An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988


Corridor map

Designated energy corridors on Federal land in the Western 11 states

BLM unveils plan for west-wide energy corridor

—REID BANDEEN, PRESIDENT, LAS PLACITAS ASSOCIATION

The U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently released its Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Designation of Energy Corridors on Federal Land in Eleven Western States. Essentially, the plan is an attempt to preauthorize approximately six thousand miles of federal lands corridors to accommodate preferred Rights of Way (ROWs) for “future oil, gas, and hydrogen pipelines and electricity transmission and distribution facilities.”

The plan, authorized by the Bush administration’s Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct), calls for federal energy and land management agencies to consult with states, tribal and other local governments, utility industries, and other interested parties to 1) designate the corridors as described; 2) perform any environmental reviews that may be required for designating these corridors; and, 3) incorporate the designated corridors into the relevant agency land use and resource management plans. The stated purpose and need for the new corridors is due to 1) increasing energy demand nationwide; 2) aging and potentially unsafe existing pipeline infrastructure; 3) “congestion” in the current electricity transmission infrastructure; and 4) demand for transmission capacity for potential new energy sources, including coal-to-liquid products, hydrogen, and wind power electricity transmission.

The plan identifies an average width of thirty-five-hundred feet (two-thirds of a mile) to provide sufficient room to support multiple energy transport systems. For example, such a corridor could accommodate nine individual five-hundred-kilovolt transmission lines, thirty-five liquid petroleum pipelines, or twenty-nine natural gas pipelines.

Three nominated corridors for New Mexico include an east-west corridor following I-10 in the southwest part of the state; a north-south corridor following I-25 from El Paso to south of Belen; and a northwest-southeast trending corridor traversing the state from the northwest corner to the southeast corner. Somewhat ominously, this third corridor includes tracts of BLM lands within the Placitas area that line up nicely with the major sections of federal lands corridors to the southeast and northwest of Placitas. The release of the corridor plan also coincides with a simultaneous process of revising the BLM’s Resource Management Plan for our area.

The report is quick to point out that the current proposed corridors apply only to the designated federal lands sections as illustrated, and that no specific directions are proposed or favored for how the corridors might be completed between the proposed corridor segments. One can’t help but think that these corridors might just tend to favor the pathways of existing pipeline ROWs, of which Placitas has two. The report also points out that designation of the corridors does not pre-approve any specific infrastructure projects, and that specific projects would still need to apply for ROWs within the corridors. Little is mentioned about how these ROWs would be secured through private lands—only that “applicants would secure authorizations across private lands in the same manner that they currently do.”

Such a situation tends to arouse speculation about massive condemnation of private lands under government powers of eminent domain, or federal takings in the name of national security and public health and safety. When asked to comment on these issues, BLM officials don’t offer much reassurance, only mentioning that they are anticipating the possibility of litigation should the plan be approved.

For more information on the west-wide energy corridor project and to view or obtain a copy of the EIS document, visit the project website at http://corridoreis.anl.gov/. Public comments on the proposed plan are due by February 14, 2008. A public meeting to answer questions and hear concerns about the proposed plan will be held in Albuquerque on Thursday, January 24, 2008, at the Holiday Inn and Suites at 5050 Jefferson NE. The meeting will be conducted from 2:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m., with a break from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. Individuals wishing to speak at the meeting may register online.

Signpost cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert

Pre-2008 Legislative Session comments

—KATHY MCCOY, STATE REPRESENTATIVE, DISTRICT 22

In mid-January, the New Mexico Legislature will begin its 2008 “budget” session. As a member of the Appropriations and Finance Committee, I spend the bulk of the session evaluating the basic needs and wish lists of the state and its residents. Because much of the budget is spent on recurring items, balancing revenues and expenditures is always a source of concern as it’s impossible to predict future events. The revenue forecast for Fiscal Year ’09 is just over $6 billion, which includes $368.9 million in “new money” available for appropriations. This amounts to a modest 1.6% growth in revenues from last year.

New Mexico’s lifeblood is the revenue from oil and gas production. Although $100/barrel oil has increased oil revenues, gas revenues have decreased by about the same amount. The loss of significant federal funding, potential problems in the sub-prime housing market, increased costs in healthcare, and the cumulative effect of other state needs will make balancing priorities more critical than ever.

