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Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association report
The pipelines that traverse through the Placitas area continue to be of concern. Jodilynn Ortiz, Strategic Development Planner, has been working on this issue and made a presentation regarding the Placitas pipelines at the ES-CA meeting on January 2. She indicated that Placitas is considered a High Concentration Area and pipelines should be double walled and that they should be replaced. She stated that her research showed that most pipelines that have had problems are over forty years old. The pipelines in our area are over sixty years old.
Ortiz has prepared a 46-page proposal for the Federal DOT, which is the agency that oversees interstate pipelines. This proposal addresses the safety concerns and proposes regulatory solutions to the issues. She also stated that there is a division between Inter and Intra State responsibility and feels there shouldn’t be. She has met with the NM Public Regulations Commission and will be working with our Federal representatives. ES-CA will continue to work on this issue and welcomes assistance from residents.
Although the Hospital Tax was defeated, ES-CA is continuing to monitor both hospitals. Erica Wendell-Oglesby will be ESCA liaison for the Sandoval County Regional Medical Center Board. Chris Daul will continue to be the liaison to RUST. ES-CA is always in need of additional Watchdogs.
Dick Ulmer and Bob Gorrell made a presentation to the County Commission about the negative effects of sand-and-gravel mining to the area. The Commission has three new members and ES-CA felt it was important to reiterate the facts about mining. The Commission was very receptive and asked a number of pointed questions to which ES-CA has sent additional information. The Commission hearing room was overflowing with attendees, most of whom were Placitas residents. This is important to show the Commission that Placitans are going to continue to be active and involved in the community and the County. Thank you to all who attended.
There has been an ongoing issue with break-ins at mailboxes. Lynn Koch has called Senator Heinrich’s office and the Sheriff’s Department and spoke with Alan Mills. He indicated that this is a huge statewide issue as well as a National problem. He stated that the Postal inspectors Office is investigating. He indicated that these crimes are generally misdemeanors because New Mexico laws are not strict about mail theft, and we need to toughen them. She has also called State Representative Jim Smith to find out more information about the state law.
There were arrests on December 27 of two individuals associated with breaking into Vista de la Montana mailboxes.
The next meeting is scheduled for February 6, at 6:30 p.m., at the Placitas Fire Station.
Court tosses suit challenging Santa Fe National Forest travel management plan
~Western Environmental Law Center
Late in December, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico dismissed a case against the Santa Fe National Forest brought by an off-road vehicle advocacy organization. The case challenged the U.S. Forest Service's 2012 Santa Fe National Forest travel management plan that protected key wetland, forest, and wildlife habitat from damaging, unmanaged motor vehicle use in the forest.
The same organization lost a nearly identical lawsuit in April 2016, and Judge James A. Parker dismissed this case on the grounds of issue preclusion.
A coalition of environmental groups represented by the Western Environmental Law Center intervened in the original case to defend the Forest Service’s decision and had filed a motion to intervene in the more recent lawsuit as well.
The 2012 travel management plan protected more than 440,000 acres of the Santa Fe National Forest from "cross-country" motorized vehicle use, and removed motor vehicles and the damage they can cause from more than five thousand miles of routes, paths, and trails. The plan allows motorized vehicle use to continue on more than 2,400 miles of routes in the forest, which is more than the mileage from Santa Fe to Portland, Maine.
"We are very pleased to see this case seeking to undo vitally important landscape protections for the Santa Fe National Forest dismissed," said John Mellgren of the Western Environmental Law Center. "The Santa Fe is such a special place, and preventing environmental degradation at the hands of off-road vehicle enthusiasts is an important step towards preserving the Forest and its unique values for future generations."
The decision protects habitat for threatened Jemez Mountain salamanders, Mexican spotted owls, goshawks, Rio Grande cutthroat trout, Southwestern willow flycatchers, and New Mexico meadow jumping mice.
