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ECO-BEAT

Conservation Voters New Mexico releases 2005 Legislative Scorecard

Conservation Voters New Mexico is pleased to announce the release of its 2005 Legislative Scorecard. CVNM’s scorecard allows voters to “know the score” by assessing both the conservation voting records of state legislators and the Governor’s actions on environmental bills. It also provides information on important conservation issues that arose during the 2005 session, with the potential to impact the health and environment of all New Mexicans.

The average conservation score for Representatives was 62 percent, while the Senate fared slightly better, with an average conservation score of 65 percent. Governor Richardson scored 100 percent for his legislative actions, with a success rate for his proactive environmental agenda of 69 percent.

Conservation Voters New Mexico’s 2005 State Legislative Scorecard can be downloaded in PDF form from the CVNM Web site, www.cvnm.org.


Open invitation to a Las Huertas Creek cleanup

—JENNIFER NELSON
Mark your calendars for two events on Saturday, September 10, beginning at 9:00 a.m. First, view on-the-ground riparian-restoration efforts by the kindergartners through second graders. Then spend your morning in the upper Las Huertas Creek area viewing the changing colors and onset of autumn—and cleaning up this beautiful area.

Meet at the Las Placitas Community Center at 9:00 a.m. We will walk to the nearby restoration site at Placitas Elementary, then carpool to the Las Huertas Creek Picnic Grounds and surrounding areas for a post-Labor Day Las Huertas Creek cleanup. The Alpha Optimists (fourth through sixth graders) will be on hand with their families to assist.

Join your community for a morning of watershed education and stewardship, and fresh mountain air. Refreshments will be provided. Visit www.lasplacitas.org for more information.


Las Huertas Creek water-quality demonstration

The Surface Water Quality Bureau of the New Mexico Environment Department and the Las Huertas Watershed Project invite the public to a water-quality survey demonstration of lower Las Huertas Creek on Wednesday, September 7. The demonstration will be held at the Tres Amigos Road crossing of Las Huertas Creek, from 10:30 a.m. to noon.

NMED will demonstrate stream-survey techniques used to monitor and assess the water quality and biological habitat of New Mexico's streams and rivers. We will discuss the chemical, physical, and biological parameters critical to the integrity of a stream and demonstrate sampling for water chemistry and biological habitat conditions.

Directions: Heading east on Highway 165 past Placitas, turn left (north) on Camino de Tecolote just past mile marker 7. Just past the Las Huertas Creek crossing, go left (west) on Camino de la Rosa Castilla and proceed approximately 0.9 miles to Tres Amigos Road. Go left and park adjacent to the road.

Bring drinking water, sun or rain protection, sturdy shoes, and all your questions about stream sampling in New Mexico.
For more information, call Seva Joseph, NMED, at (505) 827-0573, or Reid Bandeen, Las Huertas Watershed Project, at 867-5477.


Giant Industries restoring aged pipeline to carry crude oil through Placitas

—BILL DIVEN
Giant Industries has completed its purchase of the fifty-year-old petroleum pipeline running near Placitas village and begun planning for its return to service, according to a company official.

“We closed on August 1,” said Giant executive vice president Leland Gould. “We paid $9 million, but there will be considerable costs to upgrade it and get it into service, more millions.”

Giant expects it will take a year to eighteen months to restore the line and add intermediate stations before it can carry crude oil from southeast New Mexico to the Giant refinery at Bloomfield. Historically, the line, which has been out of service for years, ran the other way, carrying crude from the San Juan Basin to southeastern refineries.

The line basically is in good shape, Gould said, and the new intermediate stations would detect leaks sooner should one occur. The line would carry ten to fifteen thousand barrels of crude a day to a refinery currently operating at barely half of its capacity, he added.

“Truly, our main focus is securing the line,” Gould said. “If people look at our history, we already own pipelines in New Mexico and made that our focus. We have not had any problems.”

Placitas activists, however, are not yet willing to agree with Gould's assessment of the line,

“We're not against pipelines,” said Bert Miller, president of Citizens for Safe Pipelines. “We want safe pipelines, and this one's got serious flaws.”

The citizens group actively opposed a plan by former owner Shell Pipeline Company to revive the line for highly volatile refined products like gasoline and jet fuel. The group criticized the spotty safety record of Shell and its associate, Equilon Pipeline Company, but company officials cited economic reasons when they abandoned the project two years ago.

Shell also promised improvements, Miller said, adding he is anxious to hear what Giant has in mind.

Giant plans to hold a town-hall meeting in Placitas possibly as early as this month, although arrangements still are being worked out. Gould said his company is working with the Placitas group to set up the meeting and that anyone with questions can contact him at 249-1306.

The line runs between the Cedar Creek and Ranchos de Placitas areas to a pumping station near the intersection of Camino del Las Huertas and Pine D Ranch Road. From there it follows Las Huertas past the Placitas Community Center and the elementary school and follows NM 165 before crossing to the east side of the Sandia Mountains.

Meanwhile the Bureau of Land Management continues its review of another project, the proposal by Mid-America Pipeline to boost capacity in its existing line through Placitas. The line is contained within a multi-pipeline corridor running under I-25, through the Placitas Open Space, and along Las Huertas Creek and Diamond Tail Road.

