Posts in Category: 2022 – April 23

ISSUE 04-23-22 ANTIQUE TRACTOR SHOW MAY 7 AT REC CENTER

The Corrales Antique Tractor Show will return Saturday, May 7 at the Corrales Recreation Center from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission and parking will be free. On display will be antique tractors and cars. Visitors can also take in the live music and festival food.

ISSUE 04-23-22 STATE ENGINEER MIKE HAMMAN RE-STARTS WATER PLAN

Corrales’ Mike Hamman, recently retired as executive director of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, is now point-man for New Mexico’s long-term water planning. From now to well into the future, availability of water for farming, gardening, landscaping and even drawing a drink from your kitchen tap will be influenced by a plan to be developed by the Office of the State Engineer, which Hamman now heads. Before he retired from the MRGCD December 31, he was tapped to be Governor Michelle Luajn Grisham’s senior water advisor. He continues in that role,  but he has also replaced the previous State Engineer, John D’Antonio, who resigned in December as well.

The N.M. Senate unanimously confirmed Hamman as State Engineer February 11. The process to develop a 50-year plan for New Mexico has yet to be described, but the product is expected to be finalized during the next two years. To better understand the water resource challenges  ahead, the Interstate Stream Commission is conducting a 50-Year Plan that assesses the impacts of climate change. It aims at determining the resilience of New Mexico communities to these changes, and proposes adaptation strategies, where needed.

Development of the 50-Year Water Plan is occurring in four phases. Phase 1 of the plan began in January 2021 and ended March 1, 2021. That phase involved assessing the process itself with the New Mexico Water Dialogue, coordinating experts with the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources (NMBGMR), and building consensus on approaches to the plan.

Phase 2, referred to as “The Leap Ahead Analysis,”  ended June 30. The purpose of the analysis was for experts, led by the bureau, to compile scientific information about the impact of climate change  on New Mexico communities and water supplies.

Phase 3, the outreach and assessment phase, called for the Interstate Stream Commission to host meetings with citizens of New Mexico to explain the findings of the “Leap Ahead Analysis,” and to interview citizens to determine the degree of resilience New Mexico communities have to the challenges posed by climate change. It was scheduled to conclude in January 2022.

Other partners in the effort include the US Army Corps of Engineers, the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute and the State Indian Affairs Department.

During Phase 4 of the plan, scheduled for spring 2022 to July 2022, the ISC and collaborating authorities are supposed to produce, review and finalize a 50-Year Water Plan that will contain guidelines for preparing for climate change, adopting efficient water usage strategies, and improving water resiliency throughout the state.

The N.M. Bureau of Geology and the Interstate Stream Commission shared summary-level scientific results from the “Leap Ahead Analysis” during their outreach meeting on July 21, 2021. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No.12 August 7, 2021 “In 50 Years, Will Your Well Dry Up Due to Climate Change?”)

The final phase of the planning process will include a “resilience assessment” for water users in various sectors. The report due this summer will be presented in the format typically used by the National Academy of Sciences.

Shortly after Mayor JoAnne Roake was elected, she established a Corrales Water Advisory Board, which was to submit its recommendations the following spring. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXVII No.12 August 25, 2018 “Impressive Credentials for Water Advisory Board.”)

Corraleños produced a 40-year water plan in  2004. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXIII No.21 December 18, 2004 “40-Year Water Plan Could Change Corrales’ Scenic, ‘Oasis’ Look.”)

Village officials then “accepted” the 40-year water plan which could, if rigorously implemented, drastically change the community’s appearance.

Among many other provisions, the plan called for an “aggressive program” to remove elm and Russian olive trees from Corrales, while exempting “large, specimen trees.”

It also stated that “xeriscaping is encouraged, but is not mandatory,”  for existing residences east of Loma Larga, and that “xeriscaping is recommended for all municipal and commercial locations,” although “existing large specimen trees and mature plantings may remain in all areas.”

At their October 26, 2004 meeting, Village Council members formally accepted the plan produced by the appointed Corrales Water Advisory Commission over the previous two and a half years. The immediate effect of that acceptance was supposed to be that the plan would be submitted to the State Engineer’s Office as an outline for how Corrales intended to proceed in balancing its water needs to available supply. But that may not have happened; at any rate, its recommendations may have been overtaken by other developments.

In any event, one of the effects was a policy that encouraged xeriscaping at all future municipal and commercial developments. Water conservation in general, and xeriscaping in particular, are worthwhile objectives, but the probable result of such a Village policy was to transform the appearance of “downtown” Corrales Road into a gravel-and-cactus streetscape.

Water shortages already being experienced in New Mexico are driven by both a multi-decade climate cycle and a warming climate. In the coming half-century, the Bureau of Geology reported the average temperature in New Mexico is expected to increase by 5-7 degrees Fahrenheit. Even so, average precipitation is expected to stay relatively constant.

But the warmer climate will accelerate processes such as evaporation and transpiration that remove water from the ecosystem and environment. Therefore, a hotter climate, even with constant levels of precipitation, will further strain New Mexico’s water supplies.

And the hotter climate will impact the environment in other ways as well. A warmer climate will stress vegetation and allow fires to proliferate, thereby reducing plant cover in New Mexico biomes.

This biome damage makes the environment less resilient to erosion and flooding, meaning that storms will cause greater environmental damage. The damage could disrupt normal drainage systems and damage water infrastructure, further straining water resources. Water quality will decrease as well, the study indicates, with the increase of water temperature and potential growth of bacteria in water supplies.

This climate change analysis demonstrates the need for the state to continue to assess its vulnerabilities to climate change. The ongoing drought in the state causes short-term water shortages that strain farmers and New Mexico residents. But water concerns are unlikely to go away as New Mexico becomes hotter and dryer in the coming decades.

In the face of a serious drought throughout New Mexico, officials at the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD), the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission and the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (ABCWUA) have taken steps to conserve water and to conduct studies about the impact of climate change on the future water supply in the state.

Last year, N.M. Interstate Stream Commission Director Rolf Schmidt-Petersen explained that New Mexico was enduring a second year of water shortage caused by severe drought. In 2020, poor mountain snowpack and reduced runoff water created a severe drought situation. The  issue was then compounded by a poor monsoon season the following year.

Those water shortages created problems for New Mexico’s water-sharing agreements with neighboring states. One such agreement, the Rio Grande Compact, was signed by New Mexico, Texas and Colorado in 1938; it sets out the water-sharing promises between the three states.

The agreement operates through water delivery debits and credits in which states are held responsible for delivering the correct amount of water “payments” to other states. Colorado is expected to deliver water to New Mexico, and New Mexico is expected to discharge water to Elephant Butte reservoir and from there, deliver water to southern New Mexico and Texas. Currently, New Mexico is in compliance with its delivery requirements up to an “accrued debit” of 200,000 acre-feet of water.

The 2020 drought was severe enough to warrant the release of stored Rio Grande Compact debit water from the El Vado Reservoir to supplement Rio Grande flows. New Mexico is required to retain water in storage to the extent of its accrued debit in deliveries to Elephant Butte Reservoir, and it may not store any Rio Grande water when Elephant Butte storage is low.

Schmidt-Petersen explained that the water shortages last summer developed rapidly and that without releasing the debit water, the Rio Grande would have dried up at Albuquerque and farmers would have struggled through the rest of the irrigation season.

