Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988

LPA refining estimates for local pipeline monitoring

Signpost Staff

A homegrown plan to monitor petroleum-related pipelines running through Placitas continues to progress after a public meeting on project methods and costs.

The concept developed by the Las Placitas Association envisions a series of at least 48 monitoring wells two inches in diameter and sunk twenty feet into the ground. The wells would be inside the pipeline corridors near the lines three companies use to transport crude oil, natural gas liquids and carbon dioxide under pressure.

“We’re looking for vapors traveling through the soil,” said Dwight Patterson, an LPA board member leading the project. Testing would use a vacuum to draw air from the soil to monitoring equipment, he added.

Similar sampling is used by gas stations to monitor their underground tanks, he said. Local monitoring could benefit the pipeline companies as well if a leak is detected earlier.

“We’re going for underground monitoring,” Patterson told the Signpost. “We’re not flying over at one thousand feet looking for leaks.” The goal is early detection of leaks before they can damage or destroy the groundwater sources upon which Placitas relies.

The December 9 meeting raised concerns about the cost of the project, particularly the expense of regular testing. Drilling the 48 wells was initially pegged at $137,000 dollars to be paid from public sources with monthly monitoring estimated at $23,000 dollars a year, roughly ten dollars per household, to be borne by Placitas after a vote on a property tax possibly by mail as early as April.

That brought up bad memories of the formation of a flood-control district in 2007 in that included Placitas. Promotional materials prepared for the district for the tax election to fund the district projects and operations underestimated the cost to property owners by nearly half.

“Ten dollars a year is miniscule,” Ed Majka said from the audience. “However, if it suddenly became one hundred, I’m concerned.”

Patterson said the cost of drilling the wells is known to be about $2,800 dollars apiece. He later told the Signpost he’s working to refine the monitoring cost so voters wouldn’t be hit with sticker shock.

While Sandoval County has agreed to act as the fiscal agent for the project, Patterson said the intent is for the people of Placitas to manage it. “If the people of Placitas are paying for it, it is sustainable,” he added.

While Placitas has not sustained any catastrophic pipeline ruptures, federal records show leaks reported in the carbon dioxide line in 2004 and 2009. In 1999 an excavator damaged the 16-inch crude-oil line on Santa Ana Pueblo just west of Interstate 25 spewing about 3,400 gallons, much of which collected in a nearby arroyo, according to state records.

The pipelines connecting northwestern and southeastern New Mexico share the Placitas corridor for about two miles from I-25 east to the Placitas Open Space. From there, the oil line turns southeast to near Placitas village and over the Crest of Montezuma to the east.

The lines carrying carbon dioxide and natural gas liquids head east along, and in some places under, Las Huertas Creek and exit Placitas through Diamond Tail.

Additional information on the LPA pipeline-monitoring project can be found on the organization’s website:

Restoring the damaged lands around us

—Michael Crofoot

Global temperatures in 2014 were the hottest on record since the 1850s, according to four independent groups. In the 2012 Department of Agriculture’s publication Climate Change in Grasslands, Shrubland and Deserts of the Interior American West, researchers write that the “rate of predicted change in climate is unprecedented relative to the three centuries before industrialization. By the end of the century, 55 percent of future landscapes in the West likely will have climates that are incompatible with the vegetation types that now occur on those landscapes.”

The northern Sandias sustained a gigantic, very hot wildfire about 180 years ago that burned up the Las Huertas right through the village of Placitas and right up to the very top of the north Sandias. It could happen again any time. 

Winter warming has also made the bark beetle outbreaks worse by allowing beetles to survive and reproduce that would normally have died in colder weather.

On January 16, from 10:00 a.m. to noon, the Earth Care Fellowship of Las Placitas Presbyterian Church will sponsor a presentation at the Placitas Community Library in the Collins Room. Dr. Kent Reid, Director of the New Mexico Forest and Watershed Restoration Institute, will talk about learning how to restore damaged land in the Southwest, and discuss the basics of capturing carbon by planting native plants. Some of us will be showing how to sow native plant seed. We will also discuss planting New Mexico Division of Forestry’s conservation seedlings and where to get them. There will be useful handouts, free native plant seeds, and refreshments. All are welcome.

Interested in saving money and growing the healthiest, safest plants for your vegetable garden?

