An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


USFS proposes areas for motorized travel in the Cibola National Forest

—SIGNPOST STAFF

During the past year, the United States Forest Service (USFS) has considered designating the La Madera area east of SR 165 through Las Huertas Canyon as a playground for motorized off-road traffic. The USFS had been conducting Travel Management workshops, as mandated for all national forests. Proposed off-highway vehicle (OHV) routes had been drawn through the La Madera and Cedro Peak areas of the Cibola National Forest. [See complete story in the June 2007 Signpost back issue at www.sandovalsignpost.com/html/back_issues.html.]

Las Placitas Association wrote, “We strongly oppose the designation of the La Madera Area for ORV use. Our areas of concern include: pipeline easement access, increased potential for forest fires, lack of USFS oversight capabilities, environmental degradation, negative impact on wildlife, and risk for cultural resource destruction.”

Since the La Madera area has been little-used by OHVs, few people realized that it was already open to motorized travel, as was Cedro Peak and any other part of the national forest that is not designated otherwise.

On June 19, USFS released its final scoping report on findings based on the Travel Management Workshops. The section related to the La Madera area stated:

Sandia Mountains (North of I-40) - Map ED-1 The Sandia Mountains have been primarily managed for non-motorized and developed recreation. Along the Crest Highway NM 53, there are picnic grounds, winter sports sites, the Sandia Crest overlook, and numerous trail heads. The majority of trails access the Sandia Mountain Wilderness. While off-road vehicle use was permissible under the Forest Plan east of the Wilderness boundary, the steep and rocky slopes and dense conifer forests limited off-road travel. There are very few user-created trails that have been used by motor vehicles (in comparison to the Cedro area.) Travel off-road was not permitted to the west and south between the Wilderness boundary and the Forest boundary under the Forest Plan decision. Albuquerque, Placitas, and the East Mountain communities border the National Forest and provide easy access to the Sandia Ranger District.

The area north of the La Madera road between the Forest Boundary and east of Las Huertas Road (NM 165) has received some motorized use predominately from the neighboring subdivisions’ residents. The area is also used for equestrian, mountain biking, and hiking. The primary access to this area is a single-use road that is under special-use permit, not open to public use. The road is signed as a service road, but not gated. This route is the service road for a crude oil pipeline.

The La Madera area is one of the last areas of the lower elevation portions of the Ranger District relatively free from development on adjacent private lands. This area provides a viable corridor for wildlife movement from the Sandia Mountains to other mountain ranges like the Ortiz and San Pedro Mountains (correspondence received May 31, 2007 from New Mexico Department of Game and Fish). Because this area is relatively lower in elevation, it is less rugged and free from snow as compared to the higher elevation lands, making it readily available for wildlife movement between mountain ranges. As private lands surrounding La Madera become subject to greater development pressure, this wildlife movement corridor becomes even more important.

The Sandia Mountains are culturally significant to all the tribes consulted in this project, as these mountains have been and continue to be used by Native American tribes for a variety of traditional cultural and religious activities. Participants in the public involvement process to date have indicated that the Sandia Mountains are highly valued for non-motorized trail use. There has been concern about OHV use reducing the quality of their experience while using these trails.

[From Table 2 Summary of the Existing and Desired Conditions and the Need for Action addressed by the proposed action.] Current conditions: Roads and a trail are open in the La Madera area (63C, 62B, 0562), but the only access to these roads is by using a pipeline service road that is not open to public use. Desired: Only roads open to public use are designated as part of the motor vehicle use system. Action required: Address the issue of open roads without a permitted access from a public road.

The La Madera area is full of old mining roads that were never officially closed by the USFS, but the only access from public roads is via the pipeline road. If the above proposal is accepted, the USFS will officially close the mining roads to motorized vehicles and install a barrier or gate to the pipeline road.