Water officials hoped that the depleted water stores and severe drought situation last summer would be resolved over the year with modifications in MRGCD operations, a strong fall rainy period, and better snowpack in 2021. Although the MRGCD made the intended modifications to its operations, the rest of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 continued to be dry, leading to further water supply concerns this past summer.

That problem was compounded  by reduced availability of water from the San Juan-Chama River system which also has decreased in recent years.

New Mexico began 2020 with a water debit of 40,000 acre-feet, meaning the state was meeting its water-sharing obligations but that 40,000 acre-feet of Rio Grande water would need to be stored upstream before any water could be stored for later release to the middle valley. But the severe drought last summer and subsequent debit water release yielded an increased water debit for 2021 of 96,000 acre-feet.

No snowmelt runoff was stored in New Mexico during the 2020-2021 winter because Elephant Butte remained low, New Mexico had a 96,000 acre-foot accrued debit, and the 2021 snowmelt runoff was poor. This meant that New Mexico began summer 2021 in a drought with little water storage.

Schmidt-Peterson said New Mexico has not experienced this degree of water deficit since the early 1980s. This makes the recent drought unprecedented in terms of modern New Mexico water policy.

Despite that, there has been little discussion of revising the water-sharing terms in the Rio Grande Compact. In general, water shortages lead to litigation over the terms of preexisting interstate compacts, not the adoption of new water agreements. Schmidt-Petersen suggests that such litigation is the more common negotiation strategy because renegotiation is difficult: the current Rio Grande Compact was adopted into state law by New Mexico, Colorado and Texas before also becoming federal law. This long legislative process makes it unlikely that water agreements can be completely reworked and replaced in times of water shortages because different parties will disagree about the terms of the renegotiation.

The Rio Grande Compact has three cases of litigation in its history. First in the 1950s, Texas pursued legal action against New Mexico over the operations of El Vado Reservoir. Then in 1966, New Mexico and Texas took legal action against Colorado contending that the state had not adhered to its water-sharing agreements.

The third case began in 2014 when Texas filed a lawsuit against New Mexico, claiming that New Mexico had misused the water released from Elephant Butte that was supposed to be delivered to Texas.

Instead of revising the Rio Grande Compact, agencies like the ISC, MRGCD, and ABCWUA currently implement strategies to protect farmers from droughts, reduce water usage among New Mexico residents and within the river system, improve water deliveries to Elephant Butte, and protect endangered species and the environment that depend on the water supply.

Last fall, the MRGCD and ISC notified farmers of the ongoing drought crisis and advised that farmers in the Middle Rio Grande District refrain from farming this year. These early notifications provided farmers with time to plan their 2021 growing season accordingly.

According to Corrales’ Mike Hamman, chief executive and engineer for the Conservancy District, the MRGCD has also implemented an annual program in which farmers can choose to leave fields unseeded in exchange for a payment during drought years. He said this program has been used to leave 1,000 acres of farmland fallowed.

More generally, the MRGCD is applying for grants to fund improvement to water infrastructure throughout the district to improve water efficiency. And the MRGCD has helped fund the Upper Rio Grande Basin Study that aims to address the impacts of climate change on water resources.

Carlos Bustos, the program manager for water conservation at the ABCWUA, affirms that his agency is also doing its part to mitigate the risks of water shortages in the Albuquerque area.

Given the current drought, Albuquerque residents are no longer using surface water to meet the water needs of the metropolitan area. Instead, the City of Albuquerque is drawing on water in the aquifer to meet its citizens’ needs.

Bustos explains that water usage per capita in the region is below the water target set by ABCWUA, meaning that Albuquerque residents are using the groundwater resources responsibly.

This responsible water usage means that the ABCWUA has not observed reductions to the aquifer greater than their models predicted.

This good news, however, does not mean that water conservation efforts cannot be further improved. According to Bustos, the authority has adopted strategies to further reduce water consumption in Bernalillo County. The program focuses on community outreach and education about water usage in the community. It conducts frequent outreach to the top 5-10 percent of residential water users in the city and encourages these residents to cut back usage.

Bustos pointed out that the authority provides free consultations and 40-50 audits each week to help residents become more water efficient. It also provides an online educational training course that informs residents about ways to cut back on their water usage. The course includes lessons on how residents can repair and re-landscape their yards to be more efficient. The class has had more than 600 participants to date, and the ABCWUA records that the residents who have attended, indeed have cut back their water usage.

When these outreach efforts fail to reduce water usage, the  authority may issue warnings and fines. Bustos explains that the ABCWUA tries to avoid these punitive actions and restrictive measures by promoting education as much as possible.

The authority has also entered water-sharing agreements with the MRGCD in the past in which stored water is released in the Albuquerque region to extend the irrigation season for farmers. Bustos says that more of these agreements may be implemented in the future to supplement the region’s water vulnerabilities. The ABCWUA continues to consider new programs that encourage water conservation in Bernalillo County.

In the short term, Bustos is hopeful that the rest of the year can be endured without further restrictions. But water authorities fear that New Mexico will experience ongoing water concerns in the long term due to climate change.

Corrales’ 40 Year Water Plan in 2004 had a set of 15 recommendations, a number of which were controversial. The Corrales water plan recommended laws and voluntary programs to encourage water conservation by homeowners.  It would also force Village officials to consider water availability before committing to new public facilities and before approving private developments.

Among those are removal of elm and Russian olive trees throughout the village, encouraging xeriscaping in the business district, encouraging installation of water meters on domestic and irrigation wells and not encouraging grey water re-use and rain harvesting.

Seven pages of recommendations  contain the following:

  • “Ordinances to Insure Adequate Water Availability. Planning and Zoning should confirm that all new commercial, municipal and residential construction has adequate water permits and/or rights. This would include requiring well permits from the Village for all new or replacement wells.

“A two-tiered structure of permit fees would be to permit replacement wells at a relative small fee, new wells at a standard fee, and fee waiver for replacement wells where residents are 65 years or older. Adding septic permit fees should also be investigated by Planning and Zoning.

  • “Xeriscaping and Green Zone. Xeriscaping should be practiced throughout Corrales consistent with horticultural legacy, history and topography of the various areas in Corrales.

“West of Loma larga, in keeping with the Village Comprehensive Plan and topography, xeriscaping should be mandatory for all new construction and strongly encouraged for existing residences.

“East of Loma Larga, in keeping with the Comprehensive Plan and historical precedent, xeriscaping is encouraged but is not mandatory.

“Municipal and commercial locations… existing large specimen trees and mature plantings may remain in all areas.…

“Water usage based on location will be controversial. Further, continued water use for the ‘green zone’ east of Loma Larga will not significantly affect consumption due to aquifer recharge.”

A recommendation against rain water harvesting and re-use of domestic grey water which appeared in the draft plan has been deleted from the final. It read: “Rain water harvesting, grey water reuse and low-flow appliance should not be encouraged in Corrales. The Village water system is currently almost entirely based on individual wells and septic systems. None of the above actions would result in meaningful reductions in water consumption.

  • “Bosque Restoration. Develop an aggressive program to reduce evapotranspiration water losses from the bosque by removing non-native phreatophytes (especially salt cedar, Russian olives and Chinese elms).
  • “Village Wide Removal of Phreatophytes. Develop an aggressive program to reduce evapotranspiration water losses throughout the village by removing non-native phreatophytes (especially salt cedar, Chinese elms and Russian olives).

“Large specimen trees may be exempted. Prohibit planting of these plants by residents and advise area nurseries and other outlets.