“This win helps protect Santa Fe National Forest for all of us,” said Greg Dyson of WildEarth Guardians. "A small group of people were trying to use the forest for their own selfish playtimes, but in doing so would’ve put the values we all hold dear—clean water, wildlife, and the ability to get away—at risk. The Santa Fe National Forest worked hard to come up with a balanced access and recreation plan, and we should honor that."
re: Sandoval County solving a non-existent problem
The County Commissioners are poised to limit the number of trash collectors based upon extraordinary requirements for equipment and service levels. Some 12,000 households may be forced to change their collection supplier that will likely end up with a government-mandated monopoly. Higher rates and poorer service are in the offing.
At a neighborhood meeting on January 25, 2017, residents of Placitas (25% of the affected households) bitterly complained to the county’s Public Works Director about the ill-conceived plan. Some even questioned why the County is even in the trash collection and landfill business to begin with. It is expected that the commissioners’ February 16th meeting will be another shouting match.
—Thomas Francl, Placitas
re: A service dog’s worst nightmare
Case #15-2035: Service dog attacked by dogs running at large in Placitas: On 12-22-15, at the Placitas Post Office, my service dog was viciously attacked by two power breed dogs. The owners of the dogs at that point had several Sec 5(1)-Animals running at large, charges pending, before the attack on my service dog. The dog owner’s attorney motioned for a consolidation of all four of the running at large charges into one in order to plea. The owners reached out to me in a letter apologizing and telling me of the improvements that they have made to contain their three dogs on their property.
On August 30, 2016, the owners appeared with council before the honorable Judge Richard L. Zanotti and pled “No Contest” to charges, Count #1 Sandoval Sec 5 (1)-Animals running at large, and Sandoval 02-02-21-Animal Control Ordinance (dog attack). Sgt. Ron Hunt of the Sandoval County Sheriff’s office spoke on our behalf (Thank you). The defendant was only required to pay court costs and my service dog’s emergency vet bill ($121) even though there were costs incurred for her rehabilitation, and my medical treatments.
My service dog recovered from her physical injuries (multiple bite wounds to her chest and leg), and underwent a six-month rehabilitation and screening to ensure her temperament in public meets minimum standards for service dogs in public after this horrific attack. Dog attacks are very traumatizing to service dogs because they are trained to ignore other animals while they work and often end up victimized by dogs off leash.
As for me, I am forever changed after going through the attack itself, fighting for my service dog’s life in that moment (I still have nightmares), and then going through the legal process as a disabled woman, fighting for our right to public safety. I was shocked to discover that Sandoval County has no service dog protection laws and does not have an enforcement pathway to the State Laws protecting service dogs, i.e., Chapter 28- Human Rights- Article 7- Blind and Disabled Persons. This is unacceptable and I believe that Sandoval County desperately needs to enact disabled Handler/Service animal laws and to enforce existing leash laws in order to protect the Public Access Rights and Public Safety of the Disabled who are assisted by Qualified Assistance/Service animals.
—Angel Rose & Isabeau Addison (service dog), Placitas
re: How many oil rigs on 6.6 million acres???
The New Mexico State Land Commissioner is attempting to transfer 6.6 million acres of federal split estate mineral rights to the New Mexico State Land Office. In this case, a split estate is where the federal government owns the subsurface mineral rights and the land owner owns only the surface rights. This should be a wakeup call to all of us! The State Land Office intends to lease out those split estate mineral rights. Undoubtedly most of it would be leased for oil and gas development and mining. Much of the private land in Placitas falls into this category.
This is not only about fracking on a grand scale and turning the Land of Enchantment into a bona fide “Gasland,” it’s about land and mineral grabs for our federal lands. I am referring to any attempts to transfer ownership of our federal land and, or mineral rights from the federal government.
This mineral transfer attempt could soon become the business model and lead to others in our state and elsewhere around the west. We know changes are coming that will impact land uses. These changes will impact federal and private land and they are about profits over people. This federal mineral right transfer might be billed as good for economic development and a cure-all for our educational budget shortfall, but serves only to keep our state hostage to the oil and gas industry, keeping the Land of Enchantment and its citizens in a vulnerable, submissive position.
