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Cochiti Lake hosted portions of Chasing 3's Cochiti Lake Triathlon in 2012. Pictured here is the swimming portion of the race, with Cochiti Dam in the background.
Photo credit: —Ronnie Schelby

Pueblo ponders major economic expansion

—Bill Diven

Pueblo de Cochiti is embarking on an ambitious project to expand its economy with everything from T-shirts to solar and hydroelectric power.

First up, though, is buses to shuttle visitors five miles from the pueblo to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, Cochiti’s planning director Bill Fisher recently told Sandoval County commissioners. The contract to build the bus station is being negotiated with groundbreaking expected soon, he added.

The bus system is intended to relieve the parking shortage that limits access at Tent Rocks, to reduce traffic on the newly paved road through the pueblo to the monument, and to allow for future tours of the pueblo. State and federal grants cover most of the three million dollar project, which will acquire at least three buses and support 17 permanent jobs, Fisher added.

Building the bus station has the added benefit of bringing utilities to a 17-acre tract below Cochiti Dam where State Route 22 turns south as the main entrance to the pueblo. Four future phases envision a five million dollar visitor center with dining, history, and retail sections, as well as a gas station, convenience store, shopping center, and lodging for visitors.

There may even be a dog kennel, since the Bureau of Land Management, which administers Tent Rocks, doesn’t allow dogs in the monument. Visitor surveys and the small-scale sale of T-shirts show the opportunity for Cochiti to provide more services for travelers and residents, while boosting employment and tribal revenue, Fisher said.

Tent Rocks records 450 visitors on peak days in spring and summer, while recreation at Cochiti Lake draws about one hundred thousand a year, Fisher added.

Over the years, Cochiti enterprises earned revenue mostly on farming and the lease of the land under the town of Cochiti Lake. Individual artisans—known for jewelry, pottery, and drums—rely on small signs outside their homes in the village to draw customers.

“They are entrepreneurs in the traditional way,” Fisher said. “This is a bigger scale for them. We’re on the verge of a big change.”

To support that change, Cochiti’s leaders would need to establish a corporation to operate the enterprises and ordinances regulating them, he added.

Considered among the more conservative of the state’s 19 pueblos, Cochiti has not joined in the gaming industry. The pueblo is located on the Rio Grande about 25 miles north of Bernalillo.

Fisher said Cochiti also is exploring the production of renewable energy on a commercial scale. A study of potential wind, solar, and geothermal sources, undertaken with technical support from Sandia National Laboratories, is expected to be completed this summer, he said.

Initial indications are that solar power will be more feasible than wind with technical issues hampering geothermal development, according to Fisher. Electricity would be sold into the existing power grid, although some might allow reduced rates within the pueblo, he added.

Recently pueblo leaders began looking at the idea of using water released by Cochiti Dam to produce hydroelectric power. A grant-funded study is expected to begin this summer and take six months to analyze potential costs and whether the project is technically feasible.

Fisher cited the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Montana as a tribal enterprise entering hydroelectric power in a big way. There, a decades-long process comes to an end in September when the tribal corporation Energy Keepers Inc. assumes ownership and operation of the 205-foot-tall Kerr Dam on the Flathead River.

Kerr Dam, designed in the 1920s to generate electricity, produces 196 megawatts of power. A quick estimate suggests a retrofit on 251-foot Cochiti Dam could produce anywhere from one to ten megawatts, Fisher said.

Cochiti has endured a mixed relationship with the dam that bears its name since before construction began in 1965. Tribal leaders opposed the dam and after its completion saw a rising water table downstream bring salts to the surface, ruining tribal farmlands for twenty years.

The tribe sued the federal government and won, which led to a system of drainage canals lowering the water table and beginning the restoration of the lands. Relations between the Cochiti people and the Army Corps of Engineers improved further after the Corps apologized for past practices in 2001.

Should the hydro project prove feasible, Cochiti would need political support to move ahead. The federal law that created Cochiti Dam prohibited using it for power generation, and it would take an act of Congress to change that.


County Treasurer continues outreach service to residents with tax questions

—Sidney Hill, Spokesman, Sandoval County

Due to the overwhelming success of last year’s community outreach program, Sandoval County Treasurer Laura M. Montoya is sending staff to multiple locations to assist with property tax questions and accept payments.

Representatives of the Treasurer’s office also will share the goals and accomplishments that the Treasurer and her team have fulfilled over the past year. “I hope this outreach gives taxpayers another convenient option to make property tax payments while offering an opportunity for posing questions regarding taxes, exemptions and other matters that affect taxpayers,” stated Treasurer Montoya. The locations, dates and times for outreach services are below:

April 29—Cuba Senior Center, 16-A Cordova St., Cuba; 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

April 30—Placitas Community Center, 41 Camino de Las Huertas; 12:00 to 2:00 p.m.

May 1—Bernalillo Senior Center, 255 Camino del Pueblo; 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

May 4—Placitas Community Center, 41 Camino de Las Huertas; 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

May 5—Jemez Community Center, 8154 Hwy 4, Jemez Pueblo; 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

May 6—Corrales Senior Center, 4324-A Corrales Road.; 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

May 7—Cuba Senior Center, 16-A Cordova St.; 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

May 8—Peña Blanca Rec. Center, 778 NM-22; 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

In addition to the Outreach Program, Treasurer Montoya suggests these ways to make your property tax payment:

  • Pay online. Go to: sandovalcountynm.gov and click “Pay Taxes Online” under QuickLinks (Convenience fees apply with these methods of payment).
  • Pay over the phone at 1-866-873-0944 (Convenience fees apply with these methods of payment).
  • Pay at New Mexico Bank and Trust branches in Rio Rancho.
  • Mail payment to: Sandoval County Treasurer, P. O. Box 40, Bernalillo, NM 87004 with the account number on the check.
  • Use the drop box at the north side parking lot of the Sandoval County Administration building, adjacent to Treasurer’s office.
  • You also are welcome to pay in person with our friendly and professional staff located at 1500 Idalia Rd., Bldg D., in Bernalillo.

The Treasurer’s Office will extend office hours during second half tax season. From April 13 to May 10, the office will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m., Monday through Friday.

For more information, or questions, contact the Sandoval County Treasurer’s Office at 867-7581.

 
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