A community advocacy newspaper for northern New Mexico
Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, NM 87521
Los Alamos National Laboratory: Behemoth "On the Hill" By Mark Schiller and Kay Matthews
Book Review: Manifest Destinies - The Making of the Mexican American Race By Laura Gomez Reviewed by Kay Matthews
Editorial: Us Versus Them, Otra Vez By Kay Matthews
By Mark Schiller and Kay Matthews
Over the course of the last 18 months La Jicarita News has devoted much of its coverage to issues associated with Los Alamos National Laboratory: clean-up of contaminants; its economic stranglehold on northern New Mexico; the privatization of its operations; Complex 2030; Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act; and Senator Pete Domenici's toxic legacy. As we head into 2008 we thought it appropriate to provide an overview of the current sitation regarding all of these areas of concern.
Most recently, Representative Tom Udall (candidate for Senator Pete Domenici's seat) has been criticized for voting for a reduction in weapons-related funding for LANL. According to Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, 70.4% of LANL's budget is spent on "core nuclear weapons research and production programs." Udall, however, is calling for a diversified mission at the Lab that includes "renewable" energy programs, and the House recently allocated an additional $638 million to the energy budget for renewable energy research and production that LANL can compete for. Meanwhile, Senator Domenici, LANL's head cheerleader and purveyor of pork, and Representative Heather Wilson, who is also running for Domenici's seat, continue to claim that these cuts threaten national security despite scientific studies that demonstrate the current stockpile of nuclear warheads and triggers have at least a 100-year life span, negating the need for further nuclear arms proliferation.
Which brings us to the Department of Energy's (DOE) proposed Complex 2030, otherwise known as "Bomplex 2030." This program essentially seeks to replace the current nuclear weapons stockpile with what the government terms as "new, more usuable" weapons ("more usuable weapons" is an oxymoron only a government bureaucrat could make sense of). The most important component of Bomplex 2030 is "Consolidated Plutonium Center" (CPC) that would "process plutonium feedstock, manufacture plutonium components, and assemble complete pits [bomb triggers] for installation into weapons." The fact that the National Nuclear Security Administration, the agency that administers nuclear weapons production, has already made the decision to invest approximately $2 billion to expand facilities and production of plutonium pits at LANL clearly makes it the odds on favorite to become the site of the CPC. CPC will have a capacity to construct 125 new pits per year and be fully operational by the year 2022. Ironically, it was a study by DOE's own Sandia National Lab that concluded "nuclear weapons [and their triggers] do not wear out," so clearly there is no rationale to manufacture new ones. Bear in mind also that 125 new plutonim pits per year exponentionally increases the risk of safety and environmental violations for which LANL already has an abysmal record.
The list of contaminants already polluting the Lab and migrating downstream and downwind into our air, water, and communities is lengthy: radioactive elements include tritium, plutonium, americium, cesium, and strontium 90; and toxic chemicals include hexavalent chromium, nickel, high explosives, perchlorate, and pentachlorophenol. In March of 2005 LANL signed a "Consent Order" with the New Mexico Environment Department for a "fence to fence" clean-up of hundreds of polluted sites within the 27,000-acre complex. Although the clean-up is primarily in the assessment stage, NMED has already fined LANL almost a million dollars for not completing assessment documents and executing work plans. NMED has also filed a notice of intent to fine the DOE for not being in "substantial compliance" on an investigative report of one of the most intensely contaminated sites, Technical Area 21, where LANL built plutonium pits and stored solid and liquid waste. Incredibly, this highly polluted area is slated to be returned to Los Alamos County for economic development.
