Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Up Front

Mick McGovern (left) and Orlando Lucero carrying the image of San Ysidro lead a feast day procession toward the Bernalillo acequia to pray for rain and farmers' crops.
Photo credit: —Bill Diven

Procession invokes blessing for farmers and their crops

—Bill Diven

Recently, in a scene with roots to the earliest days of New Mexico, a group of faithful Catholics carried an image of San Ysidro, the patron saint of farmers and rural communities, to the Bernalillo acequia and prayed for rain.

There, they recited the rosary, Father Clarence Maes said a blessing and sprinkled holy water, and everyone dropped flowers into the flowing stream. Over the next several days, weather spotters in Placitas tallied as much as 0.33 inches of rain with Jemez Pueblo receiving almost as much. There were no reports for Bernalillo itself.

As they walked from the canal to Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church, Orlando Lucero shared stories of May feast days from earlier times and of the tradition fading away only to be revived in recent decades. He recounted a tale his parents told of a time when heavy rain flooded Bernalillo after prayers for rain.

But that wasn’t during the Feast of San Ysidro. Instead, it was later in a dry year when a procession carried an icon of the Christ child from the church. As the floodwaters receded, parishioners came to the priest a second time asking to borrow the image of the Blessed Mother. When the priest asked why, they responded they wanted to show her the mess her son had made, Lucero said.

Catholic tradition holds that San Ysidro, or Saint Isidore, was a deeply devout Spanish farmer who communed with God while walking behind his plow. He believed in proper treatment of animals and loved the poor, with miraculous accounts of him supplying the poor with food. He died in 1130 and, in 1622, was declared a saint.

Oil company goes bankrupt

Signpost Staff

SandRidge Energy, the company that proposed drilling for oil near Rio Rancho, has filed for bankruptcy. News accounts say the Oklahoma company had worked out an arrangement with its creditors to give them control of the company in trade for the $3.7 billion dollars they are owed. It was the latest in dozens of bankruptcies by energy companies this year related to the crash in oil and gas prices.

In late 2015, SandRidge received a drilling permit from the state of New Mexico but stumbled in getting zoning approval for drilling on private land four miles west of Rio Rancho. When it withdrew its zoning application in February, the company cited low commodity prices and regulatory hurdles in Sandoval County for dropping the project.

Push for relocating pipelines emerges

—Bill Diven

The Las Placitas Association has a new plan for protecting the community from petroleum pipelines disasters: move the pipes out of Las Huertas Creek and away from high-risk residential areas and groundwater.

The plan, replacing an earlier effort to develop a network of monitoring wells, will be presented at a public meeting on June 8. The meeting begins at 7:00 p.m. at the Placitas Community Center on Camino de las Huertas.

A sixty-year-old crude-oil pipeline, one of five pipelines in Placitas, runs along Camino de las Huertas and under the community center parking lot. The other four run largely run under and near Las Huertas Creek from Interstate 25 on the west to beyond the Diamond Tail community on the east.

“We can’t move the pipelines out of Placitas, but we can move them to a safer location,” said Dwight Patterson, and LPA director who is leading the project.

LPA was pursuing a plan for multiple monitoring wells beside the pipes that carry millions of gallons of oil, carbon dioxide, and liquid fuels through Placitas, under high pressure, daily. But that required a small property tax to pay for ongoing monitoring and creation of a Public Improvement District (PID) intended more for property development than funding a defined public program.

“During the past year, LPA received strong support from public officials and many residents for the idea of installing an early warning pipeline leak detection system to minimize the damage to our drinking water aquifer,” LPA says in the flier prepared for the June 8 meeting. “LPA carefully considered the requirements of the PID and decided that the PID was too complex and costly a burden to pursue.”

The flier also notes that flash flooding in Las Huertas Creek has exposed the liquid-fuels pipeline and peeled back concrete matting intended to protect it.

LPA is now proposing the pipeline companies relocate their lines on a roughly eight-mile route to the north through mostly open federal and private to reconnect with the existing lines east of Placitas.

Citizens’ group joins gravel-zoning lawsuit

Signpost Staff

After 18 months of effort and multiple turnovers in judges, the Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association (ES-CA) is now party to a zoning lawsuit filed against a gravel mine in western Placitas.

Sandoval County originally sued Lafarge North America, alleging the company was in violation of a 1988 zoning agreement that limited the growth and operation of the quarry near Interstate 25 and State Road 165. Vulcan Inc. has since purchased the company.

During a May 10 hearing with the latest judge in Los Lunas, ES-CA successfully argued its members have been subjected to decreased property values and multiple environmental hazards because of the alleged zoning violations.

According to a posting on the ES-CA website, it was revealed in court that Vulcan and the county have held private discussions about settling the lawsuit. As an intervener, ES-CA, through its separate Land Protection Trust, is now part of that process.

