The Sandoval Signpost

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THE GAUNTLET

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letters, opinions, editorials

Signpost Cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert

re: movie of Las Huertas Creek flood and exposed pipelines posted on Signpost Web site

Since words cannot describe the awesome forces unleashed when the couny roads failed repeatedly this summer, I made a movie of the Las Huertas Creek floods at Arco Iris and the exposed pipelines left in their wake.

—Bill Patterson, Placitas

[This movie has been posted for public viewing on the Signpost Web site. Go to: www.sandovalsignpost.com/click on Back Issues in the left-hand column/click on September 2006/click on Up Front/scroll down below the photo of Las Huertas Creek and above the story “Monsoons pound Placitas”/choose a wmv file of the flood that suits your Internet connection. Or type the following url into the address field of your browser to take you directly to the link: http://www.sandovalsignpost.com/sep06/html/up_front.html. —Ed.]

re: Placitas needs extended exit lane off I-25

This letter deals with the messy situation many afternoons between 4:30 and 6:00 p.m., driving home on I-25 and exiting for Placitas. The quality of Placitas living has recently diminished to some degree, in part due to the I-25 Exit 242 evening challenges.

Since the Rail Runner stoplight was added, routinely there is a large backup to the Exit 242 off-ramp. This is made considerably worse when an accident on Paseo del Norte or Alameda sends many Rio Rancho homebound vehicles headed to the Bernalillo exits (there was a two-mile backup one night recently due to a Paseo accident). With some help from Sandoval County, perhaps there is a solution.

A very long extension of the right-hand exit lane could be added. This is not a huge project, but one that would have an immediate positive impact, especially for those of us who live in Placitas. Our county officials with pressure coming from Placitas residents, developers, and real-estate agents need to know that waiting until I-25 is rebuilt in 2007-08 with improved exit lanes is not soon enough. A third lane needs to be considered right away.

—Phil Messuri, Placitas

re: New Mexico is still a desert

Placitas is a desert, as is most of New Mexico, and averages but 8.8 inches of rainfall per year. As of June of this year, the state was officially in a drought. So when I read in the North Ranchos de Placitas Community Water Letter that one of my neighbors is using 45,450 gallons of water, per month! (the equivalent of twenty-three swimming pools full of water), I was stunned! Does my good neighbor think he is still living in Ohio or Hawaii?

In June 2006 the top five water users/wasters in North Ranchos averaged 31,941 gallons of water. Per month! Are you folks operating a laundry or car-wash business out of your homes? Or maintaining a private nine-hole golf course? Or selling water to El Paso? I'd like to believe that my good neighbors are just naive and not really inconsiderate. But I could be missing something. Write me or the Signpost and tell us how you can possibly be using this much water. I really am curious.

—Gary W. Priester, North Ranchos de Placitas

re: gravel-mine expansion

Mining operations, which existed on private and BLM land prior to residential development in an area, have the right to continue their business. However, mining operations in general are not compatible with residential development. Furthermore, air quality and safety issues associated with mining operations are very much the business of the state legislature. Questions of safety and traffic congestion on state highways are certainly the concern of the state legislature.

The petitioning of the BLM and private land owners to halt the expansion of mining operations, as has been done in Sandoval County by Las Placitas Association, is an excellent first approach and may bring favorable results. I would encourage a coordinated effort within our district and statewide, as many areas in New Mexico are affected by the expansion of mining operations.

—Janice Saxton, Placitas

re: transportation of hazardous materials

Transport of hazardous materials is a continuing problem in many communities across New Mexico, including ours. Whether the transport is by truck on our highways, by pipeline through our communities, by air, or by rail, the problem of liability when an accident occurs is of concern to us all.

Most of the owners of the hazardous materials being transported have contracted with a carrier or have spun off a separate carrier corporation with very limited assets. When an accident occurs, the carrier corporation can declare bankruptcy to avoid liability for the damages incurred.

Legislation is needed to assign responsibility to the owners of the hazardous material being transported for the choice of carrier, establishment of safety standards, and the ultimate safe arrival of the hazardous material at its destination. This would encourage more responsible decisions regarding transport maintenance, safety, etc., on the part of those who benefit from the transportation of the hazardous material. It is an absurd breach of justice when wealthy corporations can avoid liability for damage done during transport of their hazardous material even when it can be shown that the carriers’ maintenance or safety standards were woefully inadequate. Litigation by the damaged individuals is an inadequate control, since most individuals lack the resources to successfully sue the multiple corporations involved.

—Janice Saxton, Placitas

re: they call the wind Pariah

To: Friends in the East

I noticed in your recent e-mail you've voiced complaints about the East Coast winds and how they tend to disarrange your hair and occasionally send tiny projectiles into one or both of your eyes.

Since moving here, we've discovered there are winds in Placitas, New Mexico, as well. I believe them to be generally more powerful than the proverbial speeding locomotive but have not yet conducted comparative measurements. But in fact, that's how they arrive—like a five-hundred-car freight train, all at once, with no introductions. It's like having a blizzard in which the snow comes down all at once instead of in flakes. The winds of Placitas do not engage in foreplay. (Perhaps that's just part of the culture—one cannot be certain.) And the winds can withdraw as suddenly as they appear, leaving a satisfying calm.

A recent microburst ripped five buttons from my rather natty-looking L.L. Bean Sunwashed Canvas Shirt (color: Canyon Rust), driving them deep into the forehead of my neighbor in a very precise horizontal alignment just above the brow line. (This gives him—generously speaking—a rather peculiar appearance, although he apparently doesn't mind. He expressed gratitude, however, that it wasn't a zipper.)

