The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


The outflow channel from the Piedra Lisa Arroyo dam

The outflow channel from the Piedra Lisa Arroyo dam emerges
silted-in and weed-grown from under I-25 in Bernalillo. The earth-fill dam is visible behind the tractor-trailer on the interstate.

Upgrades planned for Piedra Lisa Arroyo dam

Bill Diven

It was 1949 when the skies darkened over Bernalillo and stormed hard against the Sandia Mountains.

“It started raining early that afternoon and just continued, a heavy pour,” said Lucy Montoya. “About seven o’clock we could hear this roar and couldn’t figure out what it was.”

Townspeople found out quickly enough as floodwaters charging down Piedra Lisa Arroyo crested the railroad tracks and spilled into the north end of town. The school and convent at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church quickly filled with water, with one building soon melting into the mud from which it came.

“I remember people taking out the girls and the nuns and what they could with horses and buggies and wagons,” said Antonio Navarro. Water also spread south along the east side of the railroad, ponded, and eventually evaporated or sank into the ground, he added.

“The railroad tracks saved the downtown,” Navarro added.

By 1955 a new dam blocked the arroyo, but questions arise today about what would happen should the dam fail. The main question: Where would the water go?

“Fifty years later, the government realized we have all these old dams, maybe we better take a look at them,” said Vicki France, program administrator for the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District. “It has become so convoluted and dammed, and the culverts are so small, nobody knows what would happen.”

Urban development places the dam in the highest hazard category, where a failure and flood would threaten lives and cause extensive damage to private and public property.

“We need to find out who owns the land below us,” said Coronado board chairman Nick Mora. At its October 16 meeting, the board adopted Mora’s recommendation to hire someone to clean out the gourds and vines now entangled in the outflow structure behind the dam.

France said that the dam sits on an easement assigned to the CSWCD and is considered structurally sound. Still, the district, in partnership with the town of Bernalillo and the state and federal governments, is about to spend an estimated $350,000 to improve the dam and develop a “breach inundation map” showing areas likely to be flooded if the dam collapsed.

The federal Natural Resources Conservation Service will cover 65 percent of the cost, the Office of the State Engineer 25 percent, with the district and the town chipping in 5 percent apiece. Expected work includes repairing erosion of the dam and spillway, placing rock and gravel at strategic locations, replacing lumber in the outflow structure, and restoring the capacity of the outflow channel under I-25 and the railroad through Bernalillo.

The dam is located a few hundred yards east of I-25 immediately south of NM 165.

District consultant Tetra Tech Inc. already is surveying the dam and downstream areas to develop a work plan and estimate its cost. At least one public meeting will be held, tentatively planned for next March, with the project to be completed by December 2005, France said.

As its name implies, the districts promote soil and water conservation by encouraging better farming and development practices. The Coronado district is one of forty-seven in New Mexico and has joined the effort to eradicate salt cedar, a nonnative plant common in river bosques and identified as a major water waster.

The Coronado district covers southeastern Sandoval County from north of Cochiti Pueblo to the western boundaries of Santa Ana Pueblo and the town of Bernalillo. Board members are elected for four-year terms with two seats up for election on February 3, 2004.


Placitas group seeks location, funds for new library

Sue Strasia
Placitas Library

Do we have any philanthropists in our area? Realtors and developers: where are you? How about someone who just wants to do something meaningful for our community? We need your help. Now is the time to step forward and lend us a hand or give us some land.

Envision a new library within the old Café de Placitas with comfy adobe charm embracing you all around while you check out the historical fiction. Or if that’s not your bag, then picture the lovely garden site where you sip a cup of cappuccino while flipping through a magazine.

Together we can create a magical place for young and old, where books, DVDs, and films can be checked out. Where there is Internet access.We can utilize the library for a speaker’s forum, storytelling, and a meeting place. We could host a featured artist each month, put on an art show, and exhibit local talent.

What about a coffee/study area with tables to spread your work out on?.

Is there any local history that needs to be housed? We’re the ones to do it.