One of the most pervasive contaminants is hexavalent chromiun, which was the toxin exposed in the movie Erin Brockovich. In December of 2005 LANL reported high levels of this element in a well on Lab property. The findings exceeded Environmental Protection Agency contaminant levels by 400% and New Mexico drinking water standards by 800%. LANL neglected to report these findings to the NMED for almost two years. Equally important, the wells that LANL has drilled to monitor groundwater contamination at the Lab are plagued by a long list of flaws: being improperly sited; the use of drilling fluids that mask the presence of radionuclides; poor sampling methods; and misplaced screens in the wells. James Bearzi, NMED Chief of the Hazardous Waste Bureau, characterized DOE's groundwater monitoring efforts as "woeful." Bearzi went on to say that he feared DOE was not budgeting sufficient funds to meet the consent order schedule but claimed that NMED would accept no excuses and would continue to hold the Lab accountable. Jay Coghlan agreed, suggesting that DOE needed to increase the clean-up budget by 300%.
Meanwhile, this long list of contaminants is migrating down the Pajarito Plateau canyons into the Rio Grande, from which the cities of Santa Fe and Albuquerque are about to divert the majority of their drinking water. On May 18 of 2007 the NMED issued a press release identifying radiological contamination in sediment along the Rio Grande from past operations at LANL. According NMED Secretary Ron Curry, "Since the Cerro Grande Fire elevated levels of contaminants continue to flow from the Pajarito Plateau during floods. LANL must take actions to reduce and control the movement of contaminated sediments from Lab boundaries."
The Buckman Direct Diversion project (whose construction estimates are already way over budget) will divert water from the Rio Grande three miles downstream from the Otowi Bridge into a system of pipes to service the city and county of Santa Fe and Las Campanas. In June of 2007 the city reported a "qualified"-meaning a level that could not be measured-amount of plutonium 238 in the Buckman Wellfield. In October of 2007 the Buckman Direct Diversion Board voted to request that DOE and LANL fund and implement actions or programs to protect public drinking water: 1) Stop migration of LANL contaminants to the Rio Grande and groundwater by constructing sediment barriers and containment systems, improving waste treatment and disposal practices, and stabilizing and cleaning up sediment beds and banks in the Rio Grande tributary canyons; 2) Properly monitor the transport of legacy contaminants in both the surface and groundwater flow systems; 3) Measure the radioactive and toxic contamination of buried sediments containing high concentrations of post World War II legacy contaminants now buried in the slough upstream of the diversion site; 4) Provide an early warning system so the Buckman Diversion can temporarily cease operations when the Rio Grande is expected to contain elevated levels of contaminants from LANL; and 5) Provide funding for the Buckman Board to retain independent peer review by qualified persons regarding LANL contamination of Santa Fe County and City of Santa Fe water resources. If the residents of Santa Fe think they're going to get these protections, all we can say is, good luck.
An impending lawsuit may have a better chance at effecting change at the Lab. A coalition of community groups, including Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Amigos Bravos, Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group, Partnership for Earth Spirituality, Rio Grande Restoration, the New Mexico Acequia Association, Tewa Women United, Don Gabino Andrade Community Acequia, SouthWest Organizing Project, and Kathy and Gilbert Sanchez, filed a Notice of Intent to Sue the DOE and LANL for violations of the Clean Water Act: failure to conduct adequate monitoring; failure to report violations; failure to have pollution control measures in place; failure to comply with water quality standards; and unauthorized discharges. The coalition's press release stated: "Many tributary streams to the Rio Grande, either wholely or partially on LANL property . . . are designated as polluted by the NMED. Most of the streams are polluted with PCBs, gross alpha, and selenium." Some of the canyons running through LANL have also tested positive for mercury, perchlorate, and hexavalent chromium. According to the coalition's press packet, the most pervasive contaminates are PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls) and gross alpha. PCBs are a group of industrial chemicals used in electrical equipment. The manufacture of PCBs was banned in 1977 because they were proven to accumulate in the environment and cause adverse health effects including cancer, thyroid, stomach and liver damage, and impaired reproductive and immune systems. PCBs have been detected in LANL streams at levels that far exceed New Mexico water quality standards. Gross alpha is defined by a 2004 LANL report as "The total amount of measured alpha activity without identification of specific radionuclides." The same report defines alpha particle as "A positively charged particle . . . emitted during decay of certain radioactive atoms." Plutonium-239, the principle ingredient in nuclear warheads, is the "most hazardous alpha emitter . . . highly carcinogenic, chemically reactive and flammable."
