Pipeline decisions in BLM’s lap
By the mid-August deadline, the Bureau of Land Management had received seventeen written comments from residents of Wyoming and New Mexico on plans to expand a gas pipeline.
All but four of those comments came from Placitas.
Residents raised questions about public health and safety and effects on endangered species and water resources, according to Danita Burns, BLM public affairs officer.
Placitas residents also suggested alternatives to the pipeline location and the size of the new sections, something Mid-America Pipeline Company is looking into, she said.
“It’s wait and see,” said Bert Miller, president of Citizens for Safe Pipelines. “We’re in that period where it’s in the BLM’s lap now. The question is whether there’s enough concern expressed here go to the more elaborate environmental impact statement.”
Currently the BLM is conducting a less-extensive environmental assessment scheduled for release in May.
“If they get to something in the EA that triggers something, they’ll go to an EIS,” Burns said. “Right now, they have not.”
MAPL operates an 840-mile pipeline system linking Wyoming and Hobbs with three lines buried diagonally across Sandoval County from northwest to southeast within a fifty-foot corridor. Two of the lines carry natural-gas liquids, a by-product of natural gas.
With gas production up in Wyoming, MAPL proposes to spend up to $150 million building segments of parallel pipeline, six each in Wyoming and New Mexico, totalling 202 miles. The new pipe requires and additional public, private and tribal right-of-way.
The new segment here would extend 22.5 miles from a pumping station at San Ysidro to a valve connection at the east side of the Placitas Open Space.
Because pipelines naturally lose pressure over distance, adding a third line from a pumping station boosts pressure in the remaining two-line segments. MAPL estimates additional pipe and pressure will add fifty thousand barrels a day to capacity—up from the current 225,000 barrels a day.
The corridor from San Ysidro runs north of Bernalillo and under I-25 across a corner of Sundance Mesa, then passes through the Placitas Open Space and follows Las Huertas Creek and Diamond Tail Road over the Crest of Montezuma and into Santa Fe County.
Solar Fiesta: a renewable-energy educational fair
Do you have questions about how to hook up a solar- or wind-energy system on your home or ranch? Do you want to build with rammed earth, straw bale, or adobe? Do you want to reduce your gas or electric use through passive-solar hot-water heating?
The Solar Fiesta 2004 will be held September 25 and 26 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center at the corner of Menaul and 12th Street in Albuquerque. The workshops and exhibits for adults and children are designed to encourage independent-living practices in both rural and urban environments.
There will be a Rally for Renewables and a Super Solar Silent Auction.
The fiesta will also offer classes in the growing and uses of bamboo, basic homesteading skills, solar cooking, alternative fuels, and other sustainable-living techniques.
Workshops are filled on a first-come basis.
Costs are very low. The exhibit area is $3 for adults, $2 for seniors. Kids and teachers are admitted free with school ID. The hour-long workshops cost $5 each or $20 for an all-day pass. Parking across the street is free.
On September 20 to 24, prior to the fiesta, the New Mexico Solar Energy Association, along with Solar Energy International, will present a comprehensive week-long workshop on solar energy—three days of classroom study and two days installing a photovoltaic system. For information and registration, contact Solar Energy International at www.solarenergy.org or 970-963-8855. There is a separate charge for this workshop.
For more information about the NMSEA Solar Fiesta, call (505) 246-0400 or go to www.nmsea.org.
Piñon Ridge decision appealed
The fight over the proposed Piñon Ridge subdivision is moving on to district court.
Attorney David Campbell, representing several residents of the adjoining Puesta del Sol subdivision opposed to the new project, filed a notice of appeal on August 20. The action follows the rejection of his clients’ protest by the Sandoval County Commission.
Campbell said the appeal will be based on water availability and the process used by developer Jack Hostetler to win county approval for his plan.
Hostetler, of Homes by Hostetler, has proposed subdividing 16.5 acres into five lots on a ridge across NM 165 from the Placitas Fire Brigade main station. However, homes would be built on only the four smaller lots, with the fifth lot of about eight acres reserved for future development.
Two previous attempts to develop the land involved a condominium project and then an eleven-lot subdivision. Hostetler filed his current project as a “summary subdivision” under a process that allows land to be split into five or fewer pieces.
Under the subdivision ordinance, summary subdivisions can be approved administratively without a public hearing. Attorney Campbell contends a proper evaluation of water, traffic, and environmental affects should be based on the ultimate sixteen-acre project, not just the four lots.
“We need to have the whole truth, not just a part of it,” he told the Signpost. “We believe state law does not permit this kind of re-subdividing.”
