Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988



Addition & water harvesting tanks

SSCAFCA building addition achieves “net zero” energy use

The Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority (SSCAFCA), has achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Platinum Certification, as well as the first “net zero” energy use on the construction of their commercial office expansion in Rio Rancho. It is the first LEED platinum building in New Mexico that is 100 percent publically financed and marks SSCAFCA as a leader in sustainability.

The LEED platinum level has been achieved by just slightly more than 200 buildings in the United States. The platinum recognition is the highest level awarded from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), an internationally-recognized, third-party verifier of sustainable building practices. Measurable standards in energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor air quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts make up the LEED criteria.

The construction added a 4,257 square foot addition to the original 4,677 square foot SSCAFCA offices. The addition of 16 kilowatts of bifacial solar panels will capture more energy from the sun than the building uses each year. The additional power generated will be “sold back” to PNM for other users. The addition was designed with features to also reduce the overall consumption of water and energy.

In addition, the building demonstrates to area residents how to incorporate passive solar heating, use of native landscaping, and natural elements into the design. Water-harvesting techniques allow rainfall from nearly the entire roof to funnel into a 16,000 gallon collection system for later use as irrigation, and the use of low-flow plumbing fixtures will also greatly reduce the use of potable water pulled from the aquifer. Pervious paving of the parking areas prevents rainfall run-off, reducing storm water loads on city infrastructure.

SSCAFCA is responsible for providing flood and erosion protection for people and property in southern Sandoval County. It is an independent political body with an elected board that oversees 200 square miles, or nearly 128,000 acres of land, for the operation of flood control facilities and watershed parks, which are within its jurisdiction.

“SSCAFCA’s mission is about preserving resources, and when we needed to add space to the building, we felt it was important to carry that belief into the construction,” said Mark Conkling, chairman of the SSCAFCA board of directors. “Over the life of this building, it will actually save money. By incorporating LEED standards into the construction, we’ve actually invested against the increasing costs of power and water. ”

“This construction project was about more than cost controls,” said David Stoliker, SSCAFCA executive engineer. “It was about the effective use of resources, about investing in the stewardship of taxpayer dollars for the future. It’s our hope that all other publicly-funded offices to be built in New Mexico will incorporate high LEED standards as well.”

A dedication ceremony is scheduled for October 15, beginning at 11 a.m. at 1041 Commercial Drive SE in Rio Rancho. The public is invited to attend; please RSVP to (505) 892-7246 by Wednesday, October 13.

Wild Turkeys

By the early 1900s, only 30,000 wild turkeys roamed the continental U.S., having been exterminated across almost half their former range. Today, as many as seven million roam the countryside across every U.S. state except Alaska. Pictured: Wild turkeys photographed near Little River, Georgia.


The Editors of E, The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: How are wild turkeys faring in the U.S.? Occasionally I’ll see some crossing the road, but how well could they be doing with all the development going on around them?                                                                                                                 
—Harley Barton, Hingham, MA

No one can be sure how many tens of millions of wild turkeys roamed what was to become the continental United States when the Puritans dined on them at the first Thanksgiving in 1621 near Plymouth Rock, but there were obviously enough of the birds to make them easy prey. By the late 1700s, turkeys across the frontier were being harvested with reckless abandon. The food shortages that accompanied the Civil War accelerated demand for wild turkeys, and their numbers started to dwindle to startlingly low levels. By the early 1900s, only some 30,000 wild turkeys remained; the birds had been extirpated across almost half of their former range.

But things started to turn around for wild turkeys in the 1920s. For starters, millions of acres cleared by the pioneers began to regenerate into the type of woodland habitat where the birds could thrive. But the real boost for wild turkeys came in the form of legislation. At the urging of hunters, state wildlife agencies, and the firearms industry, Congress passed the landmark Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (Pittman-Robertson Act) in 1937, which placed an excise tax on guns, ammo, and other hunting gear. A portion of the billions of dollars raised from the law have been and continue to be allocated toward restoring wildlife habitat across the country.

By 1959, wild turkey numbers jumped sixteen fold, topping half a million birds across the U.S. A 1973 wild turkey census by the then newly formed National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) turned up something like 1.3 million birds. NWTF, which was founded by hunters to aid in turkey conservation efforts, would turn out to be instrumental in shepherding the wild turkey’s recovery by channeling hundreds of millions of dollars in charitable donations and grants into habitat recovery and bird relocation projects. Although the birds will likely never return to the population levels pre-dating white settlement, they haven’t been healthier in 300+ years. These days, as many as seven million wild turkeys roam the countryside and can be found in every U.S. state besides Alaska.