  • “Village Wide Water Quality Testing Program. Implement a village wide water quality testing program. Each year, sample a percentage of the wells geographically distributed throughout the village. Measuring static well levels at the same time should be considered. Data will be incorporated in a data base that will provide the Village with current data and trends on our water status.
  • “Village Well Metering. Implement a voluntary well and ditch water metering program for each residence. This will help the Village determine what actual water usage is. If implemented, this will help evaluate the effectiveness of planned conservation programs. Without measurements, water conservation progress and effectiveness will be difficult to assess.

“Actual water use is also a defensible position against reduction of permits and certainly of rights. A program that includes Village education will be required. this program should be voluntary and made mandatory if State mandated or as part of a severe drought plan.

“Installing well metering could cost $500 or more per residence. This cost, if borne by the resident, will not be well-received. Further, the metering could be viewed as a first step that could lead to usage restrictions and even water usage [reduction]. However, any resident who believes they may have ground water rights should have a well meter in order to properly establish those rights with the State Engineer.

  • “Irrigation of Residential and Commercial Property. Implement a program that maximizes watering effectiveness while minimizing water consumption. Restrictions on time of day that spray watering is permitted should be implemented.

“Drip/spray watering education should be developed that emphasizes maximum water conservation through optimal duration and timing of watering, use of drip wherever possible,  selection of large-drop, lower pressure spray whenever possible, careful design and monitoring of system to ensure only intended areas are watered.

“Minimizing the use of water for irrigation is a complex task that may not be well understood by village residents.”

This recommendation has the following “Action Required” advice: “Enact ordinances restricting time of day for spray watering. Require a permit for new underground irrigation systems.”

  • “Irrigation Efficiency for Cultivated Fields. Implement a program that maximizes irrigation effectiveness while minimizing water consumption. Incentives and/or education for laser leveled fields irrigated by flooding should be considered.                                                                                                                
  • “Improve Well Drilling Regulations. Establish well drilling requirements that minimize water contamination from ground water. This includes proper capping and casing sealing. This could be implemented through a Corrales Well Permit process. Well drilling requirements in New Mexico do not minimize exposure to ground water contamination.… While we believe that village wells are not contaminated, there is a significant contamination exposure. Implementing this program will increase the cost of new or re-drilled wells.
  • “Adult Education Outreach Programs. Establish adult education outreach programs that include topics not otherwise specified above.…
  • “Student and Child Outreach and Education Programs. Establish children and school education outreach programs that include topics not otherwise specified above. Topics would include how the river affects the water in our homes, the inter-relationship of water and farming, the river, and wells.
  • “Legislative Impact. Establish a response system to the citizens on legislative issues or rule making that affects the Village or residents. Currently there is no timely way to determine what changes may affect all citizens in Corrales in relationship to water.…
  •  “Well Level Measuring. Implement a voluntary program to regularly measure static well levels in selected areas in the village. The number of wells required, their depths and their locations would have to be determined based on a review of the village’s aquifers.

“These measurements may be required as often as weekly. The information would be stored in a database that will provide the Village the status and the trends of our aquifer levels.… A program administrator will be required to co-ordinate the program.

  • “Maintain Open Space and Preserve Farmland. Implement programs to maintain open space and farmlands in Corrales. By maintaining open space and farmlands,fewer wells and septic systems are required. slow percolation into the aquifer from this land also improves water quality.
  • “Establish Active Water Management for Recreation Center. Install and maintain a system that monitors rainfall and/or sensors that override automatic watering systems (well-supplied).

Corrales’ John Brown was a co-founder and director of the N.M Water Dialogue and long time participant in water policy discussions.

A preface to the recommendations in “Making the Case for Change: seeking solutions to important New Mexico water problems” states the problem this way. “New Mexico is faced with, but has not faced up to, important water resource limitations: downstream delivery obligations, federally-mandated requirements, and state-permitted water uses and authorizations that substantially exceed sustainable supplies.

“Without action to address articulated problems, New Mexico’s current and future water supplies, as well as our pocketbooks, are at risk.

“Specific significant flaws identified from the most recent attempt at regional water planning were the impetus for 2017 House Memorial 1. The memorial requested the Interstate Stream Commission to convene a task force to address these flaws. That has yet to take place. In response to this memorial, however, a working group of volunteer water planners prepared this proposal on how New Mexico should address its water issues.”

The working group’s recommendations noted that “These solutions are presented to seek the necessary leadership and pressure by the Executive and the Legislature to cause them to be implemented. All of these problems and solutions have been raised repeatedly, most recently as the ISC’s December 2017 Town Hall. But progress has not been made or has stalled. Financial support for water planning has been consistently far less than in neighboring states. Funding, staffing, water resources data collection, and the capacity of agencies to deal with New Mexico’s water problems are all currently diminished from previously inadequate levels, while, at the same time, our water supplies are facing increasing pressures.

“One solution —administration of New Mexico’s water use to keep it within interstate stream compact limits — Active Water Resource Management (AWRM) became state law in 2003 and was upheld by a 2012 N.M. Supreme Court decision. The Office of the State Engineer (OSE) has not met its commitments to the Legislature to make substantial progress. Another solution — making water planning effective — needs emphasis because the Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) treats water planning as an end in itself, rather than a thoughtful means to seek and implement solutions to problems.

“The N.M. Constitution requires that water be administered by priority, ‘first in time, first in right.’ While such priority administration is required, it has rarely, if ever, been put to use. That has allowed too many demands to be placed upon a shrinking resource.

“Priorities must be administered so as not to exceed the physically and legally available water within the stream or basin, if planning doesn’t result in better solutions.”

An immediate cause for action is the U.S. Supreme Court decision that New Mexico must comply with Texas’ demands for more water flowing through New Mexico. “That will mean our Rio Grande water use will be cut back and our future water use will be explicited limited. 

“The attendant adverse consequences and risks not only include a demand to deliver more water, but carry a potential billion-dollar damage assessment,” the group’s report advised.

The report blasts the State’s “hand-off approach to water administration. Neither history, hydrological facts, existing law, recent state law authorizations, nor agency initiatives have proved sufficient for New Mexico’s state and regional water management and planning agencies to confront our water problems. Left to fester, the problems are doing just that. State water management agencies have authorities fractured, and leadership lacks political support to admit and solve problems. The entire water administration program lacks accountability.”

The document warns conditions affecting water scarcity will only get worse. “To minimize the impact of climate change and build resilience, it is imperative that New Mexico plan for dealing with variable water supplies, including a focus on water-energy nexus, drought planning and preparation for extreme precipitation events to minimize their adverse impacts.”

But it’s not as though the state’s water dilemma has just been realized. Regional water plans got under way more than a decade ago with the convening of a Middle Rio Grande Water Assembly by then-Corrales water economist Lee Brown. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXIV No.8 June 11, 2005 “Regional Water Assembly June 11, UNM Campus.”)

But those efforts were mostly futile, the report asserts. “Changes are required to make the state-funded regional water planning programs productive.

“Plans are needed for compliance with compacts and improved sustainability of groundwater supplies.The State’s water planning since the 1987 statutory establishment of regional water planning has not met these needs.

“Water planning should strive to protect our water supplies and make our uses of them more resilient. Planning should seek to collaboratively identify and implement balanced realistic solutions to solve real problems. Water plans should integrate goals and policies, including land-use decisions, water quality standards, recreational needs, environmental protections, agricultural uses, urban growth demands, tribal requirements, and climatic changes.

