Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988

PNM lauds casino energy savings

—Bill Diven

Upgraded lighting and high-tech controls have won Santa Ana Star Casino a PNM Energy Efficiency Star award. The recognition credits the casino with installing energy-efficient LED lighting in the main casino and then adding sophisticated dimming controls that save more energy. That added the title Most Innovative Project to the award.

PNM reported the changes save enough energy annually to power 35 average homes.

“Given the annual savings associated with the implementation of this project, our savings will exceed the project’s cost in approximately two years,” casino facilities director Greg Hawrylyshyn told the Signpost. “This return on investment is expected to be significant.”

The casino declined to disclose the cost of the project.

A local contractor performed the work, and the casino is now about to launch a retrofit of exterior lighting also with high-tech controls. Beyond energy savings, the main goal is to improve safety for patrons by improving lighting, particularly in the parking garage, Hawrylyshyn said.

The casino is currently retrofitting slot machines with LED lighting, which provides additional savings by reducing operating temperatures and the cooling needs of the casino.

PNM also gave its Largest Energy Savings award to Isleta Resort and Casino whose retrofits are saving about 425,000 kilowatt-hours a year, enough to power the homes of 59 average PNM customers.

AG King: Feds trying to siphon New Mexico groundwater for Texas

—Attorney General Gary K. King

On March 11, Attorney General Gary King filed a response to the United States’ Motion to intervene in the U.S. Supreme Court case Texas filed against New Mexico and Colorado, saying the federal government is in league with Texas to pirate our state’s most precious resource.

Texas claims it has not received all of the Rio Grande Compact water it is entitled to because New Mexico has allowed its water users to deplete the river and hydrologically connected groundwater. Texas alleges that New Mexico farmers in the lower Rio Grande, who are pumping groundwater, are taking water away from the Rio Grande and, thus, Texas’s portion of the Rio Grande Project. The United States has agreed and has asked the court to force New Mexico to shut down some ground- and surface-water uses, leaving only those water uses authorized by contracts for Project water. New Mexico opposes both these claims.

“The United States’ recent filing is an attempt to grab our groundwater,” says Attorney General King. “Last year a New Mexico court ruled against the federal government and determined that New Mexico groundwater belongs to New Mexico. Now the Federal government is hoping to maneuver around that New Mexico ruling by taking Texas’s side at the high court, but I will do everything within my power to protect ground and surface water for New Mexicans.”

EPA awards dollars to communities to reduce water pollution, build resilience to climate change

—Jennah Durant

On May 1, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the Pueblo de Cochiti is one of 14 communities nationwide receiving part of $860,000 dollars to expand the use of green infrastructure to reduce water pollution and boost resilience to the impacts of climate change. The funding is in support of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which directs federal agencies to identify climate-resilient investments such as agency grants and technical assistance for communities across the country.

“Investing in green infrastructure pays off for our environment and our economy. It reduces water pollution and energy consumption. It creates jobs and boosts local economic activity,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “And these investments help local communities build resilient systems to protect from severe storms, floods, and other impacts of climate change.”

EPA’s assistance to Pueblo de Cochiti will help prepare a “green” stormwater infrastructure plan for the community. The plan will integrate green infrastructure into land-use planning, stormwater management, infrastructure improvements, transportation planning, and open space for community members. This work is especially important for the Pueblo, as the community has experienced severe flooding in the last three years due to increased stormwater runoff in areas upstream of their land.

In the last three years, EPA has provided $2.2 million dollars to 37 communities for green infrastructure. This new funding continues the agency’s support for communities using green infrastructure to reduce water pollution and protect human health while increasing economic activity and neighborhood revitalization, job creation, energy savings, and open space. Green infrastructure builds resilience to the impacts of climate change, particularly by reducing the burden on local water infrastructure.

Senator held roundtable to evaluate state of water supply in Central NM

—Augusta Meyers

In January of 2014, a roundtable discussion among representatives from all of the key governmental jurisdictions and agencies within the Middle Rio Grande valley, including some from acequias, Indian pueblos, and others, produced a five-point plan aimed specifically at water conservation and management for the middle valley. The discussion emerged as a result of Senate Memorial 8, sponsored by State Senator Michael Padilla and passed by the New Mexico State Senate during the 2013 Session of the State Legislature.

“New Mexico is in a severe surface water drought, and Senate Memorial 8 will result in actionable water conservation and management solutions,” said Senator Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, the legislation’s sponsor. Senator Padilla represents district 14, which encompasses large rural portions of the Middle Rio Grande Valley.

The role of the workshop at the Mid-Region Council of Governments in Albuquerque was to acknowledge the accomplishments of the past ten-years and to further evaluate the current state of the Middle Rio Grande water supply and develop options to maximize it. Senator Padilla had asked participants to identify the top five areas for the legislature to consider as priorities.

They came up with the following: support efficiency improvements, identify and develop new sources of water, improve watershed health, support regional and state water planning and implementation, and provide water conservation education.

“Water is a key ingredient in growing the economy of the Middle Rio Grande Valley and should be perceived as a top priority by our entire community” said Senator Michael Padilla.

As a result of the discussions, a 29-page report was prepared by the Mid-Region Council of Governments in cooperation with the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District and the NM State Office of the Engineer Interstate Stream Commission. Senator Padilla is now working with the State’s Legislative Council to draw up legislation, which he plans to introduce at the next regular session of the NM Legislature in January 2015.

Insurance company provides free wildfire defense service

Wildfire risk is galvanizing the insurance industry. Firewise Placitas, the group, whose purpose is to raise awareness and encourage actions that reduce the risk from wildfire to lives and homes, recognizes that homeowners in Placitas are experiencing the effects of new homeowner’s insurance industry fire safety programs. Homeowner’s insurance brings peace of mind and so do actions that improve the chances that homes will not succumb to wildfire.

The interest of the insurance industry is to manage risk, both their own financial risk and the actual risk to the homes and property of those they insure. A Placitas homeowner recently enrolled in a new program offered by his homeowner’s insurance, which offers free wildfire loss prevention after an area is evacuated due to wildfire.

If a wildfire gets close to the insured’s home, certified wildland firefighters will attempt to go into evacuation zones. While monitoring the homes of the insurer’s members, they may try to close windows and garage doors, move wood piles and debris away from the home, clear gutters and roof debris, monitor hot spots to prevent flare ups, and contact the homeowner and advise him of wildfire location and proximity to the home.

This free service is provided by a Montana–based company, Wildfire Defense Systems (WDS).

With insurance engine responses to more than 150 wildfires according to its website, WDS considers itself the leading provider in the nation for insurer wildfire response services, using qualified wildland engines and firefighting crews. Founded in 2001 for U.S. Forest Service’s initial attack, suppression, and mop-up services, the company added professional services support in 2005, and in 2008 initiated its insurer services programs for comprehensive wildfire loss prevention.

WDS covers a 14-state service region: AZ, CA, CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, ND, OR, SD, TX, UT, WA, and WY. Homeowners with insured homes, including rental property, in any of these states, can enroll. Condos, townhomes, cooperatives, apartments and mobile homes are not eligible.

Some ways to reduce the risk of wildfire property damage before a wildfire occurs include pruning and thinning trees, removing dead wood, and mowing tall grasses. In partnership with Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District’s sponsorship and assistance, Firewise Placitas will hold a wood chipper day at the Placitas Community Library (435 Highway 165), on June 21, from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Check posters at the Merc, the Post Office, and the Library for details; or contact Vicki Gottlieb at 404-8022 or

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