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  The Gauntlet
 

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letters, opinions, editorials

Signpost welcomes letters of all opinions. Letters are subject to editing for length, clarity, libel, and other considerations. Anonymous pen name letters will not be published. Attach your name and contact information. Send to: Signpost, P. O. Box 889, Placitas, NM, 87043 or email@sandovalsignpost.com.


c. Rudi Klimpert


Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association report

~Chris Daul

Sandoval County has proposed that there be mandatory residential garbage pick-up in unincorporated areas in Sandoval County. The proposal was initially released in July by the County’s Public Works Department and a request for proposals (RFP) was developed and issued by the County.  Recently, the County held public hearings on this issue and there was much opposition expressed by Placitas residents at the hearing at the Community Center. While bids have been received by the County, no ordinance has been introduced to mandate this plan. 

Subsequent to the public hearing in Placitas, ES-CA officials contacted County officials and it was agreed that the County would stop the process and schedule a public work session where the County Public Works, the County Commission and the public could discuss this issue and the details of the RFP. We have been advised that the County will not take any further actions in this matter until after the public work session.

Concerning the ongoing mining issues, the County Commission unanimously approved an amended resolution stating explicitly that mining in the Buffalo Tract would contradict County policy and that the BLM should work with County staff to amend the RMP to be consistent.

The lawsuit between the County and Vulcan continues to move forward. There will be a scheduling hearing in early March, during which a trial date will be set. There have been settlement discussions, but ES-CA will remain firm in its position that Vulcan is in violation of its prior approvals. ES-CA has communicated to the County the importance of mediation and the participation of all the parties to the litigation in order to reach a fair and timely settlement.

County Manager Phillip Rios will be retiring in May of 2017. The County has posted a listing for the position and hope to have a new manager hired in the near future. ES-CA will be looking to meet with the new manager and discuss issues of importance to Placitas.


re: Water protectors are everywhere

The Water Protection Advisory Board (WPAB) of the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (ABCWUA) did its job. The WPAB recommended that Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, and the ABCWUA adopt oil and gas regulations. I hope that everyone can support Senator Mimi Stewart's Senate Memorial 78 and the water protection efforts that will follow. Based on the WPAB letter of recommendation, Senate Memorial 78 advocates for oil and gas regulations in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. Combined with our efforts in Sandoval County, I believe this is one of New Mexico's best chances to bring water protection to the forefront. This should be a topic of discussion and an important issue in the Albuquerque mayoral campaigns. The incoming mayor will serve on the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority Governing Board and exercise great influence on the future of drinking water for six hundred thousand users of ABCWUA supplied water.

Since most of the ABCWUA drinking water is from the Rio Chama and the Rio Grande drainages, the Water Protection Advisory Board could someday become one of New Mexico's leading drinking water advocates. All environmental nonprofits should support this drinking water protection effort by standing for SM 78 and broadcasting to their members the importance of protecting the entire Albuquerque Basin, which is water to nearly a million people. When it comes to our drinking water, precautionary principles must take precedent.

—Mike Neas, Placitas


Entry to snow cave in the morning light

Neff Yurt buried in the snow with just its chimney visible.
Photos credit: —John Buchser

re: In response to “Yurtmania again,” by Ty Belknap; February, 2017 Signpost 

More yurtmania

Linda and I took an avalanche course up in Silverton back in 1982, wanting to learn how to survive the backcountry while enjoying ourselves during the winter.  We met this guy, Doug, who was about to set up a yurt on National Forest land on the north side of Neff Mountain where there is almost always good snow due to the northerly orientation and the effect of storms on the San Juan mountains.

We have been visiting one of Southwest Nordic Center's yurts nearly yearly ever since, having many interesting adventures over the years—one time under-estimating the severity of five feet of fresh snow, we had far more respect for conditions.

This year, with a new knee for Linda, and a hip replacement for me, we made sure to have a group of friends joining us for the three-mile ski to Neff, but they cancelled at the last minute. A large storm, followed by a medium storm was approaching, but our ski in was right between the two. We headed to Chama and stayed at the Elkhorn Inn to ensure a timely morning start.

On Monday, a passing Colorado DOT snow-blower operator kindly cleared us out a spot to park and reassured us he would clear us out for our exit on Friday. Yes, there were tracks to the yurt! Those were Ty's tracks from two days prior, with his exit coinciding with the tail end of the 31-inch storm. The skies were dark, not snowing yet, but the storm was clearly on the way.

We kept plugging away, me hauling a sled and us taking turns breaking trail. The road fairly visible, but at about 3:00 p.m., it started snowing. By 4:00, the wind was really cranking. A huge noise was soon confirmed to be a large dead tree that fell across the trail. No more track to follow, wind had filled it in. By 6:00 p.m., it was time to get out the flashlights, then a half-hour later, the snowfall was getting more persistent, so I decided to park the sled.

We had been to Neff a dozen times, but now the visibility was just fifty yards. We found the double marker where the trail turns off the jeep trail, but we did not see another for hours. We'd ski along, making our best guess until we were clearly too far, backtrack, and try another direction, using our headlamps to scan the area. By about 3:30 a.m., I decided our best course of action was to go back to the sled and build a snow cave.

I had practiced twice back in the Eighties, so I knew what to do. It took two hours to dig a cave just long enough to lay down with some headroom. The 100+-inch snowpack was plenty to make a hole down, go past a firm layer, and then go horizontal. The cave kept a fine 32 degrees, with some of our stuff blocking the cold outside—a too-cold five degrees. Linda helped push snow away from the door while I kept warm digging, but mostly she stood around. Her hands got very cold and fingertips frost-nipped. Her near-continuous shivering was the first sign of hypothermia. In our three-season sleeping bags, I kept my hands cold warming hers, and dozed off.

At around 10:00 a.m., I shoved all the stuff out of the door, put on my ski boots, and spotted a couple barely-visible markers right at snow line. We had come within one hundred yards of the yurt twice in the dark. The only thing visible was the snow-covered symmetrical peak of the roof and the chimney. The snow was up to the window of the door, and the porch was buried.

We recovered over the next few days, eating, drinking, drying out clothes, shoveling off the porch to get to the outside woodpile and outhouse. She kicked my butt at Scrabble twice. I got half a book read, went out for a foray or two in the snow.

The ski out was uneventful, but long—six hours through seventeen inches of fresh snow. Monday night’s wind had covered our tracks, and the folks who had the yurt rented on Friday did not show up, so we had to break trail all the way back. 

I think the time is ripe for me to buy a GPS, and maybe I've found someone else as nuts about the Neff Yurt as Linda and myself. Ty, are you ready for a repeat next season?

—John Buchser, Santa Fe

 
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