Campbell also said the State Engineer had determined the subdivision lacks sufficient water.
However, Hostetler’s attorney, Catherine Davis, has argued one of three wells drilled by Hostetler does show an adequate supply. She said Hostetler followed the county subdivision ordinance and understands he must wait seven years before the eight acres can be summarily divided again.
Any attempt to subdivide before then would trigger a formal review process with public notice and hearings, she added.
By Signpost deadline, Davis had not responded to a request for comment on the appeal.
With Campbell’s notice, the next step is for the county to produce the written record of the case. Campbell then has thirty days to file a written statement laying out the basis for his appeal.
Writers on the Range:
How a resort town loses its soul
If not paradise, Aspen during the summer comes close. The mountains are dazzling, the gussied-up Victorian homes beguiling. The musical menu is rich, and a Nobel or Pulitzer prize-winner lectures nearly every evening. Everywhere are trails. It’s a heaven for tourists.
But Aspen is no longer a tourist town in the conventional sense. A new kind of tourism, one dominated by extravagantly expensive homes, has gained economic swagger in Aspen and Vail, Colorado, Jackson, Wyoming, Sun Valley, Idaho, and several other resorts of the West. This second-home economy is bigger than skiing, bigger than summer tourism, and in some places bigger than both.
Mountains have always been places of weekend and summer cabins. Then, during the 1960s and 1970s, as skiing became a lifestyle, condominiums proliferated. But in the 1980s and 1990s, a fundamental shift occurred. Buyers wanted stand-alone homes, sometimes miles from the ski slopes.
"Supersize me" can apply to more than fast food. Homes of ten thousand square feet have become common, even if used only a few weeks or months of the year. The sweepstakes winner of this conspicuous consumption is the fifty-five-thousand-square-foot mansion in Aspen owned by Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States.
Even at little-known Fraser, Colorado, a "cabin" in a mountain resort goes for $450,000. And a cottage in this vacation world goes for even more. Talk about a cottage industry: it takes hundreds of people to build one of these mansions, then a steady stream of workers to scrub the floors, tend the flower gardens, and keep the pantry stocked.
The trickle-down is enormous. Many maids get $30 an hour, and immigrants who barely speak English can earn $18 an hour chiseling stone. No wonder low-paying tourist businesses complain they have a hard time getting help.
Demographers predict a strong demand for such vacation homes as baby boomers conclude their peak earning years and then retire. Some second homes will become first homes, at least for the early retirement years, a phenomenon that is already occurring.
All of this means existing trends will continue. Few people working in the resort communities live there. In a market hyperinflated by the demand for second homes, land becomes too expensive for laborers. Almost all affordable housing in resort towns is subsidized. One-time down-valley towns have become upscale, which means bedroom communities are ever-farther away. One-way commutes of thirty or sixty or even ninety minutes become common. Just as second-home owners have dual existences, so do the workers.
The massive infusion of money from second homes has also helped cause profound demographic shifts. Ski resorts were once the domain of young white kids, but the median age is rising rapidly—close to sixty in the Aspen area without including second-home owners. There are proportionately few GenXers, as couples in their 20s and 30s have found the resort communities too expensive to sink roots into.
In most resort towns of the West, the term "second-home owner" has almost pejorative connotations, similar to "developer." But the truth is nowhere that simple. Spend some time in a small mountain town that hasn’t had fresh blood in three generations, and you’d probably be happy to see a few second-home owners in your midst.
Many resort towns have begun to question whether this new industry pays its way. Most towns depend upon sales tax revenues, and unlike factories, these homes pay few taxes. A lot of people look back fondly to the old days of tourism, where the tourists rented hotel rooms instead of buying the corner lots.
Some locals also say it’s hard to relate to second-home owners who have so much money they don’t buy their own groceries, let alone know the price of bread. Social divisions between the haves and have-nots, between the locals and the second-home owners, are widening, and that’s not good.
In Aspen, former Mayor Rachel Richards observed this year’s Fourth of July parade, noting that second-home owners were the spectators while locals participated in the parade.
"We need each other," she said. But the issue, she added, is one of balance. Once a town loses that balance, it’s hard to get it back. Aspen, she thinks, has tipped. Other towns, she says, should take note.
Allen Best is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). He lives and writes on Colorado’s Front Range.
NM Interstate Stream Commission accepts Middle Rio Grande water plan
—State News Release
Office of the State Engineer/Interstate Stream Commission
In an effort to plan for an adequate water supply in relation to projected demand in a specific region of the state—as well as to plan for drought conditions that are predicted to continue in future years across the State of New Mexico—the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission accepted the completed Middle Rio Grande Regional Water Plan on August 18.