Wonder what progress we have made? Well, we’ve done a lot behind the scenes. So far, Lawrence Robinson has helped us draw up the paperwork to become incorporated. We have applied for 501(c)(3) status, bylaws have been established, and we have a board of directors and officers. We will have a display at the Placitas Fine Arts and Crafts Holiday Sale, but our greatest need right now is for our fund-raising group to get up and running. Our goal is to raise money towards a site and building. So far we have forty-one members and have collected approximately $4,000. This is thanks to Al Westbrook and his membership team, who work unceasingly to get the word out. Now it’s your turn.

Do you believe a library is a fundamental building block for our community’s support network? If so, the Friends of the Placitas Library invite you to join us in establishing this new library. Our first annual meeting will be held at the Placitas Community Center on December 3 at 7:00 p.m. Come early for refreshments. Join today. A ten-dollar membership is your show of support. Membership applications are available at the Merc, First State Bank, and La Puerta Realty.

The first step of building our dream is up to you. Let’s talk! E-mail me at:


Sandia Pueblo builds homes, children’s center with gaming revenues

Earlier this year, the Sandia Pueblo Tribal Council appropriated gaming revenues to build new homes and a children’s development center. The homes will range from 1,350 to 1,970 square feet, with three or four bedrooms and a two-car garage. The new homeowners will begin moving into the houses in early 2004.

For the most part Sandia Pueblo has relied on federal funding to meet the basic housing needs of the community. Governor Stuwart Paisano stated, “There has always been a huge gap between the housing needs of my tribe and federal funding. As an option for homeowners, tribal council has adopted a policy that establishes the pueblo’s first-ever home-mortgage program. Gaming revenue was key in initiating this program. The new housing recipients have gone to credit-counseling and home-maintenance programs to ensure they are successful homeowners.”

The new fifty-eight-hundred-square-foot children’s development center will accommodate fifty-four children up to five years of age. The center falls under the Pueblo’s Education Department and will incorporate language- and culture-preservation in all of its programs. Governor Paisano commented, “One unique feature of this facility is that you can view the Sandia Mountains, significant to our culture, from any window in the building.”


County officials to “walk a mile”
in the shoes of the poor

Jack Thomas
Sandoval County Commission

Until you've been in their shoes, it's impossible to grasp more than a hint of the hardships and despair people face when raising a family in poverty.

Poverty is a critical problem that marches in step with increasing jobless claims. Locally, more than one in every six New Mexico families is living below federal poverty levels. Unemployment, meanwhile, continues rising as America is suffering its worse three-year job loss record since 1939—a time before most county residents were even born.

No one wishes to live in poverty, and the longer the impoverished are stifled, the harder it becomes for them to improve their circumstances. Helping them overcome many obstacles is a responsibility we all share.

To gain a more realistic view of how changes in public policy can directly affect the poor, some county officials, including myself and all but one of the other county commissioners, have volunteered to be paired with low-income households. The Walk a Mile Project is a nationwide effort to humanize the plights of the poor by partnering those who shape public policy with families living in poverty.

For a month, officials will voluntarily live on the same limited funds as the family with whom we are partnered. We also will accompany family members to food banks, employment training programs, food-stamp offices and other agencies. The families, meanwhile, will go to public hearings or meetings that the officials normally attend.

The timing of the partnership is perfect as the holiday season further burdens families struggling to survive in poverty. The remaining weeks of the year also are when Americans dig deepest into their pockets and generously give time and money to help neighbors in need. In that sense, the remainder of the year represents a make-it-or-break-it period for many of our charitable organizations, even as disposable income for donations is becoming increasingly tight nationwide.

Sandoval County is very fortunate to have thousands of residents who exemplify the spirit of the holidays every day by doing so much to help others throughout the year. We are blessed, too, with many dedicated and caring organizations that perform vital roles in helping to feed, clothe, and provide shelter for our less fortunate neighbors every day of the year. They require our help as needs are rising at a rapid rate.

Sandoval County government, too, offers assistance through the county's extensive community programs and by helping fund outside agencies.

The county commission's Project Fund is anything but a "pork fund." The Project Fund is one of the numerous ways in which county government assists outside agencies and organizations to provide services that directly benefit all county residents, including our youth and seniors, and those in need. Without the county's assistance, some of the agencies on which residents depend would cease to function.

So far this year, the commission has committed money from the Project Fund for the Boys and Girls Club, Family Services for Children, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Bound for Success, Mediation Services of New Mexico, Westside Special Olympics, and other agencies and organizations.