Of course, our success in restoring habitat for wild turkeys has also been beneficial for a wide range of wild animals. Conservationists credit the visionary Pittman-Robertson Act (along with the hard work of dedicated wildlife managers) as instrumental in the recovery of not only wild turkeys but also once struggling populations of white-tailed deer, pronghorn antelope, wood duck, beaver, black bear, Canada goose, American elk, desert bighorn sheep, bobcat, mountain lion, and several species of predatory birds.

Besides the animals and biodiversity benefitting from species recovery, hunters can also rejoice, especially given that it has been their money that has funded many of the projects to restore habitat where they hunt. Turkey hunting is traditionally an autumn pursuit, culminating at Thanksgiving, of course, but each state has its own laws regarding when and where turkey hunting is allowed. NWTF provides a free online state-by-state fall turkey hunting guide, with hunting season dates and other pertinent information to help hunters plan their next trip wherever it may take them in the continental U.S. The Web site also serves as an invaluable resource for information and resources pertaining to conservation, hunting, and other topics related to wild turkeys.

Leopard Frog

Forester’s Log:  Leaping leopard frogs

—Mary Stuever

Alluringly located along one of the most traveled hiking trails on the Philmont Scout Ranch in northern New Mexico, Cimarroncito Reservoir’s clear water sparkles in the midday sun. More than one trail weary, grungy hiker, who has sported a backpack for numerous days, has gazed down on these forbidden waters and nursed a hatred for the rule that makes the lake off limits to swimming. 

It is no consolation that the policy has been in effect for at least a half century. The primary obsession for the ban has been human-centric… the reservoir provides the source of drinking water for the town of Cimarron. Grungy scouts would muddy the water and provide a possible source of infectious diseases. Thus, tucked up next to the very charismatic Cathedral Rock, the lake provides a scenic backdrop for postcard perfect pictures and impossible daydreams of midday plunges.

The lake also provides prime habitat for the Northern leopard frog. Bruce Christman, an amphibian expert in New Mexico, was recently surveying the area and found a population of the frogs. “This really is remarkable,” Christman commented regarding the Scout-owned, high mountain lake. “If the policy had allowed swimming, all the sunscreen and bug dope on the thousands of scouts that cooled off in the waters would have adversely affected the water quality, making it less hospitable for amphibians.”

The Northern leopard frog was once a common resident throughout New Mexico, but their numbers (and appropriate habitat) are dwindling. Years ago, increasing populations of bullfrogs were topping the list of reasons for leopard frog decline. The bullfrogs, introduced to the state for their large legs which are considered a delicacy, would outcompete the native frogs, eat their young, and take over their habitat.

Bullfrogs also help spread the most recent threat to leopard frogs. In addition to reduced habitat and water quality issues, frog populations are suffering serious decline due to a chytrid fungus named Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Although chytrid fungi are among the planet’s oldest organisms, this one—abbreviated as Bd—was first identified in 1999 and is now detrimentally impacting the majority of the world’s 6,000 species of amphibians. The fungus stimulates a disease that causes a thickening of the skin. Since amphibians exchange electrolytes and intake water through their skin, imbalances caused by the disease can be fatal.

In addition to surveying the region for frogs, Christman collects samples to test for the fungus. Scientists suspect the fungus, which may naturally occur in amphibian populations in eastern North America, is new to the West. Although the zoospores that transmit the disease can be carried by birds and other wildlife, people often unknowingly carry the disease on their boots and equipment. For example, an angler who fishes one lake with the fungus can take it to the next lake if she doesn’t clean her gear in between the two destinations. Likewise, releasing unwanted pet frogs into the wild can provide another avenue for unknowing disease spread.

Until the tissue samples are analyzed, we don’t know if the frogs of the sparkling Cimarroncito Reservoir are fungus free. These results may take months. Now, when asked why no swimming is allowed, one can still cite the domestic water source issue, but even more understandable to the sweaty hiker is the knowledge that swimming is allowed, but only for frogs, fish, and other wildlife that depend on clean waters.






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