Canoes launch on the Rio Grande, south of the Bernalillo
Sandoval County focuses on development
Several years ago, Sandoval County was feeling the pinch of ill-advised
investments that cost millions and created a scandal. Not anymore—Sandoval
County investments are making money. Not only that, the expansion
and development of one of the country’s fastest-growing counties
is being bankrolled by $85 million they got for backing Intel’s
$16 billion revenue bond.
The April 5 Sandoval County Commission meeting opened with a rosy
financial report from the county financial advisor.
Then Michael Springfield, Director of County Development, presented
a request for approval of a resolution adopting a master plan for
La Plazuela de Sandoval—an administrative complex for county
government. La Plazuela will be located at the former Gun Club property
at Highway 528 and Idalia Road, on fifty-six acres next to the Judicial
Complex that was recently completed.
The development will include public buildings, retail outlets,
high-density housing, and open space. The administration building
would be three stories tall and contain fifty-five thousand square
Springfield said that the departments that draw the most traffic
would be located on the first floor and that the building would
be a state-of-the-art communications center—consistent with
the county broadband initiative.
County manager Debbie Hays said that the county government had
been “bursting at the seams” for years in the twenty-eight
thousand square foot courthouse in Bernalillo. She said that departments
have been moved incrementally to other locations and that it would
be more efficient to have government offices centralized.
Hays also said that the present courthouse would be used to provide
office space as required for the District Attorney, drug courts,
and state agencies.
Furthermore, Hays said that the $10 million project was not outside
the county budget and could be completed in eighteen months.
The County Commission voted unanimously in favor of the resolution.
Also, during the April 5 meeting, Noreen Scott, Executive Director
of Rio Rancho Economic Development Corporation (RREDC), presented
the County Commission with a progress report and requested an additional
$20,000 to the $30,000 annual county funding they currently receive.
Scott pointed out that RREDC had been instrumental in bringing several
businesses to the Bernalillo area, including a concrete block plant,
a laboratory to produce health and beauty products, and possibly
a photovoltaic plant.
Scott’s PowerPoint presentation outlined why development
should be encouraged: to lure business to the area, creating jobs,
less commuter traffic, and a higher standard of living. “It’s
just the right thing to do,” she said.
Commissioner Jack Thomas agreed that development of big box stores
and manufacturing along the northwest loop between US 550 and I-40
is “the key to the future.”
County government enthusiastically embraces the rapid development
of the Rio Rancho area, which is projected to cover the west side
of Albuquerque from the Rio Grande to the top of the escarpment
Drilling to start on May 28
At the April 19 Sandoval County Commission meeting, commissioners
voted unanimously to go into the water-prospecting business with
Recorp Partners, the Arizona developer of Rio West. The preliminary
plan for the eighty-thousand-resident planned community west of
Rio Rancho was approved by the County Commission last fall.
Under the agreement, Sandoval County will fund up to $2.5 million
(more Intel money), or sixty-six percent of the cost of two nine-thousand-foot-deep
exploratory wells into the Rio Puerco Basin, in hopes of discovering
a significant enough amount of water to supply the projected population
growth in southern Sandoval County.
Loosely based on water produced during oil drilling over the past
fifty years, and salty water seeping to the surface in some places,
county officials expect to find large quantities of salt water.
The county would shoulder sixty-six percent of the cost, or up to
$6 million of Intel money, involved in the desalinization and distribution
process and would have a sixty-six percent ownership.
Michael Springfield, Director of County Development, said that
drilling was scheduled to begin on May 28. Studies must be completed
and submitted to the Office of the State Engineer by February 2008.
Commissioner Jack Thomas called it “a pretty good deal for
Sandoval County.” He said, “With a sixty-six percent
share, we can control the price and sell water at a price people
can afford. The water will stay in New Mexico. This is a huge investment
for sustainable water in New Mexico.” He described desalinization
of water as a “stop gap.” Future technology, he said,
might make it possible to “suck it [water] out of the air.”
Maybe the commissioners read last month’s grim new warnings
on global warming. The journal Science predicted that the Southwest
will be gripped by a permanent drought by 2050. The study, based
on nineteen computer models, found that conditions in Arizona, New
Mexico, and Colorado would resemble the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
This situation could cause water wars.
Commission Chairman Don Leonard applauded decision-makers for
“having the foresight to allocate Intel money to the future
of Sandoval County.”
Bernalillo gets a Wal-Mart
Just across Highway 528 from Rio Rancho’s Enchanted Hills,
preliminary construction has begun on a two-hundred-fifteen-thousand-square-foot
Wal-Mart Superstore within the Bernalillo town limits, which is
projected to be completed early in 2008.