The scoping report deems the Cedro area appropriate for OHV use. Again from Table 2:

Existing Condition: The motorized trails and roads maintained for high clearance vehicles in the Cedro area are popular for a variety of motorized and non-motorized recreation uses. There are conflicts between single-track and ATV uses. Desired Condition: A designated system that preserves single-track trails while providing for ATV and full-size OHV opportunities. Need for Action: Identify a system that provides for this range of uses while reducing user conflict.

District Ranger Sid Morgan told the Signpost that this proposal is nowhere near a final decision. USFS will accept public comment for the Environmental Assessment through July 19. Morgan stressed the importance of comments both for and against the proposal when the final decision is made. Comments are also being sought at two public meetings in July. A July 10 meeting will be held at the San Miguel Room of the Albuquerque Convention Center from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. A July 11 meeting will be at Roosevelt Middle School in Tijeras from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.

USFS will complete analysis, prepare environmental documentation through the summer, again present environmental documents for a thirty-day public comment period, and make a decision in the fall. That decision is subject to a forty-five-day appeal period and the USFS had forty-five days to respond to an appeal. The Motorized Visitor Road Map could be published sometime in 2008.

For further information or to make comments, contact Nancy Brunswick, Travel Management Team Leader, Cibola National Forest at cibolatravel@fs.fed.us or call 346-3900. The final scoping report can be found online at www.fs.fed.us.

sunset over Cabezon

Summer rain and tornado stirrings make a dramatic sunset over Cabezon.

Eastern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority holds public meetings

—TY BELKNAP

The Eastern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority (ESCAFCA) held public meetings during June in Bernalillo, Algodones, and Placitas. The newly formed board of directors sought information from the public regarding flooding, poor drainage, soil erosion, and soil movement in three communities.

Governor Bill Richardson announced the appointment of five directors to ESCAFCA. This board was created by HB 939, the Eastern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority Act, which was signed during the 2007 legislative session. The five appointees are Debbie Kilfoy and William Sapien of Bernalillo, Wayne Sandoval and Dan Dennison of Placitas, and Salvador Reyes of Algodones. Board membership is based on population.

The directors will serve until their successors have been elected in November 2008. HB 939 is permissive legislation only, meaning that residents will have a chance to vote on the flood control plan that is developed and the continued existence of ESCAFCA.

The few residents attending the Bernalillo meeting offered a wealth of information about flooding problems throughout the town. HDR, an Albuquerque engineering firm, was hired to run the meetings and compile information to be used by ESCAFCA in a flood control plan. Red dots were affixed to places on maps where flooding problems were identified. Ted Montoya, who has documented floods over the past thirty years, was responsible for the placement of a lot of red dots.

Montoya said that Bernalillo has always had problems with flooding, but that roadwork and development had made the problems worse. He said that floodwaters used to drain through irrigation ditches that have been eliminated by residential areas that are more vulnerable to flooding. Floodwaters used to be channeled along the railroad tracks to marshy areas south of town, and under Camino del Pueblo in two places, and on down to the river. He said that channels under Camino del Pueblo were covered over when the road was widened to four lanes. “Now the town fills up like a bathtub and there aren’t any drains,” he said.

Montoya also said that commercial developments east of Hill Road have built over the arroyos that historically channeled flooding from Sandia Mountain and redirected floodwaters into residential neighborhoods where the irrigation ditches overflow. He said that water has sometimes been several feet deep over Hill Road and regularly flows down Avenida Bernalillo during storms. Gravel mines east of I-25 have dammed arroyos with loose fill and threaten catastrophic flooding.

Mayor Patricia Chávez told the Signpost that the town welcomes ESCAFCA. “We can’t fix these problems by ourselves,” she explained. “We need the cooperation of several jurisdictions and levels of government.” Chavez also said that the town lacks the funding for flood control projects that ESCAFCA would provide. “We’re excited that this legislation has passed. Now we can start gathering data and making a plan that can be presented to the voters in November,” she said.

