The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989

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Last minutes of high school
Floatin’ down the Rio Grande, at last
Last minutes of high school
Floatin’ down the Rio Grande, at last


Paddling the ‘real’ world

—EVAN BELKNAP
Out of high school, time to have fun, if only I could get through traffic.

It’s eleven twenty two and I’m seven minutes late—freak traffic jam near Jefferson. “Almost there,” I lie to myself and stare straight ahead. A few cars lurch forward and my spirit leaps. I signal right, look twice, here’s my opening, go! And just then, an old woman in a grey Ford Explorer blares her horn at me from behind and jumps into the space. She is smoking with one hand and talking on the phone with the other as I squint and glare at her through the glass— she doesn’t notice. Curse you, civilization! Why does it have to be so difficult to have fun? Slow and steady, almost there.

Avenida Cesar Chavez and I can see the river, hear the river, and smell the river below me. I’m surprised, as usual, to find that we still have water flowing though our desert, especially considering the ever-growing flock of people seeking bluer skies and dryer air in Rio Rancho’s lovely wide-open meadows and such. The sun, sky, and expanse of Russian olive trees reflect up to me from the muddy water and I know I’m close. ‘Just get to the end of the bridge.’

I fall out of my car at a little dirt parking lot near the bosque, kissing the soil below me and motioning my friends towards the trunk of my car. We gather around and I pull the keys from my pocket, opening the hatch to two banana boats, a pack-cat, a small canoe, and a few pool floats. Glorious. There’s a stale river and pack-rat smell to all of them from sitting in our garage at home—as long as they float, I suppose. Shuttle the cars from Bridge to Rio Bravo, pump up the boats, carry boats to the river, backpacks, sunscreen, water, yadda-yadda, and so on.

I wait under the bridge by the river for the shuttle to come back as angry cars thunder above. I’m thinking that there are too many complications in the society we live in. We are forced to do work we hate, we buy things we don’t need, we worry and stress about issues that shouldn’t affect the way we see things or act, and in the frenzy of it all, we lose the ability to focus on things that actually make us happy.

The shuttle car gets back and we can escape. Our feet touch the water and we are free. ‘That wasn’t too hard.’ My friends Taylor, Kevin, Sarah, Will, and Alex are already reclined on their boats, asleep and basking away in the sun, it doesn’t take me long to catch up. The bridge shrinks and shrinks and eventually disappears, taking with it the sound of rushing and honking, frantic cars. Ah, happiness is the sound of silence: splashing fish, sand waves, strainers, and light wind. I open a soda and wave at two men fishing on the shore. One yells, “I wish I was out there.” I call back, “Get a tube and hop in.”

As I venture to college and join the infamous ‘real world,’ it’s nice to know that I’ll be able to find solitude and fun wherever I go.

Pilot Water Leasing Program to Be First of Kind on Rio Grande

The City of Albuquerque and the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, in conjunction with six conservation groups, have established a first-of-its-kind fund that will allow water to be leased from farmers and kept in the Rio Grande rather than being diverted to farm fields.

The $250,000 Living River Fund will be used exclusively to establish a pilot agricultural water-leasing program, the first of its kind on the Rio Grande, in an effort to provide sustained flows for the Rio Grande and the endangered species that depend on it. Fund organizers have notified the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (which oversees water management on the Rio Grande from Cochiti Reservoir to Elephant Butte) of the existence of the fund and the program’s desire to help identify farmers to voluntarily participate in the water-leasing initiative.

“This is a long overdue and creative solution that will help restore the Rio Grande,” said John Horning, Executive Director of Forest Guardians, one of the conservation groups that helped create the fund. “The Rio Grande is the lifeblood of our state and its ecological health is vital to the health of our region.”

The Water Authority contributed $225,000 to the fund as part of a February 2005 agreement with conservation groups. The agreement settled a portion of an ongoing lawsuit between cities, farmers and conservation groups over river and endangered species needs in the Rio Grande.

“This new consensus shows that we can and must protect the Rio Grande and solve New Mexico’s water problems,” said Mayor Martin Chavez. “Leasing water from willing farmers to provide flows for the Rio Grande is a win-win solution.”

Agricultural water leasing is commonly used to meet environmental flow requirements on many western rivers and while it has been considered on the Rio Grande it has never before been implemented. Three different studies, the first funded by the U.S Bureau of Reclamation in 1996 and the most recent authorized by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District in 2006, have shown that leasing water is hydrologically and administratively feasible.

“Today we are one step closer toward more flexible river management, by partnering with water users in the middle valley who can be part of this common sense solution,” said Kara Gillon of Defenders of Wildlife, another signatory to the agreement.

Martin Heinrich, Water Authority Chair, expressed hope that the new fund would attract support from other sources.

“This is a unique and historic partnership among the City of Albuquerque, the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, and six regional, local and national conservation groups,” Heinrich said. “We’d love to see it grow to include both the State of New Mexico and the federal government. Their support would be an enormous boost for what promises to be a successful and innovative program.”

The ongoing lawsuit, Rio Grande Silvery Minnow vs. Martinez, was originally filed in November 1999 and resulted in a series of legal rulings that asserted federal agencies must comply with the Endangered Species Act in their operation of federal water projects. These controversial rulings created a political firestorm that resulted in the February 2005 agreement the City of Albuquerque and the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority entered into with the conservation groups that originally filed the lawsuit.

Other conservation groups that are signatories to the agreement include National Audubon Society, New Mexico Audubon Council, The Sierra Club, and The Southwest Environmental Center.


New Mexico Boating Safety Law now requires boaters to take a class

Storrie Lake State Park in Las Vegas, New Mexico, has released its schedule of free boating safety classes for 2007 for New Mexico boaters eighteen years and under who have not yet met the statewide requirements set forth under the New Mexico Boating Safety Law. The classes are also open to those who would like a refresher course.

As of January 1, 2007, the Boating Safety Law went into effect, requiring:

1. Anyone born on or after January 1, 1989 (anyone eighteen years old or under, as of January 1, 2007) who operates a motorboat or personal watercraft on state waters to have completed a safe boating education course, approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), and certified by New Mexico State Parks.

2. Children twelve years old or under to wear a personal flotation device approved by the United States Coast Guard while on the deck of a moving vessel.

All boating safety classes will be held at the visitor center, located at the entrance to Storrie Lake State Park, three miles north of Las Vegas, NM, via NM 518. A schedule of classes is as follows:

  • Saturday, March 31, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 28, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Saturday, May 12, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

NASBLA has approved the eight-hour boating safety course. Classes are limited, so students are highly encouraged to reserve a spot in advance.

Upon successful completion of the free New Mexico Boating Basics course, participants will receive certification from NASBLA, and two free nights of camping at any New Mexico State Park. In addition, many insurance companies offer significant discounts on boat insurance, with proper certification.

Classes are constantly being updated and the schedule is available online at New Mexico State Parks’ website. For a complete list of ongoing class schedules and boating safety information, log on to www.nmparks.com and click on “boating,” or call (888) NMPARKS.
For more information or to reserve a spot, contact Dan Rand at (505) 425-7278.

 

 

 

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