Giant Industries tests Placitas pipeline for startup, plans public
Stakes and flagging appearing along a dormant petroleum pipeline
in Placitas indicate pressure tests needed to revive the line are
about to begin, according to an official of Giant Industries.
Giant also plans a public question-and-answer session about its
project on May 4 in Bernalillo, executive vice president Leland
Gould said. Company officials and project engineers will be available
to meet with residents between 11:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. that day
at the Quality Inn on North Hill Road north of US 550 near I-25,
Hydrostatic testing, using water under pressure to test the line
for leaks, already is underway at the western end of the line and
is expected to begin in the Placitas area early this month, Gould
The sixteen-inch pipeline built in the 1950s and unused since
the 1980s originally carried crude oil more than four hundred miles
diagonally across New Mexico, from the San Juan Basic in the northwest
to Jal in the southeast. Giant bought the line last year and wants
to reverse that flow to feed refineries in Bloomfield and Gallup
currently operating well below their capacities.
A proposal by the previous owner to revive the line to carry highly
volatile refined fuels was scrapped amid safety concerns and allegations
a larger project had been broken into smaller parts to avoid federal
The line through Placitas roughly follows Las Huertas Creek from
I-25 and passes through the Cedar Creek area to reach a pumping
station on Camino de Las Huertas at Pine-D-Ranch Road before heading
easterly past the Placitas Senior Center and along NM 165 before
crossing Las Huertas Creek and the Crest of Montezuma.
Gould said a startup date for pumping crude through the line is
dependent on the results of the testing and other engineering studies.
Placitas area an important link for wildlife migration
On April 15, the Las Placitas Association and the Las Huertas Watershed
Project presented “The Wildlife Trails of Placitas,”a
very full three-hour program (without breaks). Reid Bandeen, who
put the program together, explained that even though the Watershed
Project was designed to protect the water quality of Las Huertas
Creek and improve its associated riparian areas, the work also added
to wildlife habitat. He said, “Placitas is smack-dab in the
middle of a wildlife highway for bobcat, coyote, foxes, and many
other birds and animals. This summer, during the drought, we expect
to see bears in the orchards.”
Wildlife biologist Dave Parsons, vice-chairman of the Rewilding
Institute, and well known for his attempts to reintroduce the Mexican
wolf into the wilds of the Southwest, was the first speaker. He
explained to the audience, which filled about half the pews of Las
Placitas Presbyterian Church, that wolves and mountain lions are
good for their habitat. He called them “apex carnivores”—strongly
interacting species that check large herbivore populations and thereby
increase plant diversity and populations of small herbivores and
birds. Parsons described “a tropic cascade” of harmful
effects on the environment which occurs in the absence of large
carnivores. Wolves and bears provide “a top-down regulatory
effect on all other aspects of the environment.” He explained
how this cascade was reversed with the reintroduction of wolves
into Yellowstone National Park.
A viable population of large carnivores requires thousands of square
miles of wild places free of roads, livestock, and human predation.
Protected areas are too small without wildlife areas between them—hence
the mega-linkage vision and the creation of the Rewilding Institute.
Kurt Menke, chairman of the Tijeras Canyon Safe Passage Coalition,
said that Tijeras Canyon has been identified as one of the most
endangered wildlife linkages in North America. I-40 and Route 66
are barriers to migration and cause dangerous traffic accidents
and extensive road kill. The Coalition has made great strides over
the last four years in its efforts, in cooperation with local and
state agencies, to find ways to design and implement crossings and
fencing for safe passage for the deer, bears, bobcat, foxes, cougar,
coyote, skunks, and domestic animals that are routinely killed by
motorists. Menke said that the Placitas area is also an important
link for wildlife migration from the Sandias to the Jemez, Ortiz,
and Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the north.
For more information about the Coalition or to volunteer, call
922-9424, or visit www.safepassagecoalition.org.
Visionary conservationist and author Dave Foreman spoke next about
his rewilding project, which aimed at nothing short of connecting
wildland habitat from the Alaskan Arctic down the spine of the continent,
through the United States, and all the way through Mexico. Foreman
said that this mega-linkage could take up to a hundred years to
complete, but was necessary to prevent the extinction of many species.