Other contaminants detected in water drawn from LANL streams and test wells are known to cause thyroid damage, birth defects, cancer, gastrointestinal problems, respiratory problems, kidney and liver damage, as well as circulatory and nerve problems. Many of these contaminants have already been detected in the municipal wells that supply Los Alamos and White Rock.
Due to the impending lawsuit and the actions of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS), the Environmental Protection Agency has speeded up the release of its stormwater permit for LANL, an action not usually taken for individual facilities. While the draft is due out at the end of January, Joni Arends, director of CCNS, expressed concern that it won't be strong enough.
While the NMED Consent Order and negotiations over the Clean Water Act lawsuit are addressing some of the environmental concerns at LANL, northern New Mexico's economic dependence on the Lab and the resulting economic disparities are still overriding issues. In his 2006 book, Understories: The Political Life of Forests in Northern New Mexico, Jake Kosek states: "The contrasts [caused by LANL] are startling. In a state that has the highest national rate of residents living in poverty, the second highest percentage of residents without health insurance, the second highest rate of violent deaths among teens, and the third highest rate of violent crimes, Los Alamos sits on the hill with a population that is over 90 percent white, is the [wealthiest county] in the country, has a population that is almost fully insured, and has almost no violent crime. New Mexico is at the very bottom of the scale when it comes to teacher salaries and the socioeconomic conditions for raising children. Only 15 percent of neighboring Rio Arriba County residents over 25 have bachelor degrees or higher, and the dropout rate is almost 12 percent for those who start high school. In contrast, Los Alamos has the highest number of Ph.D.s per capita of any city in the world and the best-funded school system in the state; almost 90 percent of students who graduate from high school go on to a four-year college; and the dropout rate in Los Alamos is well under one percent, with the highest per capita number of national merit scholars in the country. Moreover, northern New Mexico is a site of long histories and traditions that are deeply involved with the ethnic past, whereas Los Alamos, like a 1950s chrome toaster, is a gleaming example of the modern world of technology, science, and the future. These are two different worlds, living together but entirely separate; one poor, one wealthy; one educated, one uneducated; one engaged in global politics of plutonium, genetic engineering, and biotechnology, the other in the politics of ancient acequias, land grants, and firewood. What could be more different from degraded grazing lands and trailer homes than particle separators in suburban neighborhoods?"
Now the rank and file Lab employees are also faced with the prospect of significant cuts in the workforce. The Bechtel-University of California consortium that manages LANL wasted no time revealing what privatization will bring to the Lab: the layoff of approximately 400 contract workers and a subsequent reduction in the workforce through retirement and severance incentives is testimony to its "cost efficient" path towards profit. Of course Bechtel is guaranteed a contractual amount of profit no matter what it has to do to meet the DOE budget.
The House and the Senate are currently negotiating the 2008 budget for the Lab. Even if the House is successful in reducing appropriations for weapons production, and Representative Udall is successful in securing funding to diversify the Lab's mission, the economy of northern New Mexico will take a direct hit. It will take years to transition into a peacetime mission of renewable energy development, addressing global climate change, clean-up of environmental contamination, and providing technology to eliminate the burden of disease generated by radioactive and toxic materials.
In the meantime, as we've previously reported, workers who have become ill as a result of exposure to radiation and toxic chemicals while working at LANL are struggling to be compensated by the government. Even by the miserable standard set by the government at other nuclear weapons facilities, LANL workers are qualifying under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act at one of the lowest rates. Less than 10% of the total number of applicants receive benefits. Under Part E of the Act, which compensates workers for impairment and lost wages, only 31 claimants have received impairment benefits and 34 claimants have been awarded wage loss benefits. At the same time, the administrative costs of this program continue to skyrocket and pad the budgets of the Department of Labor and its contractors.
