Sandoval Signpost


An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988
  Around Town

Sandoval County offers fourteen early voting locations 

—Sidney Hill, SC Public Information Officer

Polling places across New Mexico are open for early voting, and Sandoval County is no exception.

The county will have fourteen locations open for early voting between now and June 2. The official voting day for this year’s primary elections is June 5.

From May 8 through June 1, county residents wishing to vote early can go the Sandoval County Transit Center, 1500 Idalia Road, Building C, in Bernalillo. This location, just north of main County Administration Building, will be open for voting Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

On May 19, five other early voting places will open in Rio Rancho, Bernalillo, and Corrales. Those locations will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Those same hours will be in effect when early voting opens on the local Pueblos and the Navajo Nation.

A complete list of early voting locations across the county is available on the Bureau of Elections website.

 John Sapien

John Sapien

 Benjamin Rodefer

Benjamin Rodefer

Candidates Rodefer and Sapien vie for new District 9 Senate seat to represent Bernalillo, Corrales, and Placitas

Message from John Sapien

Dear friends and neighbors,

I am honored to be your State Senator. Most people talk about serving the public, however, when you are in Santa Fe and your constituents ask that you represent their concerns, there is no greater calling.

I have had the opportunity to work with New Mexicans from all different walks of life. We have worked together to develop and pass legislation that reformed and improved education for our children. The Early Childhood Education Act (SB 120 – 2011) sought to improve the lives of our greatest asset—our children. I stood against out of state corporations and required them to pay their fair share of taxes in New Mexico (SB 9 Corporate Tax Rates & Combined Reporting - 2012). Moreover, while Sandoval County families are fighting against the economic downturn, I worked to protect not only them but also thousands of New Mexican from predatory banks and foreclosures.

We have much more to accomplish as a community and a state. I will work with you to develop effective public policy that helps small businesses on Main Street who are still struggling in our economic recovery. Together we can take on the anti-education crowd and provide adequate funding for early childhood education, and improve the results of our education system. One family at a time, we can improve the quality of the lives of our citizens in small communities like Placitas, by identifying, through public input, local capital infrastructure projects. We can achieve these things and so much more.

Finally, we live in a country that encourages the free expression of ideas and an open dialogue. As I have walked from house to house, I often hear that people are tired of negative politics. I agree. Let’s work toward a common goal of economic prosperity, quality education, and security from crime. Let’s create a state in which families can grow and children thrive.

If I have earned your respect and vote, I will continue to work to create new jobs, keep spending in check while protecting critical programs, as well as provide our children with an education that allows them to compete in today’s economy. I will be a voice for you. I ask for your vote on June fifth. Thank you for your consideration. With honest leadership and new innovative ideas, we can move New Mexico in a new direction.

Message from Benjamin Rodefer

The citizens of Sandoval County have a real choice this June. There are two candidates for State Senate who are heavily backed by big corporations like Walmart, Chevron, BP, Helena Chemical and Philip Morris. Over and over again John Sapien and David Doyle have voted against US and for big corporations and millionaires, so I guess it is little wonder that they are both heavily backed by big corporate and lobbyist money.

I want to continue my fight to remove the undue influence of big corporate money and lobbyists from our legislature and make our government work for everyday people again.

Some specific examples:

John Sapien voted against allowing legislative hearings to be openly available to all New Mexicans on the internet. The Santa Fe Reporter said “John Sapien established himself as the ‘Prince of Darkness.” I fought hard for an open and transparent government when I served in the NM House, helping make legislative hearings available to all New Mexicans via free online webcasting. It is our government and our taxdollars and we deserve for it to work for us.

During these tough economic times, John Sapien has continually refused to make millionaires and big corporations pay their fair share, preferring instead to place an added burden on our working families, children, seniors and veterans by trying to pass a tax on food. I voted against the food tax (SB10, 2010) because it would have hurt everyday working New Mexicans. I believe regressive taxation like that is the wrong direction for our state. If elected I will continue to fight to revise our tax structure so that  millionaires and big corporations once again pay their fair share.

Both Sapien and Doyle have relatively weak records when it comes to protecting our air and water and preserving our natural spaces. I received a perfect 100 percent on a voting scorecard from Conservation Voters NM while serving in the NM House.  I am endorsed by the Sierra Club.  Sapien supported legislation to encourage new Uranium mining in NM, while I support a strong moratorium while we clean up the hundreds of still unmitigated previous mines.