“Water planning at all levels must identify opportunities for conservation and seek to stop waste and non-conserving uses. To minimize the impact of climate change and build resilience, it is imperative that New Mexico plan for dealing with variable water supplies, including a focus on water-energy nexus, drought planning and preparation for extreme precipitation events to minimize their adverse impacts.”

The submission by the working group insisted that “The Interstate Stream Commission must change its processes to approve, modify, or reject regional water plan recommendations rather than only ‘accepting’ submitted plans. Approved recommendations must be implemented.

“Those charged with carrying out adopted strategies must be able to make credible commitments to do so, and the regional planning entity must have the ability to monitor both implementation and its effect on the water resource.”

ISSUE 04-23-22 FEAST DAYS MAY 14-15 FOR CORRALES’ PATRON SAINT

A traditional fiesta for the patron saint of Corrales, San Ysidro, is planned for the weekend of May 14-15. It will be highlighted by a procession accompanying a statue of the saint from the Old Church to the new Catholic Church on Corrales Road following a 10 a.m. outdoor mass in front of the Old Church that Sunday. The procession along Old Church Road and Corrales Road will be led by the colorful and mysterious Matachines dancers. The fiesta that follows at the parish hall behind the church will include traditional food, music, a 50-50 raffle and  a cake-walk referred to as a “sweets-walk.”

An online silent auction fundraiser for the church will be conducted at sanysidroparish.org. Admission to the fiesta is free and open to the general public. Saturday events are highlighted by bingo and fiesta food arranged by the Knights of Columbus.

Corrales’ first Catholic church was built around 1750 at a site north of Dixon Road, well east of what is now Corrales Road. That adobe-terrón structure was destroyed by a flood from the Rio Grande in 1868. It was replaced by what is now known as the Old Church, well west of Corrales Road, which was, in turn replaced by the current San Ysidro Church on Corrales Road in 1962.

As in  most past years, the Sunday procession  is led by dancers from the Bernalillo-based Matachines de San Lorenzo which has performed for more than 300 years. The dance is thought to have originated in Spain in the mid-1600s to enact the classic battle between good and evil, or more specifically, between Christianity and non-Christians.

Key characters in the street drama are el Monarca, a Native American ruler, soldiers wielding three-pronged “swords of the Holy Trinity” and a toro, or bull, figure representing Satan or the devil who must be overcome.

ISSUE 04-23-22 SIGN ORDINANCE GETS OVERHAUL TO BECOME CONSTITUTIONALLY LEGAL

Corrales is no longer violating the U.S. Constitution’s protections for freedom of speech. Until the April 12 Village Council meeting,  Corrales’ Sign Ordinance would have allowed the Village’s code enforcement officer to yank down signs with messages considered objectionable. Without regard to any specific sign controversy, Village Attorney Randy Autio had been warning for months that Corrales’ earlier law could be challenged in court as a violation of the First Amendment.

In a nutshell, nationwide the presumed constitutional problem is that regulations should not restrict the content of a message; content-based laws are deemed unconstitutional and therefore laws affecting freedom of speech must be “content neutral.” The Corrales Sign Ordinance adopted April 12 apparently passes muster. According to First Amendment specialist David Hudson, Jr., “Designation  of a law as either content based or content neutral is an important first step in ascertaining whether it violates the First Amendment.

“Content based laws are presumptively unconstitutional and subject to strict scrutiny, the highest form of judicial review, whereas content neutral laws generally must survive only intermediate scrutiny.”

Such scrutiny, whether by a judge or a code enforcement officer, might determine that the message (content) of a sign on a wall here was obscene, for example, and had to come down.

But at the April 12 council meeting, most of the debate and requests for clarity about the draft Sign Ordinance focused, not on obscenities, but on real estate “For Sale” signs and how long they should be allowed to stay up.

When councillors seemed to reach  consensus on such near-certainties as that privately erected signs should not be placed on public property nor on utility poles, Councillor Bill Woldman touched off a conundrum by asking what about signs posted on utility poles for movie shoots?

While clearly not permissible under the new sign ordinance, councillors easily concluded the movie set and crew parking signs should be allowed anyway, since those temporary directional signs are both necessary and movie industry standards.

Finally the only sign-related controversy that blocked a unanimous vote to adopt Ordinance 22-02 at the April 12 meeting was Councillor Mel Knight’s  seasonal sign for Acequia Winery on the ditch bank next to Loma Larga.

The sign periodically erected for the winery that she and husband Al Knight operate a little west along Reclining Acres Road is clearly on public property, owned by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. But Knight said they have ongoing permission from the Conservancy District to place the sign at that location.

Apparently such permission would not matter under the new regulations. Knight recused herself from the vote, so the new sign ordinance passed 5-0.

An article by Professor Hudson points out that going back to at least 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled  that “the First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter or its content.”

On the other hand, some content-based laws have been upheld, such as those regulations against child pornography. “The Court also employs a categorization analysis providing that certain, narrow categories of expressions —such as obscenity, child pornography, true threats and incitement to imminent lawless action— can be prohibited precisely because of their harmful content.”

Beyond that, the professor noted, the Supreme Court in 1992 upheld a law in Tennessee prohibiting the  display of campaign materials within 100 feet of a polling place.

ISSUE 04-23-22 WITH CLIMATE CHANGE, FIRE THREAT ACCELERATES

You’re probably giving more thought —more serious thought— to how you can protect your home from fire as climate change threatens. For years, Corrales Fire Chief Anthony Martinez and Commander Tanya Lattin have advised villagers to prune tree and shrub branches away from parts of your home that could easily catch fire. That goes for clearing away easily flammable materials of all kinds. But precautions can go beyond that to the kinds and garden and landscape you establish of this time forward.

That might mean transforming landscaping nearest your home away from shrubs, trees with low-hanging branches and wooden fences and toward groundcovers, mulch and low-growing flower beds. It could also mean assuring that a garden hose that could be used to douse flames is kept away from possible sources of ignition: a melted hose is all but useless.

Climate change and land use change are projected to make wildfires more frequent and intense, with a global increase of extreme fires of up to 14 per cent by 2030, 30 per cent by the end of 2050 and 50 per cent by the end of the century, according to a recent report by the UN Environment Program (UNEP). The paper called for a radical change in government spending on wildfires, shifting their investments from reaction and response to prevention and preparedness. 

The report, “Spreading like Wildfire: The Rising Threat of Extraordinary Landscape Fires,” finds an elevated risk even for the Arctic and other regions previously unaffected by wildfires. The report was released before representatives of 193 nations convened in Nairobi for the UN Environment Assembly between from February 28 to and 2 March 2. 

The publication called on governments to adopt a new “Fire Ready Formula,” with two-thirds of spending devoted to planning, prevention, preparedness and recovery, with one-third left for response. Currently, direct responses to wildfires typically receive over half of related expenditures, while planning and prevention receive less than one per cent. 

To prevent fires, the UN report calls for a combination of data and science-based monitoring systems with indigenous knowledge and for a stronger regional and international cooperation.

Current government responses to wildfires are often putting money in the wrong place. Those emergency service workers and firefighters on the frontlines who are risking their lives to fight forest wildfires need to be supported. We have to minimize the risk of extreme wildfires by being better prepared: invest more in fire risk reduction, work with local communities, and strengthen global commitment to fight climate change” said Inger Andersen, UNEP executive director.