Despite well-documented evidence concerning the negative effects
of having the world’s largest corporation in a small community,
Bernalillo town administrator Stephen Jerge described the new Supercenter
What about the traffic snarls? The money flowing out of state?
The absence of living wages and health care, and the destruction
of small business? Jerge did not immediately return a phone call
to the Signpost.
Jerge was quoted in the Journal, “We welcome Wal-Mart and
associated business. We expect a tremendous spike in our gross receipts
tax that we can put back into the community.”
Many people considered a Wal-Mart at US 550 and Highway 528 inevitable,
but the sudden arrival precluded the kind of opposition that is
now commonplace around the country—including Tijeras, Highway
528 and Corrales Road, and the ongoing struggle over a Supercenter
off Osuna NE in Albuquerque.
Bernalillo residents are fortunate, however, that the Supercenter
is not being built across the road in Rio Rancho. They would have
suffered the ill-effects with few of the good. Rio Rancho finds
itself with more “retail leakage” to the east. The new
Wal-Mart is expected to create three to four hundred full- and part-time
Water Supply Could Run Low
Growth in Rio Rancho is rapidly drinking up the city’s water
supply and officials are saying now is the time to plan for the
future. The City Council was presented with four policy recommendations
Wednesday, which would help ensure the city has an adequate water
supply as it grows.
John Kolessar, City Infrastructure Director, told councilors seventy-five
percent of the city’s available water through two pumping
permits from the State Engineer is already in use or promised to
With current water pumping permit amounts, the city could only
support a little less than two hundred thousand people and would
not be able to support all 105 square miles of Rio Rancho land currently
in city limits if it were developed, Kolessar said. Rio Rancho has
nearly eighty thousand people now.
“There is an end to this parade,” Kolessar said Thursday.
Kolessar said at the meeting that the pressure on the pumping permits
could be relieved through “aggressive” pursuit of desalinized
water. Desalinization is a process that filters salt from water
and converts it to potable water. He said the city is in negotiations
with a private company that claims it can build a large desalinization
plant. The city signed a confidentiality agreement with the party
until more preparation is done.
Sandoval County is interested in a desalinization plant for the
Rio Puerco basin that would support the proposed Rio West development
west of Rio Rancho, as well as the rest of the county. County officials
have said there could be a large supply of salt water deep under
the Rio Puerco basin surface. The county is waiting for tests to
see if water is available to support the plant.
Kolessar said the city would support county efforts to build the
Rio Puerco desalinization plant if a large supply of water is found.
While the city is working on more than twenty policy points to
help water conservation and increase supply, four were presented
to the council to give staff authorization to develop them further,
Kolessar asked the city to set aside five thousand single-family
equivalent units—units that measure the average water use
to determine the overall water availability—for retail, institutional,
and industrial growth in the city. This would deviate from the city’s
first-come, first-served policy to provide water for development.
The total single-family equivalent units available for pumping
to the city are seventy-three thousand. The five thousand units
would act as a “cushion” for when water permits get
closer to running out, Kolessar said.
The other recommendations include prioritizing water re-use projects
that replace existing irrigation using drinkable water with recycled
water, adopting a xeriscaping policy with incentives for people
who follow it, and adopting a policy with requiring any land annexed
by Rio Rancho to bring in its own pumping permit and water rights.
The recommendations, when applied to current water policy, could
save the city up to ten thousand SFEs, Kolessar said.
Councilors authorized city staff to do further work on the policy
recommendations through a resolution, but tacked on a provision
for mandatory public meetings on the subject. The policies will
be prepared and sent through the Utilities Commission—the
public meetings will be held at that time—and then the council
will have to approve the specific policies and ordinances that come
from the process, Kolessar said.
This article was reprinted with permission from the April 13,
2007, Albuquerque Journal.
Rio Rancho still hears “that sucking sound”
Back around the turn of the century Y2K, then-Rio Rancho mayor Jennings
told the Signpost that the “City of Vision”
needed to build houses rapidly to attract big retail outlets to
provide gross receipts tax revenue to pay for the infrastructure
required to support the rapid building of houses. He described what
is now called “retail leakage” as “a giant sucking
sound to the south.” He was talking about Cottonwood Mall
and surrounding big box retail outlets. Jennings joked, “The
more we build, the ‘behinder’ we get.”