Sapien supported a $408 million dollar giveaway to bankrupt California developers Suncal. Luckily I was instrumental in stopping that egregious tax dollar giveaway, helping preserve those vital funds to benefit we New Mexicans not bankrupt California developers.

I respectfully ask for your vote.

 Las Conchas burn

Las Conchas fire burn severity map—July 18, 2011

 Penstemons after the fire

Penstemons bloom in the charred earth of last year’s Las Conchas Fire
Photo credit: —Ty Belknap

A year after the Las Conchas Fire

—Ty Belknap

A year ago on June 26, a tree fell on a power line and started a fire near Las Conchas Canyon. I have avoided the Jemez Mountains since then, feeling the remorse one feels when a friend dies with good times still to be had. On the first day, the resulting forest fire burned 43,000 acres—at times burning an acre per second, driven by strong and unpredictable winds. The fire burned over 61,000 acres by the end of the second day, and pushed north into the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area above Los Alamos. The fire also burned south, incinerating most of the Cochiti Canyon watershed as well as nearly destroying Dixon Apple Orchard. Much of the firefighting effort was concentrated on protecting Los Alamos and Los Alamos National Labs while the fire pushed farther north at the expense of land owned and held sacred by Santa Clara Pueblo. In all, the fire burned 163,000 acres, making it the largest fire in New Mexico history. 16,000 acres of Santa Clara Pueblo burned in the fire—45 percent of the watershed.

The fire was not one hundred percent contained until August 3. Then came the floods of August 21 and 22 which damaged the pueblo, Bandelier National Monument, and Dixon Apple Orchard. Efforts are now underway for recovery of the burned areas. This summer, much of the burned area is still at risk for dangerous flash floods. On May 3, Senators Bingaman and Udall requested Santa Clara flood preparation assistance. Their press release read, “Even a small rain event last summer led to intense flooding, the emergency evacuation of personnel in the canyon, the nearly complete destruction of the access road that runs up the canyon, and a Presidential Disaster Declaration. A larger rain event would flood the pueblo itself, putting lives at risk, as well as hundreds of homes and the pueblo’s administration buildings. The Las Conchas Wild Fire stripped the Santa Clara Canyon of vegetation and hard-baked the soil, creating a dangerous funnel that routes surface water down the canyon toward the pueblo.”

Last April, I flew over the burned area with my friend Armand Groffman in his old Cessna. Because I hadn’t been to the area since the fire, I wanted to get past the numbers and get my head around the scope of the damage. From the air it is apparent that Los Alamos was somewhat isolated and protected from the worst of Las Conchas by forest that was burned in the Cerro Grande Fire of 2000 and other major fires over the past thirty years. The most severely burned areas remain blackened where the fire swept into the Santa Clara watershed. Black blends to brown to green, mirroring the burn severity map that appears on our online edition of this Signpost.

Flying over Pajarito Ski Area it is easy to see how the fire came over the ridge from Valles Caldera, burned the forest between two ski runs, and nearly reached the lodge. The Valles Caldera burned along the ridgelines and the edges of meadows. The preserve will be up and running this summer.

The burn areas move in mosaic patterns and strips from where the fire moved east to Cochiti Canyon where the ground is mostly black—total devastation all the way to the mouth of the canyon and Dixon Apple Orchard.

Upper Frijoles Canyon, above Bandolier National Monument, was also among the most severely burned areas. A backburn by firefighters barely saved the historic ruins and buildings. The view from the air is illuminating, but to get a real feel for the ferocity and intensity of the Las Conchas Fire one must get ones feet in the ashes.

On the way home, I visited Bandelier which reopened in September on a limited basis due to the flood risk and unstable burned trees. Sixty percent of Bandelier’s forests burned to some extent. Concrete barriers and sandbags line the creek. Footbridges were removed to keep debris from damming up the flood that nearly took out the visitor center on August 22. Lower intensity ground fires spared most of the trees in the Ponderosa Campground.

Heading toward Jemez Springs on SR 4, the most heavily burned areas of upper Frijole Canyon can be viewed from a pullover at the summit of the pass. The burn crossed the highway in places, into Valles Caldera, and onto the north. The level of severity appears patchy from the fire’s origin at Las Conchas. It is still a nice drive with plenty of forest left to burn, but the Jemez Trail National Scenic Byway has taken a hit.