Wildfires disproportionately affect the world’s poorest nations. With an impact that extends for days, weeks and even years after the flames subside, they impede progress towards the UN sustainable development goals and deepen social inequalities:

  • People’s health is directly affected by inhaling wildfire smoke, causing respiratory and cardiovascular impacts and increased health effects for the most vulnerable
  • The economic costs of rebuilding after areas are stricken by wildfires can be beyond the means of low-income countries
  • Watersheds are degraded by wildfires’ pollutants; they also can lead to soil erosion causing more problems for waterways
  • Wastes left behind are often highly contaminated and require appropriate disposal

Wildfires and climate change are mutually exacerbating. Wildfires are made worse by climate change through increased drought, high air temperatures, low relative humidity, lightning, and strong winds resulting in hotter, drier, and longer fire seasons. At the same time, climate change is made worse by wildfires, mostly by ravaging sensitive and carbon-rich ecosystems like peatlands and rainforests. This turns landscapes into tinderboxes, making it harder to halt rising temperatures.

Wildlife and its natural habitats are rarely spared from wildfires, pushing some animal and plant species closer to extinction. A recent example is the Australian 2020 bushfires, which are estimated to have wiped out billions of domesticated and wild animals. 

There is a critical need to better understand the behavior of wildfires, UNEP reported. Achieving and sustaining adaptive land and fire management requires a combination of policies, a legal framework and incentives that encourage appropriate land and fire use.

The restoration of ecosystems is an important avenue to mitigate the risk of wildfires before they occur and to build back better in their aftermath. Wetlands restoration and the reintroduction of species such as beavers, peatlands restoration, building at a distance from vegetation and preserving open space buffers are some examples of the essential investments into prevention, preparedness and recovery.

The report concluded with a call for stronger international standards for the safety and health of firefighters and for minimizing the risks that they face before, during and after operations. This includes raising awareness of the risks of smoke inhalation, minimizing the potential for life-threatening entrapments, and providing firefighters with access to adequate hydration, nutrition, rest, and recovery between shifts. 

The report,  jointly prepared by AGRID-Arendal of Norway, was commissioned in support of the UN “Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.” UNEP is exploring how further investments can be made to reduce fire risks in critical ecosystems around the world.

The full report is available at https://bit.ly/3p7UiP0

GRID-Arendal is a non-profit environmental communications centre based in Norway. “We transform environmental data into innovative, science-based information products and provide capacity-building services that enable better environmental governance. “We aim to inform and activate a global audience and motivate decision-makers to effect positive change. GRID-Arendal collaborates with the United Nations Environment Program and other partners around the world.” 

The UN “Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030” is a rallying call for the protection and revival of ecosystems all around the world, for the benefit of people and nature. It aims to halt the degradation of ecosystems, and restore them to achieve global goals.

The 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden, was the first-ever UN conference with the word “environment” in its title. The creation of the UNEP was one of the most visible outcomes of this conference of many firsts. UNEP was created to be the environmental conscience of the UN and the world. Activities taking place through 2022 will look at significant progress made as well as what’s ahead in decades to come.

ISSUE 04-23-22 MOVIE REVIEW

Everything Everywhere All At Once Written and directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. Starring Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis. Plugs: None Nearest: Cottonwood Mall.

 Many years ago I worked at the top of Sandia Mountain. Specifically, I worked at High Finance restaurant, which —like many things from many years ago— is no longer there. I was a busboy, then a waiter, working my way though college. Many of the memorable characters there had previously worked at the Territorial House, later the Rancho de Corrales —which like HiFi— also is no longer there.

 One of them was a fry cook named Brandon who, like most of the kitchen staffs I’ve worked with in various restaurants, was usually stoned.

When he did his job he was an agreeable guy, but what I mostly remember about him was his elaborate descriptions of his half-baked visions, dreams and hallucinations. His dreamlife blended thoroughly and agreeably with his “real” life, and in addition to being a stoner, he was a gifted storyteller. He’d regale co-workers with stories he’d seen in his head, and it was entertaining —for a while.

 Dreamers relating their visions often take on a somber sincerity which is politely tolerated by their audience at least for while. It was especially urgent to Brandon not only because he enjoyed the attention but because he believed he was relating Deep Universal Truths to us. He himself didn’t always understand what the Spirit was revealing to him via drugs and dreams, but he assumed there must be some nuggets of wisdom in there somewhere amid his surreal visions and stories.

He felt a sort of obligation to tell others (including his oft-hapless co-workers forced to share a small dark tramway cabin with him for a 20-minute ride down the mountain after work) what he experienced.

 Watching the new film Everything Everywhere All At Once reminded me a lot of talking to Brandon. The film opens in the cluttered chaos of a coin laundry family business. Michelle Yeoh plays Evelyn Wang, an otherwise harried and unremarkable middle-aged Chinese-American woman navigating an unhappy marriage and quarrelsome family. Preparing for an imminent financial audit with Dierdre Beaubeirdra (Jamie Lee Curtis), she’s told by an inter-dimensional visitor that her help is desperately needed.

The basic premise is well-worn: an otherwise ordinary person in a mundane setting is contacted by a messenger from a parallel, hidden world and told he or she is the chosen one to fulfill a great destiny. This has been done a million times, from Harry Potter to Lord of the Rings. In this case the mundane settings is a coin laundromat (and, if that’s still a bit too exotic for you, an IRS office) and the person is Evelyn.

 The film plays with ideas borrowed from theoretical physics, some theories suggesting that it’s possible that there are multiple universes, and in those there may be different versions of ourselves leading alternative lives in their own worlds. It’s all speculation, of course, and has been fodder for countless films including several of the most recent Spider-Man films. It’s a fecund topic for fiction, though it can easily be used as a deus ex machina plot cheat for lazy writers.

 Soon Evelyn is saving different worlds and meeting different versions of her family from different universes. Several subplots are thrown in for good measure, including Eveyln’s impending divorce and the blossoming gay relationship of her daughter. It’s got big themes including unrealized potential, personal identity, destiny and much more. With elements of Max Headroom, Inception, and Adaptation, the film is many things: operatic, kinetic, absurdist, surreal, entertaining and visually striking.

 Everything Everywhere All At Once is the sort of film where the sooner you surrender to its nonsense the happier you’ll be. It defiantly —and for a while, successfully— revels in confusion and contradiction. The stuntwork is amazing, the cinematography is something to behold, and the actors are clearly enjoying the proceedings (Michelle Yeoh and Jamie Lee Curtis are both spectacular). And yet….

 The problem is that with so many bounces around, so many last-second saves, there are no real stakes. It’s a sort of dream-within-a-parallel universe within a Matrix-like computer-generated reality within a… well, I lost count, but it all looks so stylish.

 The film strikes me as the sort of project that looks to be wretched and unfilmable on paper, looks amazing and groundbreaking in previews, and ends up being something in the middle when actually experienced on the screen. Writer/directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert have a great eye for direction and a fun premise, but ironically, take themselves a bit too seriously in trying to offer something both silly and profound, but which comes off as mostly what philosopher Daniel Dennett called pseudo-profound “deepities.”

 I’m pleased to report that —unlike Brandon’s rambling dreamstories— the ending does more or less come together in a satisfying conclusion, though, to be honest, I’d long since stopped caring.