As always, education tops the priority list. The Legislative Finance Committee’s proposed budget includes $2.6 billion for kindergarten through twelfth grade—an increase of $124 million. An increase of $36 million is proposed for higher education for a total of $883 million.

Education receives roughly sixty percent of the state’s budget, yet we remain in the bottom quartile of nearly every measuring standard. Through a legislator’s eyes, this indicates a need for fundamental change in how we educate our children. This is a decades-long issue—unrelated to No Child Left Behind. It seriously affects not only our students’ futures, but also our ability to attract well-paying jobs to the state. Our high school drop-out rate is over fifty percent and truancy is at an all-time high, so it takes little imagination to guess about those kids’ futures.

I know that the vast majority of our teachers work incredibly hard and are dedicated to doing their best under the current system. Most would agree that it’s a tough job given the diversity and varied backgrounds of their students. Unfortunately, over the years, discipline has all but disappeared in schools; as a result, teachers no longer enjoy the respect from students they once did. So I would argue that less respect equates with less learning. When administered appropriately, discipline can have much to do with kids becoming productive adults. And it goes without saying that parents play an integral role in reinforcing this value.

Following education, the next largest budget item is Medicaid, at a proposed cost of $790 million, followed by $300 million for the Department of Health and $277 million for the Department of Corrections.

If you’ve been reading the papers, you know that $500 million in highway projects has been put on hold indefinitely. One of those projects that affect my district is the widening of I-25 between Tramway and Bernalillo. Additionally, I’ve been talking to the Department of Transportation in hopes of getting a roundabout at North 14 and Frost Road in the East Mountains, along with some “traffic calming” medians along North 14. These projects hadn’t even made a list, so it’s hard to say when they might be considered.

The Department of Transportation has indicated that increased construction costs and cutbacks in federal funding explain the lack of funding, but the cost of the Rail Runner roughly correlates with the highway shortfalls, so it’s hard not to factor that in. I happen to believe mass transit is great, and I’m especially partial to trains—but I also think that an efficient, upscale bus system would have had the capability to not only carry more people, but also get them from Point A to Point B, or C, or D—and at significantly less cost.

According to the Legislative Finance Committee, we will have about $290 million in nonrecurring general fund money for Capital Outlay—that’s compared to $771 million in 2007. I know how important capital projects are to those of you who count on them. With counties, municipalities, and other political subdivisions all competing for the same funds, it’s probably one of the most stressful decisions we make. Legislators always get requests far in excess of what we could ever hope to fund, so we have to make hard choices.

Because the main source of those funds is oil and gas revenues and we know those are cyclical businesses, I’ve generally tried to focus on long-term infrastructure needs rather than “amenities.” As much as I’d like to support more museums, memorials, and similar projects, most of my district is quasi-rural, so my allocations primarily go to sewers, water systems, libraries, and roads.

Other issues that may be addressed during the January session are health care reform, ethics reform, sub-prime mortgage lending, and new types of funding for transportation projects. These are all complex and often contentious issues, and if this session is anything like the past few years, they will likely accompany a record number of other bills.

As always, I welcome your insights and concerns—I will always make time to discuss what you have on your mind. If you can find the time, come up to Santa Fe and visit during session. Watching the process can often be an eye-opening experience.

Signpost cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert

County details legislative priorities

—SIGNPOST STAFF

Tight money will probably limit Sandoval County lobbyist Gayland Bryant’s usual success at getting legislative funding for county projects in 2008. The thirty-day legislative session that begins January 15 will have a modest agenda. Governor Richardson has denied eighty percent of requests from his cabinet secretaries for agenda items. Slower revenue growth and federal support of state social programs and road projects will limit available funding. Sandoval County Commission passed a resolution in October supporting the following state and regional legislative initiative. The county will support the following initiatives while not directly seeking funding:

1) STATE TRANSPORTATION/NORTHWEST LOOP

Support recommendations of the Task Force on State Transportation and other legislation that will develop and finance reliable transportation systems and needed roads, such as the Northwest Loop Road that will reduce traffic congestion and provide managed economic development opportunities in Sandoval County and the entire metropolitan area.