Details of the funding, as well as allocations made from the commission's Project Fund in prior years, can be found on the county's Internet site,

While the agencies the commission supports may vary greatly in the services they provide, they share at least two common threads. They all provide programs and services that benefit county residents. Additionally, they rely on support by the county and, especially as we enter the holiday season, the countless individuals who donate money and time to help residents in need.

Questions or comments for Commissioner Thomas can be mailed to him in care of Sandoval County Administrative Offices, P.O. Box 40, Bernalillo, NM 87004.


County will burn your dead trees

The Sandoval County Fire Marshal's Office will burn dead trees, weather permitting, on November 8 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the fenced lot south of SR 165 just west of La Puerta Real Estate. Residents can drop off trees on the day of the burn or on the weekend of November 1 and 2 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. No trash other than trees and brush will be accepted.

Fire Marshal Clark "Sparkie" Speakman thanked Tom Ashe for providing the space and said, "Burning dead piñon will help eradicate bark beetles. For safety's sake, especially with the dry weather conditions, we would rather control the burning in one location rather than have people burn trees at home. This also solves the problem of using up space in the landfill." The Fire Marshal's Office will have fire trucks on location.

Residents are technically only allowed to burn tumbleweeds and brush on private property. For complete information regarding open burning, call 867-4581.


National Congress of American Indians will meet in New Mexico for Annual Convention

The National Congress of American Indians —the nation's oldest, largest, and most representative national organization serving American Indian and Alaska Native nations —will be hosting its Sixtieth Annual Convention and Trade show in Albuquerque from November 16 through 21. Entitled"Sovereign Nations, One Enduring Voice," the meeting will be held at the Albuquerque Convention Center. More than 3,000 American Indian leaders and representatives are expected to attend.

With the U.S. presidential election pending, all presidential candidates have been invited to participate and present their respective platforms for American Indian issues. Other focuses of the convention will include health and fitness, economic development, and homeland security.

On-site registration will begin on November 15. Fees are $575 for NCAI members, $600 for non-members, and $200 for students. For further information, call 202-466-7767 or visit the NCAI web site at


Tennis court for Placitas?

The tennis players of Placitas are cordially invited to express their interest in the possibility of building a tennis court for the use of residents. Bill Pearlman and John Wills are leading the effort, and various possibilities for funding such a project are being discussed. Those interested in helping move the idea along are invited to contact them at

“New Mexico's clear skies and relatively warm climate make it one of the great tennis geographies in the world, and Placitas has the added benefit of terrific air quality,” said Bill. “We hope to hear from players of every level as well as those who would like to learn tennis.”


A-V tour of Turner Ranch

An audio-visual tour of the Armendaris Ranch, Ted Turner’s 360,000-acre spread near Truth or Consequences, will be presented by the Friends of the Rio Grande Nature Center on November 14 at St. Michael and All Angels Church, 601 Montaño NW. The cost is $40 per person, and the proceeds will benefit the education program at the nature center.

The evening will begin at 6:00 p.m. with a barbeque dinner, followed by tour guide Tom Waddell, who is also a ranch manager, wildlife biologist, and storyteller. A silent auction will include an exclusive actual tour of the Armendaris to be led by Waddell during the summer of 2004.


Bernalillo C of C banquet, entertainment open to public

The Greater Bernalillo Chamber of Commerce is hosting its 2003 annual awards Banquet. This event the chamber recognizes businesses and individuals who are making a difference in the community and also holds a silent and live auction to raise funds for the chamber and the Bernalillo Education Foundation.

The banquet will be held at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa, 1300 Tuyuna Trail, in Santa Ana Pueblo, four miles north of Bernalillo, on Friday, November 7. The festivities start at 7:00 p.m.

The entertainment will include mariachis, traditional Mexican and Spanish dances, the Legends Choir, Native American drummers and dancers, and live music by DJ and Jazz Band Perdido. Tickets are $40 per person or $375 per table of ten.

The Bernalillo Chamber of Commerce invites members and nonmembers to join in a night of entertainment, dining, auction, and dancing. For further information, auction item donations, or a corporate sponsorship, call 867-1185.






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