The film runs out of both steam and ideas about an hour and a half in, leaving another 45 minutes of somewhat repetitive action. Everything Everywhere All At Once seems like the Special Extended Edition Director’s Cut that one might find on a blu-ray or DVD of a better, shorter film that I somehow missed.

Benjamin Radford

ISSUE 04-23-22 GOLDEN YEARS

By Laura Smith

Last night the phone rang at 2:18 am. I was sound asleep —it was great sleeping weather, the cool air streamed through open windows. By the time I woke up enough to understand that the ringing was real and not part of a dream, the noise had stopped. Unlike the phones in other rooms of the house, the landline bedroom phone doesn’t have caller ID and the volume of the ring is turned down. So, I didn’t know who was calling. But I did look at the time. Then I turned over. Sleep did not come. I was wide awake wondering who called. Darn.

So, I got out of bed and padded into the kitchen to look at the caller ID. The call had come from my daughter, Sara,  who was working the night shift at the hospital.

Should I call her back? Did something happen to one of the grandkids? Is she all right? Now my mind generated non-stop worries. Forget sleep. I sent her a text.

The story ended. She had accidently hit her speed dial and hung up after two rings. But my middle of the night awakening persisted.

My first inclination, like many people, is to fluff up the pillows, reposition myself, and hope sleep overtakes me. Sometimes that works, but usually sleep remains evasive. So, instead of counting sheep for hours, here are a few tips to manage sleepless nights:

  • Get up. Yup, put on your robe and slippers and get out of bed. If you can’t sleep, you don’t want to stay in bed. That’s because you want your brain to associate your bed with sleep, not with insomnia. Do something that does not involve screens (the light from screens messes with your circadian rhythm), read a book, clean up, write in a journal. When you start to really get tired, go back to bed.
  • Don’t catastrophize. Realize that you will likely sleep better tomorrow and that you can get through the day without your regular sleep. Sleep is important but you can function with an occasional bad night of sleep. The more you get upset about not falling asleep, the more your brain will keep you awake. Worrying just doesn’t work.
  • Have a very small snack. It doesn’t have to be raw broccoli. A glass of milk or a cup of non-caffeinated tea and a biscuit or piece of toast will do.
  • When you go back to bed, try taking calming breaths. Count your breaths.

You might consider meditation during the day; it can help with sleep at night.

Between 10 and 30 percent of adults struggle with bouts of insomnia. The bad news is that the quality of sleep decreases as we age. Older people sleep less and not as well. Seniors with insomnia may experience daytime sleepiness, moodiness, and difficulty concentrating. This can have serious impacts on day-to-day functioning.

If your insomnia is chronic, talk to your health care provider. No, don’t call her at 3 a.m. when you can’t sleep. It’s best to first rule out any physical causes and your health care provider may have some suggestions about improving your sleep hygiene. In addition, consider a short stint of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia with a trained mental health professional. CBT has been shown to be effective for the treatment of insomnia for many adults and in the long run is a better alternative to medication for most.

Sweet dreams zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

 Laura Smith is a clinical psychologist as well as a member and volunteer of Village in the Village (ViV). ViV supports seniors who want to stay in their beloved Corrales homes and stay connected with their community. You can get more information at VillageintheVillage.org

ISSUE 04-23-22 MISTLETOE DEMONSTRATION AT LA ENTRADA PARK APRIL 29

A demonstration on how to remove the tree parasite mistletoe will be offered April 29, Arbor Day, in La Entrada Park, outside the Corrales Library. The free event has been arranged by the Corrales Tree Committee, which has warned that “Corrales is facing the loss of its cottonwood forest in the Bosque Preserve and a major portion of the Corrales tree canopy to drought and mistletoe.”

The demonstration in La Entrada Park, by certified arborist Harrison O’Connor of Legacy Tree Company, begins at 9 a.m. 

The committee appointed by Village government explained that “The continuing drought conditions in the Rio Grande Valley and infestations of mistletoe are gradually killing off the beloved cottonwood tree canopy that is integral to the culture and charm of Corrales. We may be able to offset some effects of these problems by acting early.”

Mistletoe is an evergreen parasitic plant that grows on a number of tree species.  It has a green stem and thick green, oval leaves. It can grow into a rounded form up to two feet or more in diameter. Its small, sticky, whitish berries are produced from October to December, but the  clumps are readily observed on deciduous trees in winter when tree leaves have fallen.

ISSUE 04-23-22 PLANNING ALREADY UNDER WAY FOR CORRALES HARVEST FESTIVAL

If you want to  help with this fall’s Harvest Festival, you might want to join in planning for it, or at least sign up to volunteer. Meetings are held at the Corrales Senior Center on the third Monday of each month starting at 6 p.m. In recent years, the festival has been sponsored and organized by the Kiwanis Club of Corrales, which also fields most of the volunteers needed. At organizers’ April 18 meeting, one of the main agenda topics was “Volunteers Needed in All Areas including: admissions, conductors, Kids Korner, parking, traffic control and wagon masters. How to sign up.”

The above words “conductors” and “wagon masters” refer to the volunteers who oversee the festival hayrides along Corrales Road and Old Church Road.

ISSUE 04-23-22 MAYOR FAHEY GETS FIRST TIE-BREAK IN NON-CONTROVERSY

Presiding at his first Village Council meeting as mayor, Jim Fahey exercised his first tie-break vote in what was actually a less-than controversial matter: selection of a mayor pro tem. Fahey expressed astonishment, saying he was completely surprised at having to choose who would substitute for him in chairing council meetings when he could not be there.

Fahey asked for nominations for who should be designated as mayor  pro tem, and two council members were suggested: Stuart Murray and John Alsobrook. “Councillor Bill Woldman nominated me,” Murray recalled, “and I nominated John Alsobrook.”

The six councillors were asked to vote their choice —and they split 3-3, which required Mayor Fahey’s tie-break. Both have substantial prior experience in Village government. Alsobrook had been chosen twice before to serve on the council, and Murray has years of experience on the Planning and Zoning Commission as well as the council.

Rarely, if ever, in the Village’s history have competitors vied to be anointed as  mayor pro tem. It pays nothing and conveys little or no power or prestige.

ISSUE 04-23-22 BEN FRANKLIN BIOPIC SPURS MAYLING GARCIA

On the heels of rave reviews for Ken Burns’ PBS documentary Benjamin Franklin earlier this month, Corrales’ Mayling Garcia contacted his production company in Walpole, New Hampshire. Didn’t the four-hour, two-part documentary need her playing the musical instrument he invented, the glass armonica? She is among the few musicians anywhere in the world who play the instrument which produces tuned sounds like those made when wet fingers are lightly rubbed on the rim of a fine wine glass.

Garcia, best known as a waitress at Perea’s Restaurant, only learned about the acclaimed bio-pic a few weeks before it aired on KNME-TV April 4 and 5, too late for her offered demonstration to be included. She found out about it from fellow Franklin admirer Corrales Comment Editor Jeff Radford, and at that point she had no idea who Ken Burns was. Still, the indefatigable Garcia quickly researched and contacted Burns’ production company, Florentine Films. She asked to speak to Ken Burns, but her call was intercepted politely.

“While we were talking, the lady on the telephone looked up my website and asked ‘How come we have never heard of this?’ She said she would give Ken Burns my message.

“In the meantime, Laurel Wyckoff at New Mexico PBS had called to book me a gig performing the armonica for teenagers at a “Ben Franklin Day of Science” at the Albuquerque Museum of Natural History on June 17,” Garcia recalled.