We owe this toxic legacy and economic stangnancy in large part to Senator Pete Domenici's unrelenting promotion of the nuclear weapons industry at LANL and Sandia National Laboratory. While there are those across the state who are fearful that his retirement will severely diminish New Mexico's access to federal monies, we say, in the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, "Hasta la vista, baby!"
Reviewed by Kay Matthews
Laura Gomez, who is a native New Mexican and Professor of Law and American Studies at the University of New Mexico, explains in the Acknowledgements to Manifest Destinies &endash; The Making of the Mexican American Race, that the book's genesis came from her experience outside the state where "I had to work harder to define and explicate those features of the New Mexico social landscape that might have otherwise seemed deceptively obvious." What she determined, in this well-rearched and readable book, is that looking at Mexican Americans as a racial, rather than an ethnic group, reveals that the romantized notion of Manifest Destiny, or this country's expanion through acequisition of the Oregon Territory, Texas, and the Mexican Cession (including California), relied on racism to justify imperialism and a war of agression against Mexico. Rather than being an "exception" within the ethnic Chicano movement, an idea that has been promoted both within scholarship and in popular culture, New Mexico's Mexican Americans remain part of a group with "one national history."
To make this argument, Gomez explores three basic ideas: 1) that colonialism was central to the origin of Mexican Americans; 2) how the law created and expressed race to situate Mexican Americans below Euro-Americans and above Pueblo Indians; and 3) and how constructing Mexicans as a racial group played a part in the subordination of black Americans. Before we take a closer look at these three themes, it's important to understand a basic difference between race and ethnicity: racial group membership is assigned by members of the dominant society while ethnic group membership is chosen by members of the ethnic group.
The Mexican-American War, and subsequent inclusion of New Mexico as first a territory and then a state, raised questions about citizenship and "national belonging." According to Gomez, "What animated both the pro- and anti-war factions was a racist fear about incorporating Mexicans as rights-holders. . . . For the pro-war faction, the goal was to maximize the acquisition of Mexican territory while minimizing the acquisitions of Mexicans." While the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo provided U.S. citizenship to those Mexicans living in the ceded territory, by delaying state status to the territory the government limited their political rights, with no elected representatives in Congress. Indians were completely disenfranchised, while "Mexicans Americans entered the nation as second-class citizens very much identified as racially inferior to Euro-Americans."
In determining where Mexicans fit into the new American racial order, an elaborate system of régiman de castas (caste regime) was employed to prevent the blending between natives and colonizers: Spaniards at the top; Indian/Spanish mestizos in the middle; and Indian/black mestizos at the bottom. As the Euro-American presence in New Mexico increased, from the 1850s through the 1870s, two race narratives emerged. The first, or what Gomez labels the "domiant view," characterized Mexican Americans as unfit for self-government because of their inferior racial stock. The second, or "progressive view," emphasized their "glorious Spanish past" as conquerors of Indians. While still a racist view, the progressive one sought to fixate on the notion of cultural difference that, as opposed to the dynamic progress of the Euro-American culture, was static, ancient, and wedded to tradition. This notion was mythologized by New Mexico politicians such as Lebaron Bradford Prince, who sought to open the door to economic opportunity and statehood by focusing on culture and tourism (see La Jicarita News, June/July 2005 review of The Language of Blood by John M. Nieto Phillips for more discussion of this topic).
Gomez goes on to explore how Mexican elites used both this mythological status, that widened the divide between New Mexico's Mexican and Pueblo Indian populations, and the legal definition of Mexicans as "white," to increase their political power within the New Mexican territory. She also takes a look at how their fragile claim to whiteness caused them to also distance themselves from African Americans, "the group undeniably at the bottom of the American racial order," and side with the pro-slavery forces that enacted draconian black and slave codes in the 1850s. But ultimately, Mexican Americans claim to whiteness buttressed the power of American colonizers as they "became agents in the reproduction of racial subordination and contributed to the consolidation of a new version of white supremacy in the Southwest."