Governor Bill Richardson’s Office directed the Interstate Stream Commission to have a comprehensive statewide water plan in place by the end of 2003. In addition, the Commission has worked for many years with all regions of the state to prepare their own regional water plans. Once regional water plans are completed, they must be reviewed by the Interstate Stream Commission staff and must be accepted by the Interstate Stream Commission.
“Even though the State Water Plan already is completed, it is important to finish individual regional water plans. These regional water plans provide an opportunity to involve the public in developing water management, development, and conservation strategies within their regions,” said New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission Director Estevan López. “New Mexico has been in a drought for the past four years, and such conditions may continue for several years to come. The state must work with water users and interested citizens within a region to develop mechanisms for managing limited water resources. The state’s regional water planning process provides a forum for water users, local governments, businesses, and interested citizens to have input into the development of the regional plan.”
To date, the Interstate Stream Commission has accepted regional water plans for the Colfax County Region, Jemez y Sangre Area, Lower Pecos Valley, Lea County, Tularosa-Sacramento and Salt Basins, and the Estancia Basin, the Socorro-Sierra Regional Water Plan, the San Juan Basin Regional Water Plan, and the Northwest New Mexico Regional Water Plan.
The Middle Rio Grande Region includes the counties of Valencia, Bernalillo, and Sandoval. It also includes the Pueblos of Jemez, Zia, San Felipe, Santa Ana, Sandia, and Isleta as well as portions of the Pueblos of Santa Clara, Cochiti, Santo Domingo, and Laguna. In addition, it covers a portion of the Jicarilla Nation and a portion of the Tohajiilee Chapter of the Navajo Nation. Also included are the municipalities of Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Jemez Springs, Cuba, San Isidro, Bernalillo, Corrales, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, Bosque Farms, Los Lunas, and Belen. Other entities such as the Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority, the Southern Sandoval County Flood control Authority, and the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District also are included in the plan.
The Mid Region Council of Governments Water Resources Board and the Middle Rio Grande Water Assembly evaluated water management alternatives based upon the goals of assuring a sufficient and sustainable water supply to the region at an economically feasible price. They evaluated the future water needs of the region and considered the need to protect the environment and regional public welfare and developed plans to support reasonable growth in the region through development of new supplies, watershed rehabilitation and management, as well as conservation.
The water available in the region is supplied from both ground and surface sources including the Rio Grande and its tributaries. Principal uses of water in the region are for irrigated agriculture, municipal, industrial, and domestic consumptive uses, riparian evapotranspiration, and evaporative losses from conservation and recreation storage.
The plan addresses future challenges to managing water resources in the region including drought conditions, Rio Grande Compact constraints, unadjudicated water rights, federal Endangered Species Act issues, and projected population growth.
The plan will be posted on the Office of the State Engineer’s website located at: www.ose.state.nm.us
The Office of the State Engineer is charged with administering the state's water resources. The State Engineer has power over the supervision, measurement, appropriation, and distribution of all surface and groundwater in New Mexico, including streams and rivers that cross state boundaries. The State Engineer is also Secretary of the Interstate Stream Commission and oversees its staff.
The nine-member Interstate Stream Commission is charged with separate duties including protecting New Mexico’s right to water under eight interstate stream compacts, ensuring the state complies with each of those compacts, as well as water planning.
National water group honors Lupe Aragon
Lupe Aragon, of the Albuquerque-based New Mexico Rural Water Association, has been voted National Rural Water Association Circuit Rider of the Year 2004 by his peers across the United States.
Lupe Aragon is what “rural water” is all about.
Aragon was born and raised in Cuba, New Mexico, where he still lives and serves on the village council. He has received this national award as a result of his love of helping people and a dedication to the water industry that goes far beyond his job description.
Now in his thirteenth year with NMRWA, Aragon serves the northern part of the state and is called upon to assist communities with virtually every aspect of system operation—from technical matters to rate and funding issues to evaluations and recommendations to management.
Since 1996, Aragon has also been working with the International Rural Water Association, mainly in Honduras, where it is estimated that over 140,000 people benefit directly from the IRWA programs. He averages two trips a year to Central American communities. In 2002 Aragon received the International Rural Water Association’s International Circuit Rider award.
NMRWA is in its twenty-sixth year of serving rural and small water systems throughout the state. It is a member-based nonprofit association dedicated to providing technical assistance, training, and legislative representation to those systems, usually at no cost to them. Information about NMRWA and the services it provides may be obtained from their Albuquerque office or at www.nmrwa.org.