to 1,010 acre-feet a year; in 2013, it again amended the application to reduce the area served by that water to the master planned area known as Campbell Ranch; and later that year, amended the application again to divert 717 acre-feet of water a year.

In the meantime, it applied for and got permission from the State Engineer for very deep exploratory wells, hoping to find “unappropriated” water. It drilled two of those wells, with one deeper than 3,600 feet and the other over seven hundred feet. Neither found useable water, according to the order by the State Engineer’s office.

There were about 250 official protestors to the application, including Bernalillo County, the N.M. Environmental Law Center, representing many area residents, N.M. Water Service Company, and dozens of residents on their own behalf.

Attorney Bruce Frederick of the N.M. Environmental Law Center said he was pleased with the decision and the reason given by the State Engineer. “The State Engineer ultimately did the right thing, and followed the prior precedents of his office,” Frederick said.

According to the order from the State Engineer, decisions denying applications in 1986 and 1987 were based on the grounds that there was no unappropriated water in the Sandia Basin. The order says further, “The previous actions of the State Engineer and the most recent modeling of the ground-water within the Sandia Basin, described during the hearing for the instant Application, make it reasonable to conclude that there is no unappropriated groundwater available in the Sandia Underground Water Basin to satisfy the Application.”

Frederick said that Aquifer Science had given up on its attempt to drill very deep wells in hopes it would find water “unappropriated” in the area. “They drilled a five hundred thousand dollar dry hole,” Frederick said.

Neither Aquifer Science or its attorney returned phone calls for comment from The Independent.

“It was the right decision,” Frederick said. “Water levels are already falling out there because of existing demand, and there is no regulation of domestic wells, which have been on the increase. In a way that’s bad news for people, but a new application for hundreds of acre-feet, a new stress on the aquifer, was not sustainable.”

Sandia Knolls resident and former state representative Kathy McCoy was among those fighting the application by Aquifer Science. She pointed to Bernalillo County’s protest as being important in the final decision, along with members of the community who banded together.

“I have to say this particular thing really resonated with the community, like nothing I’ve seen. To me, it’s unprecedented,” McCoy said. “I say that because the amount of money this community generated to support our opposition to it was huge. It just tells me that people up here really understand the consequences of doing something like this.”

Ric Davis, a resident of San Pedro Creek Estates, said the subdivision would likely have been impacted if the application for new water rights had been approved. “Those of us who were protesting are, needless to say, really happy that they denied the application, but more so that they said unequivocally that there is no unappropriated water here. It might stop other people from trying.”

Frederick said that aquifer Science has thirty days from the date of the decision to appeal to District Court.

Reprinted from The Independent, November 19, 2014.

OSE and ISC launch updated website

—Lela Hunt

The Office of the State Engineer and Interstate Stream Commission recently launched a newly designed and reorganized website at, to provide comprehensive information about the agency’s water-related policies, programs, and issues. Information is provided on the website about water rights, well drilling, water rights settlements, adjudications and hearings, water conservation, and more. There is a link to the W.A.T.E.R.S. database, allowing the public to access individual water rights files within New Mexico. Links to many other websites dealing with water issues, such as the New Mexico Drought Task Force, the Water Trust Board, and the New Mexico Acequia Association, among others, are also provided.

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