Gomez's book contributes to the recent body of work that explores and analyizes the very complex histories of the making of race and nation that help us understand identity and politics in New Mexico.
The 2008 New Mexico Organic Farming Conference will be held in Albuquerque on Friday and Saturday, February 29 to March 1 at the Marriott Albuquerque Pyramid North, 5151 San Francisco Road. This year's keynote speaker is Francis Thicke, owner of a 75-cow, certified organic, grass-based, value-added dairy in Iowa, where he served on the USDA State Technical Committee that adopted an incentive program to assist Iowa farmers in conversion to organic production, the first such program in the nation. A variety of workshops will be offered, including processing options for livestock, marketing/certification, pruning, building a small dairy, solar system setup, greenhouses, beneficial insects, acequias, farm ergonomics, rotational grazing, fruit production, weed management, permaculture, and many more. Registration fees are $100 for Friday and Saturday (which includes lunch on Friday) and $65 for Friday or Satrday only. You can mail your registration to Farm to Table, 3900 Paseo del Sol, Santa Fe, NM 87507. For questions or to obtain a registration form contact Le Adams of Farm to Table @ 505-473-1004 or Joanie Quinn of the New Mexico Organic Commodity Commission @ 505-841-9067.
In the mother of all water-related applications, a New York-based company, Augustin Plains Ranch, wants to pump 54,000 afy of water near Datil to the Rio Grande. The company would drill 37 wells 2,000 feet deep and install 20-inch diameter casings to pump the water. Although this application, if approved, could only supply water to the ranch, the company is saying it could potentially pump the water to the Rio Grande, 50 miles away, and sell it to the state to meet river compact obligations. The application has met with more than 200 protests, including those from the U.S. Forest Service, the Gila Conservation Coalition, the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity, the Upper Gila Watershed Alliance, and Bill Turner, the water broker who is a member of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. Apparently Turner used conservancy district letterhead to file his protest and claims he is acting in his capacity as a board member. However, another board member, Chuck DuMars, the attorney who filed the water drilling application for Augustin Plains Ranch, says that Turner has no right to act on behalf of the board. And so the insanity continues.
Thank you for an excellent analysis of the problems with the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act.
For the record, I must point out that I did not have "six years" of support through the University of New Mexico. UNM got cold feet after just two years. "Someone at LANL might accuse us of using project funds to lobby," the principal investigator on the grant from the Centers for Disease Control told me &endash; even if I were to continue to volunteer non-billable hours to the workers' cause.
In contrast, Northern New Mexico College was an unshakable source of support for our efforts. Nothing good would have happened without Professor Hilario Romero, the Environmental Students Organization and El Rio Arriba Environmental Health Association. Some folks in Rio Arriba County can really get things done.
Ken Silver, SM, DSc
Department of Environmental Health
Eastern Tennessee State University
By Kay Matthews
At the December 18 Taos County Commission meeting to hear public comment on the proposed Public Welfare Ordinance (which the County failed to pass, but that's another story, see page 7), Dawn Kohorst, manager of the West Rim Mutual Domestic Water Users Association, delivered an emotional indictment of the water brokers in the Taos area who are protesting her association's attempt to transfer water rights to supply its domestic well. Her cast of characters is the same one that is vigorously opposing the Taos Regional Water Plan's Public Welfare and Conservation Statement: John Painter, board member of El Prado Water and Sanitation District and manager of the Cerro San Crisobal Ranch; and Jim Brockmann, attorney for both those entities and whose law firm also represents Española businessman Richard Cook, who is challenging the 2003 state law that allows acequia commissions to deny proposed transfers if they are deemed harmful to the integrity of the acequia.