Noreen Scott of the Rio Rancho Economic Development Corporation
told the Albuquerque Journal last month that retail leakage is still
a problem that results in long drive times, depositing gross receipts
taxes in Albuquerque and resulting in a tight Rio Rancho budget.
Her organization is working to correct this situation.
Black lines represent water channels that have
been dug in the Rio Grande, just south of the Bernalillo bridge,
to create a Rio Grande silvery minnow habitat.
Heavy equipment digs new channels in the Rio Grand
to create habitat for the silvery minnow.
Interstate Stream Commission creates minnow habitat
Contractors for the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (ISC)
will complete approximately eighty-two acres of excavation this
spring within the Albuquerque area for the purpose of creating a
Rio Grande silvery minnow habitat. The diagram above shows where
channels were completed below the US 550 bridge in Bernalillo. This
project gets funding from the Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species
Act Collaboration Program and from the New Mexico Water Trust Board.
Most of the work was completed by mid-April to prevent concerns
about nesting for migratory birds.
ISC hydrologist and project manager Grace Haggerty explained,
“The islands and bars that have been modified will be inundated
in the spring and we hope to see more minnow in this stretch of
the river as a result of all this work. Silvery minnow eggs produced
during the spring runoff are retained in the slower-moving water.
They float for several days before becoming larvae and then minnows.
The young minnows then benefit from the cover and vegetation in
this newly-created habitat.” Haggerty said that the excavations
are designed to flood even in years when the runoff is low, and
that the ISC will be monitoring the effectiveness of the restoration
The ISC is responsible for the interstate compacts and for protection
of our state’s waters. Their website at www.ose.state.nm.us
will soon contain more information about this project.
Sandoval Easy Express bus service started April
Sandoval County and the Mid-Region Transit District sponsored
a kick-off event for the Sandoval Easy Express, the County’s
first rural public transit service. The event was held on April
19 at the Sandoval County Health Commons, located at New Mexico
528 and Idalia.
The Sandoval Easy Express service is funded by the New Mexico
Department of Transportation, through a Federal Transit Administration
rural public transit grant, and Sandoval County. The County has
contracted with the Mid-Region Transit District to oversee day-to-day
operations of the service and to hire a contractor to provide a
“turnkey” operation. The Mid-Region Transit District,
after a request-for-proposals solicitation, has hired All Aboard
America to operate this service.
Sandoval Easy Express service will be provided Monday through
Friday along two corridors: Route 4, approximately fifty miles in
length, and Route 22, approximately forty miles in length. Service
will begin on April 23.
Both routes provide limited service to the Sandoval County/US
550 New Mexico Rail Runner Express Station in Bernalillo, the Sandoval
County Health Commons, and to points along Rio Rancho Boulevard
and Southern Boulevard in Rio Rancho.
The routes also provide a connection to Route 151, the commuter
rail shuttle between Rio Rancho and the Los Ranchos/Journal Center
station, which has stops at Intel and Cottonwood Mall.
The buses will reportedly include bicycle racks.
For more information, call Gino Rinaldi at (505) 771-3317 or Augusta
Meyers, Mid-Region Transit District at (505) 247-1750.
Bernalillo Dam rehabilitation underway
As many residents may have noticed, work has begun on the rehabilitation
of the Piedra Liza Dam near I-25 at the entrance to Placitas. National
Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has entered into a contract
with MRT Heavy Hauling, Inc., for rehabilitation of the dam. The
Piedra Liza Dam was built to protect both rural and urban areas
after a devastating flood in 1949 destroyed a hundred-year-old convent
in Bernalillo. NRCS is expecting completion of the project in early
June. MRT Heavy Hauling, Inc. is an Albuquerque-based firm. Maintenance
and operation of the Piedra Liza Dam is shared by three entities:
Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District, Sandoval County,
and the Town of Bernalillo. The three sponsors will jointly operate
and maintain the dam throughout its life.
For further information about the Piedra Liza Dam project, contact
Roger Ford at 761-4430.
Reprinted from Coronado News, a publication of the Coronado
Soil and Water Conservation District.
County Fairgrounds improvements to be discussed
Sandoval County will hold a series of public discussion meetings
in the coming weeks to gain ideas for improvements to the sixty-seven-acre
County Fairgrounds site near Cuba.
Gregory T. Hicks, an Albuquerque-based architectural and planning
firm, has been hired by the County to develop a master plan for
improvements at the fairgrounds to create new recreational and economic
“We hope to gain ideas from as many people as possible in
developing the master plan, so that future improvements to the site
will benefit residents throughout the County,” said Mark Hatzenbuhler,
the County Fairgrounds Property Manger.