He called this the “sixth great extinction,” caused
by humans and “a key reality in the world today.” He
encouraged the audience to “think big in terms of time and
space” and “see the big picture of how the Sandias fit
in the transfer of the eternity of the past to the eternity of the
Foreman said that linking Las Huertas to the mountains of the north
is one of the greatest challenges of the rewilding project. He is
the author of Rewilding North America, which develops these ideas
in well-researched detail. For more information, visit www.wildlandsproject.org.
Foreman’s vision was inspirational but a lot to comprehend.
Denise Smith, of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was the final
speaker. She talked about some small things which can be done by
property owners to enhance wildlife habitat. Grants are available
through the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.
Denise has been working in Placitas with Susan Blumenthal on her
Las Huertas restoration project and with the Las Placitas Association.
For more information, call 346-2525 or visit http://ecos.fws.gov/partners/index.do?viewPage=home.
The Las Huertas Watershed Project meets monthly and welcomes volunteers.
For more information, call Reid Bandeen, at 867-5477, or visit www.lasplacitas.org/watershed.php.
Photo by Bill Diven
The 11,000-acre Ojito Wilderness provides the backdrop
as public and tribal officials gather for a blessing from Zia Pueblo
elder Lutherio Lucero (fourth from right). Joining in the subsequent
ribbon cutting were (from left) Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff
Bingaman, Bureau of Land Management state director Linda Rundell,
Representative Tom Udall, Lucero, Zia tribal administrator Peter
Pino, Representative. Heather Wilson, and Zia Governor Rudy Shije.
Ojito Wilderness officially dedicated
President Bush may have signed the Ojito Wilderness into law last
fall, but only recently has a Zia Pueblo elder given the eleven
thousand acres an appropriate blessing.
The dedication ceremony, on April 21, brought together tribal
leaders, four members of the state's congressional delegation, area
ranchers, and representatives of environmental groups, all of whom
worked and compromised to create the first New Mexico wilderness
area in ten years.
“Things like this don't happen easily,” Senator Pete
Domenici, R-NM, said. “In the end, persistence won, hard work
won over the people who thought it couldn't happen.”
“All the individuals and organizations on the ground were
convinced this made sense,” added Senator Jeff Bingaman, D-NM.
“When that is the message we're getting from New Mexico, it's
easier to get consensus in Washington.”
Those groups and individuals included the Coalition for New Mexico
Wilderness hoping to save the wild area, Zia leaders hoping to reconnect
the two separate areas of their pueblo, and Sam, Don, and former
governor Bruce King, who saw the value of preserving the land and
returning sacred sites to Zia.
While Domenici, Bingaman, and their staffs got the Ojito bill
through the Senate, Democratic representative Tom Udall and Republican
representative Heather Wilson joined forces to accomplish the same
in the House.
“You know in your hearts how you helped the pueblo,”
Zia administrator Peter Pino said. “The spirit world will
reward you for your efforts.”
The dry and rugged wilderness contains evidence of ancient and
recent cultures. Fossil remains of seismosaurus, the longest dinosaur
on record, were found in the area and are on display at the New
Mexico Museum of Natural History in Albuquerque.
Ojito, administered by the Bureau of Land Management, is bordered
by Cabezon Road, about ten dirt miles from US 550, west of San Ysidro.
As in any wilderness, visitors are responsible for their own safety
and may find roads impassable in bad weather, according to the BLM.
Wilderness information is available from the BLM Rio Puerco Field
Office, in Albuquerque, and from the BLM Web site, www.nm.blm.gov.
Pino said it may be another two years before surveys and appraisals
are complete, allowing Zia to buy the land needed to make the pueblo
whole again. While telling the story of the Zia people and their
journey from the underground to what is now Sandoval County, he
pointed to the New Mexico state flag with its Zia sun symbol in
red on a yellow field.
“It's been waving all the time we've been here,” he
said. “I think the symbol is happy.”
Want to volunteer at an archaeological site?
Are you interested in volunteering at the Tijeras
Pueblo archaeological site? Sign up at this year’s annual
Friends of Tijeras Pueblo training session on April 29, from 9:00
a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The all-day training event will cover current
and future projects. The keynote speaker this year is Beverly R.
Singer, PhD, an associate professor of anthropology and Native American
studies at the University of New Mexico. She is an internationally
known and respected filmmaker and author of Wiping the War Paint
off the Lens: Native American Film and Video.
If you are interested in attending this event,
call the Sandia Ranger District in advance, at 281-3304, to reserve
your training packet.