Kohorst's cast also includes Alfred Keller, owner of the Cerro San Cristobal Ranch, and Mike Jones, owner of Half Moon Cattle Ranch, who are protestants to the association's proposed water transfer. The water users seek to transfer 26 afy from the Rio Grande Spring (also known as Klauer Spring) to supply 109 members. These members, who live in the scattered settlements on the west side of the Rio Grande gorge, have been hauling water from the spring for many years, and several years ago received funding from the United States Department of Agriculture to dig a community well, and $100,000 from the New Mexico State Legislature for a pump house. In 2005 the ssociation applied to transfer the water rights and the application was protested by the neighboring Cerro San Cristobal and Half Moon ranches. Rio Grande Spring has declared water rights that date to the 1880s and has been used by local families for hundreds of years. The association hired a hydrologist, who determined that the placement of the well and the potential tranfer of water rights would not impair water rights on the ranches.
With little time to organize and no money for an attorney, the association had to represent itself at the the pre-hearing before the Office of the State Engineer (OSE), which was held in March of 2007. The OSE hearing officer suggested the parties enter mediation, and the association then hired Stephen Curtice, an attorney with the Charles Dumars Legal Resource and Planning Associates (Dumars is a well-known water attorney who currently represents the New York company that applied to transfer 54,000 afy near Datil, see page 8). At one point in the negotiations, Jim Brockmann made an offer to the association that his clients would drop their protest if the association agreed to not protest any future water transfers the ranch owners may propose.
According to Kohorst, the attorneys drew up a settlement proposal, whose terms she can't reveal, and the association agreed to it. Then, without consultation with the association, the ranch attorneys changed the terms of the agreement: "The attorneys were not negotiating in good faith," Kohorst said.
This story is complicated by the fact that the Cerro San Cristobal Ranch is also dealing with a water transfer to the ranch, and as described in the editorial on page 7, may well attempt to transfer water off the ranch. In May of 1991 owner Alfred Keller transferred 695.2 afy of groundwater to supplement an existing well with a second well in order to irrigate 316 acres on his ranch. The water rights were transferred from 716 acres at Ute Mountain Farms in Sunshine Valley, owned by Frank and Edith Leiniger. Ute Mountain Farms lies five to nine miles east and north of the Rio Grande, between Questa and Costilla, while Cerro San Cristobal Ranch is located west of the Rio Grande, south of Questa.
While there seems to be a dubious hydrological connection between the move from and move to sites, the OSE claims that because the distance from the river at both sites is approximately the same, surface water flows in the Rio Grande are not affected. A pumping schedule at the move to site is established to account for the time necessary for groundwater flows at the move from site, where wells are no longer being pumped, to show up in the river. The OSE also asserts that pumping the full amount of water at the ranch will not impair existing senior water rights.
From 1997 to 2002 the ranch used less than 1% a year of the transferred water and Keller applied for numerous extensions from the OSE to put the transferred water to full beneficial use, citing problems with pumps and other equipment as well as an extended drought. He didn't apply for a permit to use an additional well until 2006, and the West Rim Mutual Domestic Water Users Association filed a protest. According to Kohorst, the association wanted to use its protest as leverage to get the ranchers to drop their protest against the association, but six months later, when the association withdrew its protest, the ranchers retained theirs and the parties subsequently went into mediation.
According to the file in the OSE, Keller has to provide proof of the completion of the well before June 27, 2008, and proof that at least 25% of the land is under cultivation by December 31, 2009.
By Kay Matthews
If I hear a demand for "consensus" one more time from opponents to the Taos Regional Water Plan's Public Welfare and Conservation Statement &endash; their euphemism for its scuttling &endash; I'm going to be forced to make them look up the definition of consensus in the dictionary: "the judgement arrived at by most of those concerned; a majority of opinion."