Wildlife can also suffer in these strong winds. The same microburst referred to above directly struck a group of pack rats carrying off the transmission from my neighbor's camper, causing them and their load to tumble down an arroyo, fatally crushing one, wounding three (primarily compound fractures and deep contusions) and scattering the others in panic. The transmission proved unsalvageable.

The wind's effect on human tissue is compounded by the usual low humidity, nearly always below zero. Today's humidity is minus fourteen. My spouse and I have discovered the importance of products generally known in New Mexico as “moisturizers,” i.e., without them one begins to look Creature of the Black Lagoon-ish almost instantly upon exposure to prevailing climatic conditions. (If that 1954 “creature” movie frightened you, you should have seen me after an un-moisturized three hours on the hiking trails. You'd have prayed for a speedy death until, with relief, you spotted my identifying birthmark.)

On the positive side, however, there is no mildew on my house, whereas fungus represented a major weight-bearing feature on my previous old home in the Northeast. Furthermore, wind power accounts for much of my electrical power, reducing my reliance on fossil fuel. We don't have hurricanes here, and I sincerely hope you are eternally spared same back east. But don't tell me about wind. I'd rather hear about the Patriots.

Come out and see me. We'll furnish the moisturizer, as you may not be allowed to bring it on the plane. And bring a windbreaker.

—Herb, Placitas

Heard Around the West

—Betsy Marston
Oregon
—Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne recently visited a factory that makes luxury recreational vehicles, those behemoths that look like city buses and sport monikers like Inspire, Allure and Intrigue. In a press release, Country Coach Inc. president Jay Howard said he was pleased with the secretary's support for his company's high-end mobile homes, and added that Kempthorne told him it was his aim to balance "accessibility with the purity of our national park experience." Country Coaches feature diesel engines, bodies that expand sideways to add rooms, lengths of up to 45 feet and price tags that easily top $1 million. Kempthorne said his favorite was the 2007 Allure with the 42-foot floor plan.

California—A bachelor farmer or rancher working in the Central Valley of California area surely needs Hollywood's help in finding a wife, right? That's what the producers of American Idol assume, so they're creating a reality TV show called The Farmer Wants a Wife. The program pairs each of six eligible farmers with three city girls "who are fed up with the Los Angeles dating scene," reports the Bakersfield Californian. After a few days together—perhaps feeding the hogs or irrigating the fields—the farmer gets to pick the gal he likes best. But will rural guys really jump at playing the television game? Richard Jelmini, president of the Kern County Farm Bureau, doubts it: "The people doing the farming are very conservative type of individuals who don't do that type of thing." Another farmer from the region suggested the TV producers might have better luck with sheepherders.

South Dakota—At the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, marriage is the last thing on anybody's mind. "There is no T-shirt too obscene, no tent-side solicitation too crude," reports the Denver Post. Booze, nudity and deafening music are de rigueur, or as one camper put it, "People are laid-back and just looking for some fun. … I've seen many, many, many breasts."

Oregon—Pity the poor camper who hears a call of nature during the night but doesn't look where he is peeing. Jerry Mersereau, 23, fell 20 to 30 feet off a cliff in Mount Hood National Forest while searching for "a place to relieve himself," reports The Week magazine. Now, he is suing the U.S. government for failing to anticipate that the cliff was dangerous; he's also asking for compensation for his "mental anguish."

Washington—The agricultural work ethic is alive and well in Washington state, especially when the crop is marijuana: "We're struck by the amount of work (illegal growers) put into it," said Rich Wiley, head of the state patrol's narcotics program, in the agricultural weekly Capital Press. "They often run individual drip lines to each plant and are out there fertilizing them." Most of the camouflaged pot farms were in eastern Washington on national forest or state-owned land, and many went undetected this year. The Air National Guard, which spots many illegal pot plants from above, has been diverted to fighting in Iraq.

Nevada—If you're defending a man accused of kidnapping, maybe you should come to court on time instead of 90 minutes late, speak clearly rather than slur your words, and perhaps it would behoove you to leave behind your companion, described by the Las Vegas Review-Journal as a "young woman wearing a black halter top and tight pants." But attorney Joseph Caramagno made all of those mistakes, annoying Judge Michelle Leavitt so much that she ordered Caramagno to take a Breathalyzer test right in the middle of the courtroom. The disheveled-looking attorney passed—barely. His blood alcohol level was .075 in a state where the legal limit for driving is .08 percent. The judge declared a mistrial.

Arizona—Meanwhile, on the slopes of a canyon within the Tonto National Forest in Arizona, a woman intent on scattering her mother's ashes walked into what might be the largest marijuana farm ever found in the state, reports the Arizona Republic. The growers weren't around when police found more than 30,000 plants, some nine feet tall, that were watered by a sophisticated irrigation system. This is the sixth "marijuana garden" shut down in Arizona this year; in 2005, busts yielded 220,000 pounds of pot with a street value of some $110 million.

New Mexico—A big bird with a bad grip caused 2,000 people in Las Cruces to lose power for an hour. According to The Associated Press, the bird—probably a hawk—dropped a bull snake onto an electrical power line, instantly shorting it out. No word on the snake's condition.

Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado (betsym@hcn.org). Tips of Western oddities are always appreciated and often shared in Heard around the West.

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