2) SANTA ANA REGIONAL FIRE STATION

Support legislation to fund design, construction, and furnishing of a $2.116 million regional fire station on the Pueblo of Santa Ana to provide critically needed services throughout southern Sandoval County. The proposed 11,500-square-foot station is being developed in partnership between Sandoval County and the Pueblo and has been approved by the State Fire Marshal. It will include four double bays for fire and EMS equipment, living areas, six dorm-style rooms, and bathroom and kitchen facilities. The station will be staffed twenty-four/seven by paid professional firefighters/paramedics and participants in the County’s Fire Residency Program that provides housing to individuals completing college degrees in Fire Science in exchange for fire and EMS response assistance. The station will serve the Pueblos of Santa Ana, San Felipe and Zia, the Town of Bernalillo, Tamaya Hyatt Resort and Santa Ana Star Casino, and the US 550 and I-25 corridors, and will be available to assist the City of Rio Rancho’s fire and DPS staffs. Sandoval County will provide fire and EMS equipment and fund operating costs.

3) SENIOR PROGRAMS/AGENCY ON AGING

Gain approval for the Aging and Long-Term Services Department’s funding package that includes $216,300 for Sandoval County’s Senior Program. The County’s request includes $164,000 for specialized vehicles for home-delivery of meals and 4x4 vehicles for transport at centers in Placitas, Rio Rancho, Cuba, and Corrales; $23,300 for meal equipment in the Jemez and Rio Rancho Centers; $14,000 for repairs to the Peña Blanca Center; and $15,000 for other needed equipment at County Senior Centers.

4) HAVEN HOUSE

Support requests by Haven House for $1.2 million in funding to expand and renovate facilities for the only domestic violence shelter in Sandoval County. Funding will add an additional 4,460 square feet of space, providing an additional five bedrooms and confidential areas for work with clients. The project also will provide an all-purpose meeting room for educational support and therapeutic work with groups and children, and expand the shelter’s kitchen, pantry, and living areas so that it can effectively serve the area’s growing population and the need for domestic violence assistance.

5) REQUIRE MEDICAL COSTS FOR INMATES OF COUNTY DETENTION CENTERS BE REIMBURSED UNDER MEDICAID SCHEDULES

Support legislation requiring reimbursement of medical cost of county detention center inmates in New Mexico at the same rates paid under the existing Medicaid system. Inmates are equivalent to indigent and/or Medicaid populations while in detention, but are provided health care at taxpayer expense without Medicaid’s requirements for cost containment or appropriate delivery of care. The costs Sandoval County taxpayers pay for non-reimbursable medical expenses of inmates—about $265,000 annually—would be lower if the state required such costs to be reimbursed under its Medicaid system.

6) NEW MEXICO SOCCER TOURNAMENT COMPLEX AT SANTA ANA

Support the soccer community’s request for $2 million to complete improvements and purchase equipment at the highly successful New Mexico Soccer Tournament Complex, a regional economic enhancement that attracts world-class competitions. Additional funding is needed to complete the complex’s master-planned facilities, including construction of bleachers and concessions, sewer lines, lighting, parking lot paving and drainage, maintenance facility, media facilities, and needed equipment. Construction of the complex is a joint undertaking by the state, the counties of Sandoval and Bernalillo, the cities of Rio Rancho, Bernalillo and Albuquerque, and the Pueblo of Santa Ana. The complex is operated by New Mexico Youth Soccer, representing soccer organizations statewide.

7) NATIVE AMERICAN ELECTION INFORMATION PROGRAM

Gain approval of legislation allocating $50,000 for Sandoval County’s Native American Election Information Program that provides translation of ballots and prepares audio interpretations of ballots in four Native American languages, the most of any county in New Mexico. Funds will be used to hire ten translators/liaisons who will work closely with Pueblos in months leading up to elections and during the elections themselves to register unregistered voters, provide voter information, and increase voter turnout. Success of the program is evident as San Felipe Pueblo increased voter turnout from zero percent in past elections to forty-two percent in the November 2006 election.

8) ELIMINATE VOTING MACHINE DEBT

Support legislation appropriating $3.45 million from the State General Fund to retire or forgive debts incurred by counties, including $144,800 for Sandoval County, for lease-purchase of voting machines rendered unusable with the state’s shift to paper ballots. Legislation enacted in 2006 requiring use of paper ballots carried a provision to hold counties harmless for debt with the Board of Finance but failed to include any appropriation to cover the debts.