As the lead organization in drafting the Taos Regional Water Plan, which establishes a Public Welfare Statement and Implementation Program, Taos County held numerous public meetings throughout the planning region and heard the will of the people: protect our water by defining what is in the public welfare, and provide oversight of water rights transfers. The Taos County Commissioners, at their December 18 meeting, were given the opportunity to rise to the occasion and be the leaders they were elected to be by passing the Public Welfare and Implementation Ordinance setting up an "Educational and Informational Committee" to review all proposed water transfers and applications in the Taos area and make an informed recommendation to the Office of the State Engineer based on public welfare. They'd been witness to the efforts of the town, along with the other parties to the Abeyta adjudication settlement, to emasculate the Public Welfare Statement and they told us they were prepared to move forward in crafting an ordinance to provide oversight, regardless of whether the Regional Water Plan, with the Public Welfare Statement intact, ever gets approved by the Interstate Stream Commission. So members of the Public Welfare Committee pitched in and helped draft the ordinance, and we all attended the commission meeting with high hopes that finally, the will of the people, not the special interests, would prevail.
All we heard &endash; otra vez &endash; was the cop-out "consensus" argument. This is what Butchie Denver, a longtime county volunteer and member of the Public Welfare Committee, had to say to the commissioners about consensus in her letter of resignation from the Planning Commission, the Land Use Update Task Force, the State Water Plan Ad Hoc Committee, the Growth Management Steering Committee, and the Taos County Complex Committee: "You ignored the ten meetings that the Public Welfare Committee had with these people [representatives of the Abeyta parties], trying to accommodate any reasonable suggestions and requests they came up with in an effort to come to some kind of consensus; but each time they wanted more until, ultimately, we simply felt it was a waste of time. There are 18 different drafts of the Public Welfare Statement to show for these meetings, but it still wasn't enough. Only the complete gutting of the PWS would suit them, which we were unwilling to do."
Why is it that the parties to the Abeyta settlement &endash; the town, the Taos Valley Acequia Association, El Prado Water and Sanitation District, and Taos Pueblo &endash; don't want a Public Welfare Statement and Implementation Program? Turning again to Butchie Denver's letter, she has this to say: "All these protestants to the [Public Welfare] Committee agreed that they wanted to keep the Taos Region's water within the region; but for what purpose? Could it be that the Pueblo wishes to market some water and were told by their attorney than any transfers outside the Pueblo boundaries would have to be done under County laws; or could it be that El Prado Water and Sanitation District is expecting the residents of the County to provide the 600 or so acre feet of water deficit that the District owes to the State Engineer? Jim Brockmann, the attorney for El Prado Water and Sanitation District, is representing John Painter [ranch manager] and the owner [Alfred Keller] of Cerro San Cristobal [Ranch] in their protest against the newly formed West Rim Mutual Domestic Water Association obtaining any water rights for their well. You were witness to Dawn Kohorst's impassioned plea at the County Commission meeting [see page 3]; yet it fell on deaf ears. Apparently, at one point in their mediation, the protestants said they would withdraw their protest if the WRMDWA agreed to never use Public Welfare or Conservation as part of any future protests. I wonder why they are so afraid of people using Public Welfare and Conservation as considerations in any protest? Could it be that Mr. Painter and the owner of Cerro San Cristobal are planning to sell some of their water rights to bail out El Prado Water and Sanitation District's deficit with the State Engineer?"
It is particularly troubling that Fred Waltz, attorney for the Taos Valley Acequia Association, has also testified against the implementation of the Public Welfare Statement. His argument has been that the acequias can manage their own water and oversee transfers without any other oversight. He forgets that the TVAA represents only 55 of the Taos area acequias: the remaining 150 or so told the Regional Water Plan steering committee that they supported a Public Welfare Statement at the community meetings held all over the planning area. Again, here's Butchie: "Mr. Brockmann's firm is also representing Richard Cook in his quest to overturn the acequia laws passed in 2003 by the New Mexico Legislature. These acequia laws are the very ones that all of the protestants to the PWS have touted as being sufficient to cover any protests to water transfers and appropriations in all of the past 10 meetings the PWC has had with them. Of course, the acequia laws don't cover other water rights such as [those] owned by Cerro San Cristobal."
So one more time, the special interests had their say and another bureaucracy failed to deliver. Next month, no doubt, I'll be reporting on another failed attempt to reach "consensus." What then, Taos County Commissioners?
Copyright 1996-2006 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.