The meetings are scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on the first
three Wednesdays in May—on May 2 at the Cuba Senior Center;
on May 9 at the San Ysidro Village Complex; and on May 16 in the
Rio Rancho Council Chambers. Ideas and suggestions gained from the
meetings will be compiled into a final report that Hicks & Associates
will present to the County Commission in Bernalillo this summer.
Among ideas being considered for the fairgrounds site are expanded
rodeo grounds, multipurpose buildings, dormitories, an RV park and
camping areas, a nature walk, a playground, a petting zoo, and possibly
light manufacturing or retail use.
“We aren’t locked in to any one concept. Instead, we
will rely very heavily on ideas of residents gained during the meetings,”
“Our intent is to develop the site into a year-round facility
that can serve a wide variety of residents and a wide variety of
uses, in addition to hosting the County Fair during the first weekend
of August each year,” he said.
Santa Fe hosts “Building a Culture of Peace”
—MIKE STAUFFER, NEW MEXICO TOURISM DEPARTMENT
S anta Fe has long been lauded as a place of healing, artistic and
spiritual inspiration, as well as a focal point of historical and
cultural studies. Now, a world peace conference can be added to
the long list of exceptional events that have happened in this ancient
“Building a Culture of Peace” is a two day, jam-packed
event happening May 16 and 17, 2007, in the City Different. Taking
place at the Santa Fe Hilton over the two-day period, a list of
highly acclaimed keynote speakers such as 1997 Nobel Peace Laureate
Jody Williams and the Dalai Lama (by video) will join forces with
an anticipated community of more than five hundred people hoping
to make headway against violence, militarization, and discrimination,
among other issues facing our world.
Louise Diamond, PhD, and author of The Peace Book writes in her
piece entitled “What is a Culture of Peace?” that the
conference is meant for “people from around the world who
are passionate about peace, gathered together for two days of deep
inquiry, strategizing, and action planning on these subjects [to]
widen and strengthen the peace path for those who would choose this
better way, and make a major contribution to the existing global
movement for a culture of peace.”
Joining the Dalai Lama and Williams, known for her work as the
Ambassador for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL),
are another two top names in the world peace movement — 1992
Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Mench?, and Arun Gandhi, the grandson
of Mahatma Gandhi. Mench? is a leader in Indigenous People’s
rights who followed in her parents’ footsteps, despite their
consequent murders, to improve conditions for peasant workers in
her native Guatemala. Already a leader in social and economic reform
in India, Gandhi founded the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence
in order to teach his grandfather’s philosophy through workshops
and community outreach programs.
The two-day event will be structured around five Peace Councils,
to focus on growing a generation of peacemakers from our youth,
demilitarization of our economy and consciousness, seeking a sense
of oneness and healing in the world, examining our relationship
to the living earth, and the role of politics in human rights and
In the coming weeks, an announcement will be made regarding the
exciting artists planning to entertain Santa Fe and the “Building
a Culture of Peace” participants at the world-renowned Santa
Fe Opera House.
to register and read the official blog. For more information about
the World Peace Conference, contact Marjorie Mann at (505) 827-6461
Historical Society discusses 1680 Pueblo Revolt
The Sandoval County Historical Society will meet on Sunday, May
6, at 2:00 p.m., at the Delavy House Museum. Stephanie Beninato
of the New Mexico Humanities Council Speaker’s Bureau will
speak on “Facts and Fantasy of the Leadership of the Pueblo
Revolt in 1680.” Also, for this day, an invitation has been
sent to the Santa Ana Women’s Co-op of Tamaya to display their
art. Refreshments will be served. The program is free and open to
the public. The Museum is located off Highway 550, west of Bernalillo,
between Coronado State Monument and Star Casino. For further information,
contact Martha Liebert at 867-2755.
Bernalillo High School students help victims of
The Bernalillo High School (BHS) freshman Geology and Chemistry
classes taught by Evelyn Aikens Eppinger visited Clovis, New Mexico
on April 24 to sort and deliver donations to victims of the recent
tornados in the area. The Salvation Army trained the BHS students
in their duties.
While the students were at the disaster site, FEMA gave a short
presentation about the requirements for jobs in the federal sector
in relation to natural disasters. Members of the Natural Disaster
Team of New Mexico who took part in the clean-up and aid to victims
of 9/11 also talked with the students about careers related to natural
There were about thirty students who took the journey, partially
assisted by donations from Sandoval County, Home Depot, Walgreen’s,
and the BHS family.