Very few counties in New Mexico have protective oil and gas ordinances in place. Few Commissioners can agree on the need, but fracking technology has changed everything. In most cases the subsurface rights are the dominant right and most of us don’t own any mineral rights at all. Given that New Mexico is rich in recoverable oil and poor economically, a fracking boom could someday sweep across our state, and we aren’t prepared. This could happen whether Mr. Dunn acquires the 6.6 million acres of split estate mineral rights or not. Many cities in oil rich states must deal with the oil business within city limits, next to homes, churches, and schools. Given the incoming administration’s attitude toward regulations on the oil and gas industry and business in general and without strong county oil and gas ordinances, it could be the same in New Mexico.
Oil and gas fracking processes despoil billions of gallons of water in New Mexico, every year. Fracking is dependent on water. Education in New Mexico is critically dependent on oil and gas revenues, which are often achieved by fracking. The future of our water here in New Mexico may soon be closely tied to education, which is hopelessly dependent on oil and gas revenues. Environmental concerns and policies may soon be weakened beyond any benefit, or they may soon go away altogether.
Dr. Daniel Fine, associate director at New Mexico Tech’s Center for New Mexico Energy Policy and an energy policy analyst for the state of New Mexico says that all of the regulations the industry has confronted as small producers, were created under the umbrella of climate change. “That umbrella has been pulled out, all of that will go away… What we have now is a reversal, and a rollback on all industry regulation.” Fine predicts coal will enjoy a comeback and oil and gas policy will become part of national security. As disconcerting as Dr. Fine’s words are, they may soon be true.
New Mexicans should fight to keep our federal lands federal. This includes federal mineral rights. We must assure that the areas we have already protected within our state stay protected as we intended. We must be involved and participate in the processes that affect us all and the land we live in.
—Mike Neas, Placitas
re: For a friend
Recently, my best friend died. I’ll miss him. Not because that’s what I am supposed to do. No, not at all.
I’ll miss him because he was fun. He was still capable to play in a sandbox. To me, these are the real guys. Despite their age, they can participate in or initiate stupid things and laugh about it heartedly. Most guys I know are aware of their dignity and wear it like a straitjacket. They would never climb in a sandbox.
The first time we invited him and his wife for breakfast, they showed up in PJs with mugs in their hands.
He and I occasionally would play “Denny Crane.” We were non-smokers, but on those nights, we would sit on the porch with a good cigar and a bottle of Remy Martin, and tell the world how it should be.
On another occasion, I was looking for a doubles partner in badminton for a tourney in Colorado Springs. His badminton was barely mediocre. But he said, “Okay, Weiland, I’ll play with you. We will not win a medal, but we will have a hell of a good time.” Boy, did we have fun.
Not many men can jump out of their straitjacket and land in a sandbox.
Gary, my friend, I sure would like a replacement.
—W. Elsner, Placitas
re: San Felipe horse sanctuary?
In September, we asked you to investigate the San Felipe horse sanctuary. You published that letter in your November issue and indicated that you were working on an article for the December issue of the Signpost. We anxiously awaited the piece, but alas, December came and went with no such report. Now in January, you publish an article on Santa Ana Pueblo’s horse sanctuary. We are very familiar with the Stable at Tamaya and the great work they do, but we are still concerned about a lack of substantiated information on the sanctuary the Pueblo of San Felipe has been publicly touting for several years now in conjunction with WHOA. To the best of our knowledge no one has been able to find out any specifics about the sanctuary such as location, facilities available, visiting hours, care afforded horses, etc., and our inquiries of the Pueblo’s Department of Natural Resources (Mr. Ricardo Ortiz and Ms. Pinu’u Stout) have met with evasive non-answers.
At the time of our first letter we shared with you our suspicions that this “sanctuary” was little more than smoke and mirrors. We believe that this “sanctuary” does not exist .... We were hoping you would do what all good journalists should do and thoroughly investigate and report on such—guess our faith was misplaced. Your failure to report on this issue is tantamount to neglecting your journalistic and civic responsibility and you have let your readers down.
Disappointedly Yours, —Dr. and Mrs. Stephen Delong (ret.), Bernalillo
[Ed.—We are still working toward a story and pursuing a conversation with Mr. Ortiz. Thank you for your patience.]