The meeting at Algodones was also sparsely attended. Residents swapped flood stories and talked about how things had changed over the years. They were not opposed to ESCAFCA.

County public information officer Gayland Bryant lobbied for the ESCAFCA legislation, saying, “The goal is to facilitate development of flood control measures as quickly and cost-effectively as possible, to prevent a recurrence of what the entire area experienced last summer, as well as in seasons past, when rain washed away roadways and other public and private property in the upper Placitas regions, before continuing downstream [and] causing equally extensive damage in the lower areas of Placitas, and then further downstream, in the Bernalillo and Algodones valley, communities were unable to reach residents who needed medical and emergency assistance.”

Bryant said that the cost to residents could be as low as a half mil levy or $15 per $100,000 appraised value of properties. He said that land would only be condemned for flood control and road projects—not for new development.

Placitas residents, who are traditionally more libertarian about government control, were not so enthusiastic about ESCAFCA. Residents at the Placitas meeting said that they could handle their own flooding problems and did not want to be taxed for problems that exist elsewhere. Nobody placed any red dots on the village map, even though floodwater flowed down the mountain in torrents last summer.

The only places identified as flooding problems were several places along Las Huertas creek where roads were damaged and the crossing washed out four times during last summer’s monsoon season. Of particular concern was the issue of petroleum pipelines exposed in the creek bed. Bill Patterson blamed the problem on poor planning by county officials and shoddy construction of the Las Huertas creek crossing.

Carol Parker of the Las Placitas Association said, “We asked them to do something about Camino de Las Huertas and Las Huertas Creek before it blew up one of the pipelines that were becoming more exposed with each passing flood [below the crossing]. While the road washouts were inconvenient and the flooding was scary, those pipelines were terrifying. It turns out that counties don’t have authority under state law to do flood control. Of course, the county most assuredly has authority about planning and zoning and has not enforced its own ordinances about retaining storm water. I’m glad we will get an opportunity to have a comprehensive discussion about possible solutions and vote on whether we want to take that on.”

Director of County Development Mike Springfield told the Signpost that ESCAFCA would improve the planning process. Currently, proposed subdivisions must submit drainage plans that are confined to the subdivision itself. ESCAFCA, he said, would map the entire watershed and would incorporate new development into a flood control plan that would include the area as a whole.

Placitas pipelines in Las Huertas Creek

Photo caption:(Left) Placitas pipelines in Las Huertas Creek were covered with concrete mats to minimize exposure to flooding.

Placitas pipelines covered with concrete mats

Pipeline companies are taking steps to minimize exposure to the pipelines in Las Huertas Creek downstream from the crossing on Camino de las Huertas in Placitas. During last summer’s monsoons, the pipelines were exposed in several places during the flooding, making them vulnerable to rupture, spills, and explosions.

Submar, Inc. was contracted to install concrete mats to stabilize the creek bed and protect the pipelines.

Submar, Inc. introduced concrete mat technology to the Gulf of Mexico in 1990. Before that time, pipeline operators in the Gulf used traditional sand/cement bags for pipeline crossings. The mats are constructed of concrete blocks that are 8’ x 20’ x 9” and weigh approximately 10,500 pounds. These mats are durable, and can withstand sunlight, extreme temperatures, saltwater, and have indefinite life underwater. The mats, being flexible on two planes, will basically conform to any structure or terrain. They are used primarily offshore for separation, stabilization, and protection of pipelines. They are used onshore for pipeline protection, erosion control, and shoreline stabilization.

planning workshop

In addition to the presentations to the general public, the four-day station area planning design workshop held in early June included a stakeholder meeting exploring pedestrian, bicycle, and automobile connections to and from Bernalillo’s two commuter rail stations.

Bernalillo plans “Transit-oriented Development”

—SIGNPOST STAFF

With two stations in town, Bernalillo is doubly-positioned to seize the opportunities of regional commuter rail and ensure that it enhances a community known for its history, culture, and civic pride. The stage for the future has been set by town leadership, who implemented a moratorium on new development around each station earlier this year. This moratorium allows elected officials, staff, and the broader community to pause and consider what types of development will best utilize the opportunities the Rail Runner brings to Bernalillo.