Come to the seed starting and seed saving workshop. Start your own seeds indoors. Healthy transplants are key to preventing diseases and producing the most flavorful and vibrant vegetables. You will learn techniques on how to save seeds using the wet and dry methods of seed collection and storing. Lynda Garvin, Sandoval County Agriculture Extension Horticulture Agent and Judy Jacobs, Veteran Master Gardener, teach this class on January 30, from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., at Esther Bone Library, located at 950 Pinetree Road SE in Rio Rancho. The class is free with no registration required. For more information, contact the Sandoval County Cooperative Extension Service at 867-2582 or Toll Free at (800) 678-1802.

State House panel asks tough questions on Gila diversion

—Dan Lorimier, Sierra Club

New Mexico’s interim Legislative Water and Natural Resources Committee met in August, 2015, in Silver City to hear about the proposed Gila River diversion project.

The public, and many officials, have objected to the project for several reasons: There are real questions about whether a diversion can be successfully constructed; cost estimates have ballooned to one billion dollars, which would have to be borne by New Mexico taxpayers and water users; and the diversion would sacrifice our state’s last free-flowing river.

About 175 concerned citizens packed the meeting room at WNMU.

The committee heard presentations by the town of Silver City, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Interstate Stream Commission, and the newly formed N.M. Central Arizona Project entity. Silver City chose not to become part of the CAP entity with all its uncertainties and risks. The Interstate Stream Commission reported that the project was going along fine, ignoring the layers of problems facing diversion plans. The Bureau of Reclamation had big concerns with the ability of the CAP entity to finance, build and operate the project.

Questions from committee members revealed a general sense of incredulity towards Gila diversion efforts. Questions ranged from “How can New Mexico know so little after ten years of financial and engineering studies and now be stuck having to make huge technical, financial, and environmental decisions without sufficient information?” to “Did you study the impacts to tourism, species protection, and other local impacts when you produced the latest cost/benefit review?” Bureau of Reclamation’s answer to that question was a flat “no.”

When asked where the extra nine hundred million dollars for this project would come from after federal funds are exhausted, CAP Chair and Hidalgo County Commissioner Darr Shannon said, “That’s a good question! This water may be expensive, but we just cannot let it flow out of New Mexico. Members of the CAP all know how to use a shovel.”

Committee members seemed to leave frustrated with those answers. It is unclear how these frustrations will be played out in the 2016 Legislative Session.

Buying firewood?  Don’t get burned

The New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) is reminding New Mexicans that there’s a law governing firewood sales in this state. It exists to ensure that people buying firewood get their money’s worth.

NMDA’s Standards and Consumer Services Division (SCS) regulates New Mexico’s Weights and Measures Law, which covers how firewood and other agricultural commodities must be advertised and sold in order to maintain fairness in the marketplace for both buyer and seller.

“We sometimes see firewood sellers using a variety of terms—face cord, loose cord, Albuquerque cord, truckload, load, rack, pile—but none of these are actual legal units of measurement,” said Ray Johnson, SCS assistant division director. “So when you see firewood labeled in these ways, it’s impossible to know whether you’re getting a fair deal or not… Instead, people should look for firewood sold by the cord or fraction of a cord.”

New Mexico law actually requires that firewood be advertised and sold by volume, either by the cord or fraction of a cord. A cord is legally defined as 128 cubic feet of wood, commonly seen in a tight stack four-feet wide by four-feet high by eight-feet long, with logs stacked parallel to one another. State law allows firewood sellers to sell amounts of wood by weight, but the seller must declare the price-per-cord equivalent. This does not apply to firewood sold in packaged bundles weighing less than one hundred pounds.

There are a few other things to keep in mind when you’re buying firewood in New Mexico:

  • If possible, be on hand when the seller stacks and measures your firewood.
  • For every delivery of firewood, get a receipt or invoice with the name and address of the seller, date of delivery, quantity delivered, identity of the commodity, and the total selling price.
  • If possible, get the seller’s phone number and the license plate of the delivery vehicle.
  • Bundles of kindling wood or similar packages must include what’s called “a statement of net content,” which details the weight or measure of the firewood.
  • The label must also include the name and place of business of the packager or distributor and a word or phrase identifying the product.

If you suspect that a company or individual is selling firewood in a way that violates state law, contact NMDA by visiting or by calling NMDA’s Standards and Consumer Services Division at 575-646-1616.

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