Sandoval County is seeking legislative funding for the following capital outlay projects:

1) SANDOVAL COUNTY DESALINATION PROJECT, $5,100,000

A Legislative appropriation of $5.1 million is requested to match County funds to plan, design, and construct the $12.6 million first phase of a desalination project that will provide 1.75 million gallons a day of critically needed water supplies—enough to serve ten thousand residents. Phase I includes four deep-aquifer wells in the Rio Puerco Valley west of Rio Rancho, two of which have been completed and paid for by Sandoval County. Bryant said that county officials expect to prove a large reservoir of water of sufficient quality for economical treatment. Also included is a 3.8-mile water gathering system, a water treatment plant using proven reverse osmosis technology to refine brackish water to safe drinking water standards, and a water transport system of approximately 8.8 miles to deliver potable water to Rio Rancho’s existing water distribution system. Sandoval County previously has committed $6 million and identified an additional $1.5 million for project development.

2) La Plazuela Drainage, $1.3 million

A Legislative appropriation of $1.3 million is needed to match $3.9 million in County funds for construction and installation of master-planned drainage systems, water retention ponds, roadways and landscaping of La Plazuela de Sandoval. The fifty-six-acre, County-owned site is located at NM 528 and Idalia Road and includes portions in the City of Rio Rancho, the Town of Bernalillo, and unincorporated Sandoval County. Bryant said that water has flowed up to the judicial complex from the escarpment, due in part to drainage problems in Rio Rancho residential development. La Plazuela represents a mixed-use development. County facilities currently at the site include the Sandoval County Judicial Complex, Health Commons, Transit Center, and a regional park-and-ride facility. The county’s new administrative center will be located on the property and is scheduled for completion in 2009. The property is master-planned, with future development to include commercial office and retail space and a retirement center.

3) NORTHWEST LOOP ROAD, $2,000,000

Additional funding of $2 million is requested to design and construct the Northwest Loop Road as a major transportation and economic development corridor connecting I-40 and I-25 via US 550 west of Rio Rancho and the metropolitan area. Sandoval County will provide a match of $2 million in County funds and in-kind services. The road opens access to large tracks of affordable land near population centers—a major requirement for successful economic development and job creation. It offers development opportunities similar to those of loop roads in other metropolitan areas, most notably the 101 Loop in the Phoenix area. Funding will protect acquired rights-of-way and construct drainage improvements and a gravel roadway along twenty-seven miles of the project in Sandoval County. The gravel road will dead-end into Bernalillo County, but will secure a right of way with an expiration date for road construction. Future phases would include paving the roadway, with funding expected to be obtained from private and federal sources. The 2007 Legislature approved $950,000 for the project.

4) EL ZÓCALO BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT COMPLEX, $500,000

An additional $500,000 in Legislative funding is requested to complete renovations and improvements of the historic multipurpose El Zócalo Business Development Complex. Additional funds will match $1.475 million in federal funds (EDA), $1.8 million in County funds, $500,000 in County in-kind services, and $2.275 million approved for the project by the 2006 and 2007 legislative sessions. The El Zócalo Complex will create new economic-based jobs by increasing successful development of new businesses, thus enhancing the overall economy and standards of living for the County’s culturally diverse communities and citizens. The complex is expected to be completed in early 2008.

5) WASTE CONVERSION / COMPOSTING FACILITY, PHASE II, $1,000,000

Additional funding of $1 million is requested to match Sandoval County funds and in-kind services to construct and equip the $3 million Phase II of the Waste Conversion/Composting Facility. Phase II will allow Sandoval County to accept sewer sludge from municipalities and pueblos and process the waste in an economical and environmentally-friendly manner. The plant—the first of its kind in New Mexico—currently uses proven technology and a closed-vessel system to process green waste, construction waste, and manure into fertilizer and soil enhancement products. The system is neighborhood friendly and uses vacuum dryers and mist processors to contain all odors and dust. With completion of Phase II, Sandoval County will accept sewer sludge and wastewater for processing along with green and construction waste into compost, fertilizer, and soil enhancement products for applications on parks, recreational fields, and other uses. The 2007 Legislature approved $409,285 for the project.