Through funding from the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG), an intensive community planning process is underway to facilitate community input and eventually produce two Station Area Plans for the town. Public workshops took place the week of June 4 at Our Lady of Sorrows Church Social Center.

Tony Sylvester, Special Projects Planner for MRCOG said, “In addition to the presentations to the general public, the four-day station area planning design workshop included a stakeholder meeting exploring pedestrian, bicycle, and automobile connections to and from Bernalillo’s two commuter rail stations. The goal of this meeting was to identify how people can easily get to the Rail Runner station from their homes and to destinations such as schools, the businesses along Camino del Pueblo, and El Zócalo. Additional stakeholder meetings were held regarding housing, historic preservation, the business community, and youth. The town and MRCOG are currently compiling the materials and comments generated during the workshop.”

Fourth of July events

The Town of Bernalillo will present its Fireworks Showcase at the Bernalillo High School football field at dusk on June 29. For information, call the town office at 867-3311.

As usual, the Placitas Fourth of July Parade will start at 11:00 a.m. Participants meet in front of Placitas Heights at 10:00 a.m. Decorate your bike, float, dog, boat, car, or trailer. Some years have more participants than spectators. There are no costs to participate or watch and no registration is necessary.

The parade winds east on Highway 165 and through the Village of Placitas. Bring chairs and coolers. Meet your neighbors.

Remember, for personal use, per town ordinance, only certain types of fireworks are considered “legal.” “Legal” fireworks are no louder than a cap pistol and do not go higher than six feet into the air. Bottle rockets, roman candles, cherry bombs, palomitas, fire crackers, mortar shells and the like are all illegal. Anyone caught using them is subject to a fine and up to ninety days in jail.

Rio Rancho mayor Kevin Jackson

Rio Rancho mayor Kevin Jackson

Bad month for Mayor Jackson

Kevin Jackson founded New Mexico Family Council—Best Choice, a Christian nonprofit group that promotes, among other things, abstinence-only sex education. As a member of the school board, his wife Kathy introduced creationism into Rio Rancho schools. Last November, the Republican ideologue was elected mayor of Rio Rancho.

Controversy soon developed at City Hall when Jackson expressed doubts about city manager Jim Palenick’s vision for the city—particularly about the size and importance of a deal he worked out with Las Vegas-based LWP, Inc., to develop eighty acres of the new downtown. Jackson asked for his resignation, and the city council voted subsequently to fire Palenick.

Former mayor Jim Owen said at the time that things in city government were not as they seem. On the subject of Mayor Jackson, he was quoted in the Albuquerque Journal, “Every time Jackson’s lips move, he lies. He does not know how not to lie.” For the first four months of 2007, the popular new mayor appeared to be guiding Rio Rancho toward its grand vision. Then scandal rocked city hall. In May, the New Mexico Family Council— Best Choice fired Rio Rancho Mayor Kevin Jackson, alleging mismanagement of federal grant funds and that he gave himself an unauthorized $23,000 raise.

Sean Olson of the Albuquerque Journal has reported on the tacky saga that has been revealed on a nearly daily basis during the month of June.

• June 2: The New Mexico Family Council—Best Choice Rio Rancho questioned Jackson’s travel expenses and asked police to look into possible check fraud. They claimed Jackson cashed an $800 check that he had told the council staff more than six months earlier was destroyed. This, after a replacement check had been issued and cashed.

City of Rio Rancho records showed that Jackson used a city-issued credit card to pay for at least two trips that Family Council officials said he was later reimbursed for by the nonprofit.

Rio Rancho city staff were conducting an audit into expenses Jackson incurred on the city-issued credit card—he had racked up nearly $8,000 in purchases for concert tickets, suite rentals, and food at the Santa Ana Star Center.