When the two spoke again, the Corraleña said she had called Burns’ production company in New Hampshire. She was surprised when Wyckoff told her she already knew about Garcia’s contacting Florentine Films.

Wyckoff is KNME’s education and outreach coordinator. The event for teens at the Natural History Museum starts at 5:30 p.m.

The documentary does show the glass armonica being played by finders rubbing spinning glass discs for about one minute. The musician’s face is not shown, for some reason, but it clearly is not Garcia performing.

The documentary begins by describing Franklin’s early life in Boston, including his apprenticeship at age 12 in his brother’s printing business. He ran away at 17 to Philadelphia where he  started his own printing business and launched a series of inventions that made him one of the world’s most celebrated scientists, and then the elder statesman of the American Revolution.

The story of how Mayling Garcia became one of the few people to play the instrument Franklin invented is remarkable in its own right. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXV No.10 July 8, 2006 “Mayling Garcia on ‘America’s Got Talent.’”)

Garcia’s fascination with the strange musical instrument dates back nearly three decades when she saw a street performer playing the glass armonica in Massachusetts. In the early 1990s, she decided that was what would make her famous.

She tracked down the woman she had seen playing, who put her in touch with a German glass blower who was possibly the only person in the world making the instrument. Over the next few years, he taught her how to play it by trans-Atlantic telephone calls, and finally with a week of instruction at his studio.

Since then, she has rarely if ever missed an opportunity to promote her artistry and her instrument.

Among her gigs were appearances on the hugely popular Spanish language TV show Sabado Gigante. Her irrepressible enthusiasm is further seen in a You Tube post for the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama. The video is also posted at her website, and found via Google at welcome.to/mayling.

Along the way, Garcia has researched the history of the strange instrument, which folks in Franklin’s day were convinced could drive a person crazy.

From her research, she’s convinced the early glass armonicas were more hazardous. She theorizes that lead additives used in glassware in those days may have accidentally poisoned the people who played the instrument.

She  is currently searching for a documentary producer to create a film about the mysterious disappearance of the man who taught her to play.

ISSUE 04-23-22 ELEMENTARY SCHOOL BIKE FLEET NEEDS MAINTENANCE, REPAIRS

By Stephani Dingreville

Corrales Elementary School (CES) is looking to replace its fleet of bicycles in the hopes of upholding a nearly 13-year-old tradition of teaching every student to ride a bike. Physical Education (PE) Coach Leah Dolan explains the importance of the bicycle education program, saying “Though Corrales is covered with many bike-friendly areas, there are not many places suited to beginning bike riders.

“My take on it is to let the students learn on our paved road, let them become familiar with the bike anatomy and the rules of the road here. Then, once they are comfortable, they can go back to their homes and be able to ride on gravel or sand.”

The bicycle fleet program began at CES in 2009, when this same idea prompted then PE Coach Toby Chavez to write a grant to the Village asking for money to buy a bicycle for every student.

Using a combined donation from the grandparent of a student, the Kiwanis Club of Corrales and federal funding from a program called Safe Routes to School, the bicycles were purchased. There were enough so that each student at Corrales Elementary could have his or her own shiny new mountain bike to use during PE. Coach Chavez was able to see that every student that graduated from CES did so knowing how to ride a bike.

As the years passed, and Chavez moved on to another school, the bikes gradually began to degrade. Regular use by elementary school students, a population subset not universally known for prudence or sagacity, has resulted in wear and damage to the bikes, especially the gears. 

Maintenance and upkeep became a personal expense for Chavez and continues to be so for Dolan, who reports laughingly that her husband “luckily worked in a bike shop in college.”

As the bikes have worn out, the Corrales school’s PTA has stepped in to replace one or two a year. However, in Dolan’s words, “they are degrading faster and faster now.”

This has prompted Dolan to reach out to the Village, asking for funding to buy new bikes.

Village Councillor Stuart Murray offered to organize a bicycle donation drive for the school, an offer Dolan declined.

“I have found the maintenance on a donated bike to be cost prohibitive,” Dolan says, adding, “Also it is much easier to teach the class if everyone is using the same model of bike.”

Dolan specifically hopes to buy single-speed bikes for the students, since the gears are where the bikes tend to wear out first.

Elena Kayak, former chair of the Corrales Bicycle, Pedestrian Advisory Commission, is helping Dolan in her efforts. At Kayak’s suggestion, Dolan reached out to Monica Montoya of the Brain Injury Advisory Council and was able to secure new helmets for every student.

“We’ve found that the more a student gets accustomed to putting on that helmet, and the more comfortable they are wearing it, the more likely they will be to put one on at home,” Dolan says.

Kayak is also instrumental in the effort to bring back the pre-pandemic Walk and Roll to School program at CES, along with Corrales Fire Chief Anthony Martinez. Once led by former kindergarten teacher Kathy Lang, the program saw groups of students walk or ride to school on bicycles from three different places in the village.

Principal Liv Baca-Hochhausler says, “During this pandemic I think we have all realized one important thing about in-person school is having another knowledgable adult in your child’s life to take them alongside and teach them something they might not learn from their parent. As we are opening back up and becoming more bike-friendly, I so appreciate Coach Dolan and our bicycle program. And I love the focus on safety!”

Both Principal Baca-Hochhausler and Coach Dolan encourage students who are already bike-proficient to ride their personal bikes safely to school.  Three different bike racks on campus are already set up so a student may park a bike for the day.

ISSUE 04-23-22 BOB PERLS ON CHANGE FOR JUNE PRIMARY ELECTIONS

If your political affiliation is “Independent,” rather thanRepublican, Democrat or Libertarian, you may be able to vote in those parties’ primary elections this summer. A change in state statutes now permits citizens who consider themselves Independents (those who assert “decline to state” affiliation) to temporarily change to Democrat, Republican or Libertarian when they show up at the polls, cast ballots for their choices and revert back to Independent later the same day if they so wish.

At least that’s how Corrales’ Bob Perls interprets the new rules after conferring with N.M. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver earlier this month. Perls, a former Democratic State representative, is founder and president of New Mexico Open Elections. He is now registered as a “decline to state” voter. In an email newsletter April 6, Perls explained that “as an independent voter —called a declined-to-state (DTS) voter in New Mexico— I can walk up to a polling location this June and vote.

“I have to change my voter registration on-site, in real-time to the major party for which I want to vote, but nonetheless, I can vote in a major party partisan primary and then change back to DTS online after.”

He said that situation is not ideal and is not what New Mexico Open Elections has lobbied for over the past six years. “There was a little known change to the statute passed two special sessions ago; we embrace it as a substantial improvement. It’s not ideal, but it is time to let all decline-to-state voters in New Mexico know that they can vote in the June primary.”

Perls said the Secretary of State’s Office expects to explain on its website by the end of April how this will work.

“Allowing DTS voters to vote in partisan primaries is a nice baby step, but it does not get at the heart of what is broken in our political system and that is partisan primaries. 

Over the next two years, Perls said, New Mexico Open Elections will focus  on four areas of reform :

  • Fully open elections (ranked choice voting and open non-partisan primaries)
  • Fully independent redistricting commission
  • A professional legislature for New Mexico and
  • Adoption of citizen initiative in New Mexico

 Perls said these innovations are ways  “to make sure that all candidates have to talk with, and listen to, all voters all the time, not just the party base. It could be the beginning of creating a political climate that actually works for all of us.”