The BLM already has taken public comments on an environmental assessment of the proposal to build parallel segments of pipe at a dozen locations, from Wyoming to Hobbs. A decision on permitting the project is expected this month or early in the fall, according to the BLM.

The MAPCO line carries natural-gas liquids, a by-product of natural-gas production. Another MAPCO line carrying refined fuels through the corridor leaked about fifty barrels of jet fuel near Las Huertas Creek in 1999 before a hiker noticed the stained ground.

Yet another corridor pipeline raised public concern recently when an excavator began digging near the intersection of Diamond Tail and Camino de San Francisco. The digging involved routine inspection of a carbon-dioxide pipeline required by federal regulations governing populated and environmentally sensitive areas, according to officials of Kinder Morgan Company.

Information on pipeline locations in the Placitas area can be found on the Web site of the National Pipeline Mapping System, at www.npms.rspa.dot.gov. Additional information is on the federal Office of Pipeline Safety site, at www.ops.dot.gov.


Domenici clobbers cooperation on the Rio Grande

—PATRICK FARRELL, HIGH COUNTRY NEWS
New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici (R), wants to give more money—nearly $13 million annually—to a five-year-old program dedicated to endangered species on the Middle Rio Grande. He also plans to put the Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Act Collaborative Program under federal authority and trim its membership. But not all the members think those changes are good for the river.

The program aims to protect the silvery minnow and the Southwestern willow flycatcher. Its strength has been the consensus decision-making of the group’s diverse membership, says Kara Gillon of the Alliance for the Rio Grande Heritage, a coalition of environmental organizations. Now Domenici wants to cut the program from 21 to 14 participants, leaving it stacked with state and federal agencies. Domenici staffer Erik Webb says the change will help the agencies work together more effectively.

But Gillon and other nongovernmental members are concerned that local knowledge will lose out under the new plan. And fisheries biologist David Probst, of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, is worried about the money. Most of the bill’s funding would go toward implementing a controversial U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plan—rewritten in 2003 by agency bureaucrats—that allows the river to dry each year after June 15. Only about $5 million is earmarked for leasing water, and that may not be enough to keep the river flowing, warns Probst. "I think you need to look realistically at the situation, at limited resources," he says. "The answer to the problem is to keep the water in the damn river."

High Country News (www.hcn.org) covers the West's communities and natural-resource issues from Paonia, Colorado.


Saving an endangered plant waiting for rain

An endangered plant species known to grow only in New Mexico is getting some tender loving care, courtesy of the New Mexico state Forestry Division and some of its cooperating agencies.
The Holy Ghost ipomopsis (pronounced “eye-poe-mop-sis”) is listed as endangered by the state and federal endangered species acts and can only be found on a mile-and-a-quarter stretch of Holy Ghost Canyon, in the Upper Pecos Watershed.
In early July, Forestry Division endangered-plant program manager Bob Sivinski and UNM Natural Heritage botanist Phil Tonne, along with volunteers from the USDA Forest Service, University of New Mexico, and College of Santa Fe, planted almost four hundred ipomopsis seedlings in Winsor and Panchuela Canyons, in the upper Pecos watershed. Their hope is to establish additional populations of the Holy Ghost ipomopsis.
The seedlings, initially grown using seeds from wild Ipomopsis plants, were cultivated for about nine months at the UNM Biology Department. They were planted in early July, with hopes that annual monsoonal moisture would provide for their watering needs. However, with all indications showing that the monsoon would be delayed, Sivinski was forced to come up with a creative way to ensure the plants' survival.
So, for several weeks, Sivinski and teams of volunteers, including crews from the Santa Fe National Forest and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, have been hiking up the canyons and watering the seedlings by hand, using buckets filled in nearby creeks and backpack water pumps, usually used by wildland firefighters to fight fires. Occasionally, no volunteers have been available and Sivinski has had to water each plant by himself, which has been a lengthy process.
He his teams will continue making two trips a week up to the seedlings until it's clear that nature can provide enough water to sustain them.


65 homes connected to water after 3-year dry spell

—ERNIE WATSON
For the last three years the sixty-five homes in the east mountain community of Green Ridge have been without water. But through the help of USDA Rural Development and the state of New Mexico, the water is flowing once again.

"The community of Green Ridge is a good example how the federal government and state government can partner with the residents of a small community to provide the basic water service that many of us take for granted," said USDA Rural Development state director Paul Gutierrez. Gutierrez added, "After working with the residents of Green Ridge, our agency was able to provide $522,105 in loan and grant funding, along with $400,000 from the New Mexico Finance Authority. The combined funds were used to dig a new water well and build a modern and safe water system for this community."

For years, the Green Ridge subdivision, just east of Tijeras, in Bernalillo County, got its water from a privately owned water company. Then in July of 2002, the forty-five families living in the community at the time woke up to find the water had been shut off. The privately owned water system had not paid its electric bill, so the power on the well was turned off. The news for the residents got worse when they found out the water system that had provided water to them for years had been declared illegal because it had no rights-of-way, no sanitary testing, and no legal permits.

Since the 2002 shutoff, the residents had been hauling water from Albuquerque in various containers, including milk jugs. They became adept at conserving their water for drinking, washing dishes, showering (with buckets, camp-style), and flushing toilets. Until the new water system was built, they were climbing ladders to fill swamp coolers manually.


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