The card was canceled by city staff on May 17.

• June 5: Jackson and his wife obtained a temporary restraining order Monday against the interim executive director of Best Choice Tony Oliva, alleging that Oliva and his wife, Leonie, left them a threatening phone message in April and talked with others about taking away two of their children. The Olivas, friends of Jackson for forty years, recently lived with the Jacksons while the Oliva house was being built. Oliva was Jackson’s campaign manager in 2006.

Oliva told the Journal that the allegations were “preposterous” and that Jackson only filed for the restraining order now to distract people from allegations against himself. “The guy is throwing up a smoke screen,” Oliva said.

•June 6: Rio Rancho Police and State Police launched an investigation into allegations that Jackson committed check fraud and misused a city credit card. Former Rio Rancho Mayor Jim Owen told the Journal that Jackson should do the “honorable” thing and step down in light of the allegations.

• June 9: Jackson finally defended himself against the allegations of abuse of his city credit card. In an open letter to local media he made it perfectly clear that city policies are vague concerning the expenses he incurred while promoting the Santa Ana Star Center, and the “wonderful opportunity for us to showcase this to others and utilize it to garner support for our vision and improve relationships with key stakeholders . . . exposing others to this new jewel in Rio Rancho.” Furthermore, “I believe that the buck needs to stop on these types of issues with me and the City Manager and I am confident that we will properly address this area in a professional manner without nasty politics and personal agendas.”

He said he would reimburse the city for any inappropriate charges, but made no mention of his other legal problems.

• June 12: Tony Oliva filed a counter petition to the temporary restraining order Jackson obtained against Oliva in state district court, alleging perjury and slander. The petition states that Jackson’s allegations are not only false, but designed to “destroy his and his wife’s reputations and distract people from allegations against the mayor.”

•June 14: The Rio Rancho City Council unanimously approved a resolution containing a vote of “no confidence” in Jackson. The resolution also censured him and suspended about thirty percent of the mayoral budget. Jackson had not been seen at city hall for two weeks and did not attend the meeting. He is “lawyered-up” and will not speak in public.

Councilor Marilyn Salzman told the Journal that Jackson’s silence on the allegations was casting the entire city in a bad light. “Where are we on the credibility scale? Now our credibility seems to be, in a poof, gone.”

• June 16: Local charities reported that Jackson had yet to pay them money promised from the annual Mayor’s Ball charity held in November. Storehouse West executive director Carol Nesbitt was quoted in the article, “No one knows where the money is; no one knows if they’ll even get their money.”

Councilor Salzman said that six charities had called her “within the past two weeks to report they had either not received any money or received significantly less than promised by the mayor.” Debbi Moore, president and chief executive officer of the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce, reportedly said that the event raised about $125,000.

Jackson again wrote to the media to say that twenty charities had received money, and that he and his wife were working with the chamber to pay the other charities.

• June 20: State district court issued a gag order requiring Jackson and Oliva to have no contact, remain one hundred yards from each other’s families, and refrain from speaking about one another publicly.

At press time, Mayor Jackson had not returned calls to the Signpost. He has not yet resigned. His silence continues to shatter our confidence in good ideological government.

Deer Mouse

Deer mice, a common carrier of plague

Plague kills three-year-old boy

—MARLYS KEENAN

A three-year-old East Mountain boy and a fifty-year-old Santa Fe woman have become the third and fourth confirmed cases of plague in New Mexico.

The Santa Fe woman contracted septicemic plague, a more deadly though less contagious form of the disease, made a good recovery and has been released from the hospital, said Chris Minnick, a spokesman for the state Department of Health.

The three-year-old East Mountain boy died May 28 of bubonic plague.

A fifty-eight-year-old Tajique woman who had also contracted the plague remains in critical condition at University of New Mexico Hospital, Minnick said.

Health officials met Monday night with area residents at Los Vecinos Community Center to discuss transmission of plague and the West Nile virus.