“As a result of this action, we must now be party to such settlement before the suit can be dismissed, which I think our members can agree, is in our best interests and will force a level of transparency that would likely not otherwise occur,” Land Trust President Dick Ulmer wrote. “Lafarge and Vulcan now know they must take our issues seriously.”

[ES-CA is presenting their annual community meeting on June 25. See details, page 7, this Signpost.]

c. Rudi Klimpert

June 7 primary sets stage for November election

Signpost Staff

If you haven’t registered as a Democrat or Republican, it’s already too late for you to vote in the June 7 party primaries. By June 7 about half of voters are expected to have already voted with June 4 the last day for early in-person voting.

On primary day, polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Voting convenience centers in Bernalillo, Placitas, Cuba, Rio Rancho, and Corrales let voters vote outside their home precincts if it’s more convenient, although voters who don’t live in those communities will vote on provisional paper ballots.

Many Republicans and Democrats are running for nomination without opposition from within their own parties. Here is a list of contested races in the area:

Senate District 9—Democrat incumbent John Sapien, Corrales; Jodilynn Ortiz, Placitas

Senate District 22—Democrat incumbent Benny Shendo, Jemez Pueblo; Sandra Jeff, Crownpoint

House District 65—Democrat Derrick Lente, Sandia Pueblo; Darryl Madalena, Jemez Pueblo

Sandoval County Treasurer—Democrat incumbent Laura Montoya, Rio Rancho; Eugene “Gino” Rinaldi, Bernalillo; James Baca, Bernalillo

Sandoval County Commission District 4—Republican David Heil, Rio Rancho; Issach Martinez, Rio Rancho

Sandoval County Commission District 5—Democrat F. Kenneth Eichwald, Cuba; Anna Messer, Cuba

Polling locations and more information can be found at

New issues arise in suit over Placitas horses

—Bill Diven

The lawsuit over free-roaming horses in Placitas should be dismissed since the issue of whether they are livestock or not has been resolved, according to a state agency and Placitas residents involved in the case. Not so fast, says a horse-advocacy organization now trying to broaden the case in part by claiming the state and the residents are conspiring to round up and sell the horses.

For now, the lawsuit filed in February, 2014, by the Placitas-based Wild Horse Observers Association (WHOA) is being fought through court filings in District Court in Albuquerque. By late May, no hearings on the motions or the merits of the case had been scheduled.

WHOA filed the suit against the New Mexico Livestock Board (NMLB) alleging the agency violated state law by treating wild horses as stray livestock. The law requires DNA testing of un-owned, unclaimed horses to determine if they descend from Spanish colonial stock, and regardless of the test results, the horses are protected from public auction as strays, according to the lawsuit.

About two months later, a dozen Placitas residents, objecting to feral horses trampling their properties and damaging watersheds, joined the case on the side of the NMLB. A District Court judge soon ruled the NMLB was acting properly and dismissed the suit, leading WHOA to appeal that ruling.

In the latest round of motions, the NMLB and the Placitas residents contend the Court of Appeals settled the only real issue in the case. In that August 2015 decision, the appellate judges sided with WHOA in finding un-owned, unclaimed horses found on public land are not livestock and are entitled to protection after DNA testing.

In October, the New Mexico Supreme Court declined to hear the case, so it’s now back in the hands of the Albuquerque judge.

In a recent motion, WHOA’s attorney requests the original lawsuit be amended to add new allegations and to reopen discovery, the pre-trial process where the sides collect evidence from each other through questioning and demands for documents.

In the motion, WHOA contends the Placitas residents and others are “acting as agents of the (NMLB) in enticing wild horses off of public lands onto private lands and thereby subverting the law.” It further alleges DNA testing showed four horses captured after the Court of Appeals ruling were Spanish colonials and yet the NMLB gave ownership to the landowners who corralled them.

For its part, the NMLB argues DNA tests cannot definitively determine if a horse descends from Spanish colonial stock.

Attorneys for both the NMLB and the Placitas residents further argue the law on DNA testing is limited to horses found on public land outside federal and tribal jurisdiction. Only the Placitas Open Space might qualify, and it is fenced to keep horses out, they said.

WHOA’s lawsuit came after a boom in the horse population that began in 2012. According to some estimates, as many as 150 horses in family units or herds of a dozen or more roamed the area on private land and on public roads where several collisions occurred. That led to some landowners corralling horses on their properties and calling in the NMLB. The NMLB in turn advertised any unclaimed horses as strays and put them up for public auction. Most were bought by WHOA supporters who found new homes for some and corralled others on their properties.

Tempers flared regularly, and at least one confrontation between a WHOA supporter and a resident calling in the NMLB turned physical. Both men were charged with misdemeanor battery, although the charges we eventually dropped.

Since the Court of Appeals ruling, at least four horses have been corralled on private land in eastern Placitas. The landowners called the NMLB to check for brands and microchips, and none were found.

So the NMLB, citing the Court of Appeals ruling, said the un-owned horses could now be considered livestock owned by the landowners. The four horses have since been moved to a sanctuary on San Felipe Pueblo.

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