This May, I attended a workshop of the Española Basin Technical Advisory Group (EBTAG), themed “Española Basin Watersheds: Natural and Anthropogenic Impacts on Surface and Ground Water Resources.” I was the only non-scientist in the room, and topics on Las Conchas Fire related debris flow hazards, sediment transport, prediction of flood events, and radioactive material and PCB pollution were way above my head. I mostly wanted to be included in the following day’s field trip to the most severely burned areas on Forest Road 289 from SR 4 to the mouth of Cochiti Canyon to see “burn severity, current status of erosion, soil stability, and vegetation rehabilitation, as well as areas susceptible to future mass wasting and erosion.”

It is an appalling spectacle—not a pretty sight, but fascinating in a ghoulish sort of way. You might soon be able to see it for yourself, if you like that sort of thing. The USFS ranger who unlocked the gate told me that he expects the burn area to be open to the public this summer.

The tour included four or five stops at overlooks of devastation that get progressively worse. Dead trees can fall over at any time, and we had to watch our step to avoid collapse zones where tree roots had burned below the surface. The most severely burnt areas were devoid of vegetation. Rainfall had washed away the dust leaving lots of obsidian and other hard rock on hydrophobic soil that is vulnerable to further erosion, especially this summer. We saw an archeological site that was revealed on a hillside facing St. Peter’s Dome. Boulders were exposed on the cliffsides and streambeds were scoured of wood by last summers flood events, leaving nothing to slow the next flood. I saw no sign of wildlife other than bones, crows, and a few hawks.

There were lots of wildflowers, though, as well as wild strawberries. Aspens sprouted from the surviving root networks, and scrub oak and juniper were showing signs of life. Grasses cover areas that were not forested before the fire. One optimistic scientist said that the threat to the ecosystem is greatest this summer, that vegetation will return, and that grasses are more efficient than trees anyway.

Ponderosa pine may never return though, and these parts of the Jemez Mountains will never be the same. In my nonscientific opinion, they dried out, caught fire, a big wind came, and a huge chunk of the forest got burnt to hell. It won’t be pretty for a very long time.

Governor Martinez visits Bernalillo HS, etc.

Governor Susana Martinez held a press conference at Bernalillo High School to discuss a $33.8 million grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Education that will help 11,000 New Mexico students succeed in high school and better prepare for entry into college. Over the next seven years, the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEARUP) grant will serve seventh through twelfth graders in 25 middle and high schools located in twelve school districts throughout the state. The funding is specifically targeted to schools in high-poverty areas where students are in particular need of academic resources and financial planning assistance for college.

Martinez joined officials at Sandia National Laboratories to mark the final scheduled shipment of transuranic legacy (TRU) waste off the Sandia Site. The Legacy Waste program at Sandia began preparation for waste disposal in December 2010.  Much of the waste at Sandia was generated as a result of nuclear defense research and weapons manufacturing from programs conducted during the 1970s and 1980s. To date, Sandia has successfully shipped 61 drums of this waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant under the oversight of the New Mexico Environment Department and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Martinez also reported  that after the first quarter of this calendar year, Los Alamos National Laboratory is on schedule in their effort to remove above-ground transuranic waste by June of 2014. This latest effort on the part of LANL is a direct result of the New Mexico Environment Department and Los Alamos National Laboratory entering into a Framework Agreement last fall that calls for all 3,706 cubic meters of above-ground transuranic waste to be completely removed from the facility by June of 2014.

Governor Martinez joined Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry, Housing for Emergency Evacuated and Displaced (HEED) Founder Kristin Derr, and New Mexico State Forester Tony Delfin in Albuquerque to highlight ways government and non-profit organizations are reaching out to assist evacuees and keep New Mexicans informed during wildfire season. The Governor will be unveiling a new statewide fire e-mail notification system that New Mexicans can sign up for online in order to receive notices about fire activity in their area. Governor Martinez will also recognize the work done by HEED, a first-of-its-kind organization that got its start by helping displaced New Mexicans during last year’s record-setting fire season. HEED was created to offer temporary housing resources to individuals who are forced out of their homes during times of emergency. The Governor will encourage interested New Mexico families to sign up to serve as host homes.
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