The state’s epidemiologist, C. Mack Sewell, emphasized plague is a “very treatable disease if diagnosed early.” Symptoms begin two to seven days after exposure.

Those stricken with plague sicken quickly with a rapid downhill course. Left untreated, some can survive, Sewell added, but most tend to get worse. The disease is treated by high-powered antibiotics—the reason we no longer see the “black plague” of medieval times.

Symptoms of plague are sudden onset of high fever, muscle aches, headache, chills, and extreme weakness. Nausea and vomiting can also occur, mimicking other common illnesses which can prevent the disease from being caught in time.

If appropriate treatment is delayed, it can be fatal. There have been thirty-two fatalities among the two-hundred-fifty cases reported in New Mexico.

According to other health officials, the three-year-old Sedillo Hill resident was “misdiagnosed” at an urgent care center and sent home. He then stopped breathing and could not be revived.

Eight others sharing the home had no symptoms and were evaluated at UNMH and then released. The department said their residence had a large quantity of feces and rodents.

“With the warmer weather there will likely be an increase in plague activity in wild rodents,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, public health veterinarian at the Department of Health.

“No one should be complacent and assume that if a plague case occurs several miles from their home there is no risk for them at their home. People should take necessary precautions to prevent their exposure to rodents as part of their regular routine.”

The plague is carried by fleas on mammals which then “jump ship” to human beings or the pets they live with. It is endemic in New Mexico. According to fact sheets available from most health and animal control departments, there were one-hundred-thirty-five cases reported from 1983 to 2006. Of the eight cases in New Mexico last year, two were fatal.

Plague is most often transmitted by being bitten by a rodent flea that is infected with the bacteria. A dog or cat may become infected by crossing the path of an infected animal or eating a “plague rodent.” The pet then transmits the disease to humans when it comes into the house.

Another less common way to contract the disease is by handling infected animals such as a hunter catching a rabbit, coyote, or bobcat, and then skinning the animal without using gloves.

To prevent cases of plague, the Department of Health recommends the following:

• Avoid sick or dead rodents.

• Teach children not to play near rodent nests or burrows.

• Treat pets regularly with an effective flea control product.

• Clean up areas near the house where rodents could live.

• Keep pets from roaming and hunting.

• Sick pets should be examined promptly by a veterinarian.

“Pneumonic plague is the bubonic plague that has entered the lungs,” said Sewell. The bacteria produce toxins that make you especially ill, usually in just a few days.

Bubonic plague has a longer course, Sewell said, but still usually just a few days. A blood culture or needle aspiration of a bubo [a swollen, inflamed lymph node in the armpit or groin] must be done to accurately diagnose the disease. The septicemic form is when the bacteria have entered the blood stream.

East Mountain veterinarian True Ballas identified what to look for in pets. “A person could be cat-scratched and get plague before the cat actually gets sick. Bubonic plague in cats “occurs most from eating infected animals or being bitten by fleas. An animal may show symptoms within twenty-four hours of exposure.

“The plague is very strong in our state. And there are no signs we’re going to wipe it out,” Ballas continued. “The most effective means of preventing it is to spray or dust your yard or home with bug killer and to get flea treatment for pets immediately.”

Ballas also suggested that pets be neutered so they are less likely to roam. “Rodent poisons are never a good idea. You’re not just poisoning rodents. You’re also poisoning pets and wildlife.”

Prevention should include keeping no garbage or wood piles near the home and establishing good barriers against rodents. “Precautions are good but they still can’t completely protect you,” Ballas cautioned.

“The whole East Mountain area is active for plague,” said Sewell. It’s all over the state and rural areas are at increased risk.” It is a “public health emergency” if someone contracts the airborne pneumonia. Sewell said that a local vet contracted plague after a cat with pneumonic plague coughed on him.

Reprinted with permission from The Independent [June 13, 2007], a newspaper serving the East Mountain area of Albuquerque.

 

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