6) LANDFILL CONVENIENCE STATION, $200,000

Additional Legislative funding of $200,000 is requested to design and construct a 16,425-square-foot, three-sided covered building so residents can safely and conveniently dispose of residential trash at the Sandoval County Landfill. The $650,000 facility is a critical part of the landfill’s $3 million expansion and will help alleviate illegal trash dumping. It will satisfy state environment requirements and meet ADA and safety standards for both employees and landfill users. The 2006 Legislature provided $325,000 funding toward the project and $112,000 was approved by the 2007 session. The facility will allow convenient disposal of trash regardless of weather conditions and will be readily accessible for the elderly and impaired. Residential users will use one of ten disposal bays where they can deposit trash in a shallow fifty-by-one-hundred-foot concrete-lined “push pit.” From there, the trash will be loaded into 110-cubic-yard movable bins and transferred to the adjacent landfill.

7) SANDOVAL COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS IMPROVEMENTS, $500,000

Sandoval County is requesting a Legislative appropriation of $500,000 to match County funds and significant in-kind services to provide drainage and pave roadways necessary to provide year-round use of the County Fairgrounds and special events center near Cuba. Legislative funding would be used to install drainage, base course, and two-inch asphalt overlay on approximately three miles of roadways inside the fairgrounds. The funds also would provide paving of the site’s main parking area and three satellite parking lots, plus the property’s RV and campground areas. The paving and drainage project is part of the master-planned improvements to the facility that Sandoval County initiated after acquiring the sixty-seven-acre fairgrounds site in the spring of 2006. Sandoval County has committed $1.85 million for site improvements with the goal of enhancing the property as a year-round event site and economic development tool for Cuba and northern Sandoval County. Recent capital investments and in-kind work by the County include a lighted rodeo area, ADA-compliant stadium-style bleachers, a livestock show arena, restrooms and concession buildings, and a petting zoo structure. The County currently is erecting a ten-thousand-square-foot multipurpose building on the property.

8) COUNTY ROAD PROJECTS

a) LAS HUERTAS CREEK CROSSING/PLACITAS, $185,000

Additional funding of $185,000 is needed to complete a rebuild of Camino de Las Huertas where it crosses Las Huertas Creek in the Placitas area. Camino de Las Huertas is a major collector road and school bus route that serves as the only direct road for a large number of residents in the rapidly growing area. The road’s crossing at Las Huertas Creek experiences washouts that make the road impassable during heavy rainfall in the Sandia Mountain watershed. Heavy rainfall and high water flow in the Creek caused the road to wash out on four separate occasions in 2006, resulting in the road’s complete closure until County crews could make repairs. The 2007 Legislature approved $75,000 as partial funding for the project. Additional legislative funding will supplement County funds and in-kind services of more than $150,000 to rebuild the road and crossing at a total cost of $410,000.

b) PAVING & RESTORATION OF COUNTY ROAD 11/CUBA AREA, $300,000

$300,000 is requested to supplement County funds and in-kind services to pave, resurface and restore drainage along County Road 11 in the Cuba area. Project costs are estimated to exceed $500,000, with Sandoval County contributing $150,000 in funds and in-kind services. The eleven-mile road (Old NM 44) connects with US 550 about seven miles south of Cuba, just north of Pueblo of Jemez land, and circles northward past the County Fairgrounds before connecting back with US 550 in the Village of Cuba. The road is a school bus route and serves localized traffic as well as providing an alternate, scenic route into the Cuba area. The 2007 Legislature approved $50,000 for the project.

c) HORSESHOE SPRINGS BRIDGE/LA CUEVA, $243,000

Sandoval County is requesting $243,000 to remove and replace a crumbling concrete span bridge on Horseshoe Springs Road over the San Antonio River in the La Cueva area of the Jemez Mountains. Upon removal of the decaying concrete structure, a steel culvert bridge will be erected and the roadway resurfaced. Horseshoe Springs Road is a designated school bus route and serves approximately forty homes in the area northwest of the intersection of NM 126 and NM 4. The bridge provides the only access over the river on the road for emergency equipment, fire and rescue personnel, and area residents.

d) NM 165 IMPROVEMENTS/PLACITAS, $243,800

Sandoval County is requesting $243,800 to design, realign, and construct an intersection on NM 165 to provide safe entry and turn-outs by motorists to and from the County-owned property that will serve as site of the Placitas Community Library and Multi-Use Center. NM 165 serves as sole access to the Placitas area. Approximately four thousand vehicles per weekday travel through the intersection’s location, posing safety concerns as vehicles enter and exit the library site. The proposed realignment of NM 165 includes turn lanes for both east and west-bound traffic and a merge lane for west-bound traffic exiting the library location. Included in the project is storm drainage under the roadway.

 

 

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