ISSUE 04-23-22 ‘READ TO ME’ BOOK DRIVE BEGINS APRIL 30

A drive to collect new or gently used books for pre-school and school-aged children begins Saturday, April 30 and concludes Sunday, May 15. Books can be donated at locations throughout Corrales, including the media room at Corrales Elementary School. On Monday, May 2, Ex Novo Brewery will donate $1 to the “Read to Me” books drive with every pint of beer purchased. Books can also be dropped off there into a bright blue donation bin.

Last year’s drive, a collaboration with Kiwanis Club of Corrales and its Key Club members at Cibola High,  brought in more than 5,000 books. They were widely distributed locally and throughout the metro area, including to children in homeless shelters.

Monetary donations can be made at readtomeabqnetwork.org.

ISSUE 04-23-22 SPRING BIKE FAIR APRIL 30, REC CENTER

A Spring Bicycle Fair will be held Saturday morning, April 30 at the Corrales Recreation Center. The event, sponsored by the Corrales Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission, is meant for children and adults focusing on safety, basic repairs, bike etiquette and “rules of the road.” Children aged 4 to 14 can participate in a bike rodeo that will be set up on the rec center tennis courts. Prizes will be awarded.

The event starts at 10 a.m. and concludes at noon. Volunteers are sought for several of the activities planned. Bike retailers will showcase popular models. Instruction will be offered for proper fitting for a bike helmet, bike maintenance, changing tires and signaling in traffic for turning and stopping. A presentation also will be made for how bike riders should safely deal with encountering horses and horse riders on Corrales trails. The bike etiquette talk will be targeted to adults.

Every child participating in the day’s activities will be offered a bike riding helmet, fitted to each head. Among other demonstrations is that for electric bikes, presented by the Kickstand Cycle Shop.

ISSUE 04-23-22 LETTERS

Dear Editor:

Reading the large article in the April 9, 2022 I found myself scratching my head and trying to understand quite a bit of the thrust of this article. Of course, it was large, covering the front page and also three other pages inside. I guess I'm concerned that the article was suggesting that mistletoe was bad, and should be removed because it is kills trees.

Kind of misleading really.

I had not heard before that I live in a “greenbelt.” I live in a village, next to a preserve. On Wikipedia a greenbelt describes something outside a city. This term explains perfectly the problem with bringing a big city attitude (where an isolated tree is considered nature) to the interconnected wonder of a real ecosystem.

If those trees are isolated and part of a garden, mistletoe “infestation” is debatable. Still, mistletoe as part of a healthy ecosystem in the bosque is bad? I don’t think so. Those birds that “plant” the mistletoe are actually eating it for a reason. There are not many berries around when the mistletoe has berries.

Mammals on the ground and in the trees also eat the leaves (which are not as poisonous as reported). When mistletoe acts as a decoy, it reduces the amount of bark those same mammals strip from young trees.

Mistletoe produce flowers and sugars that feed many types of insects that exist at the base of a complex food chain. In studies where mistletoe is removed from forests, there is over a quarter drop in the number of insect-feeding birds. The special location of those flowers and leaves high up in the crown of bare branches of the tallest trees is a unique environment exploited by special insects, such as purple hairstreak butterflies, that feed on this plant exclusively.

Mistletoe has a lot of history in our cultures, but also a lot of dogma. If you search the Internet most of what is written about the plant is by arborists who earn money removing it from private gardens and plantations. It is never removed from forests and not just because it is expensive, but because it is not necessary.

Silvaculture in Europe is far advanced of what is practiced in the United States, in spite of Johnny Appleseed. Orchard owners know broadleaf mistletoe is found where apple trees are.

It is not coincidental that most apple orchards are in the north of the village.

Apple growers in Europe grow and harvest mistletoe on purpose on their short, coppiced apple trees. They have mistletoe festivals (look it up on YouTube.)

Why is it a “battle” in New Mexico? If we cannot have understanding on the topic of growing trees, can there at least be educational debate among differing points of view?

Alex Price

ISSUE 04-23-22 COMMENTARY

By Barbara Bayer

In the April 9 issue of the Corrales Comment, (Commentary, A Mayor’s Perspective) former Mayor Jo Anne Roake referred to the fact that “Animal Services got a new facility, with new kennels and equipment.” In the vein of where you sit is where you stand, I think anyone who thinks this new facility is so great, needs to come out from behind their desk and take a visit.

As someone who has been in the trenches for more than 21 years rescuing animals in Corrales, the accolades for this new facility are seriously misplaced. Concrete cells do not good dog runs make!

First, the misuse of statistics. The favorite quote from the Roake administration is that Animal Services takes in only eight animals a month, or two a week. Point one, the administration conveniently dropped out the 65 animals taken in from a hoarding situation right here in Corrales.

Point two, averages do not address the actual distribution of animals in any given time period. So, even if you accept the statistic of eight animals a month, what happens if all eight come in at one time? Where would Animal Services be expected to put them? There are only two concrete cells, one of which has been used for cats. What is Animal Services expected to do with all eight animals?

The other statistics provided by the former Mayor is that animals are only supposed to be housed for 72 hours. Yet another interesting interpretation. Seventy-two hours is the stray hold for animals that are found in the village during which time animals must be held so that an owner has time to come forward.

The notion that animals have to be sent out of the village once the 72 hours has passed means no time to seek opportunities to engage residents and interested parties as either foster or adopters. Until the former mayor, Animal Services made its own decisions about how, when and to whom animals were triaged taking into consideration what was in the best interests of the animal. In the last month of the Roake administration, rescue groups were told they would not be able to take Corrales animals unless they were certified and that all animals had to go to Animal Humane. What certification? Never heard of that, so show me the forms. Also show me the certification completed by Animal Humane.

Oh, yes. The Village Administrator said there was a contract with Animal Humane. Where is that contract? There is none. Where is the memorandum of understanding (MOU)? There is none. It was established in emails. Really? And what process have they agreed to follow to assure that village animals are not euthanized, consistent with Village ordinance. None. And finally, does the former administration understand that Animal Humane does not take every animal, and for every animal they take, they charge a fee? So where are these unworthy animals supposed to go?

There is so much wrong with the ways our Village has approached animal care in the last four years, it is not possible to detail them all. While there is much that needs to be done to provide safe, sanitary, humane dog runs, a major step in the direction of returning the Village to its animal friendly designation is to move Animal Services into the Fire Department.

Fire is already doing large animals, why are large and small animals split between two departments? Wouldn’t it seem logical to benefit from economies of scale by combining similar functions? With small and large animals together under the Fire Department, there is someone available 24/7 who has trained in animal issues. The police do not see animals as their mission, nor should they.

I have worked in government most of my career, and I know when you don’t want to do something, you study it. If it is such a good idea to get an objective assessment of Animal Services going forward, why did ex-Mayor Roake fail to commission such an assessment after I met with her right after she took office?

Resolving our concerns is a no-brainer. The police chief has said he would be happy to relinquish Animal Control and the fire chief has said he would welcome having Animal Services in his department. Let the police do what they do best and let the Fire Department expand what they are already doing. And let’s not study what is plainly a reasonable resolution.

By Mary Feldblum

Executive Director, Health Security for New Mexicans Campaign

 Imagine if you paid for an airplane ticket and then got separate and inscrutable bills from the airline, the pilot, the copilot, and the flight attendants. That’s how the healthcare market works. In no other industry do prices for a product vary by a factor of ten depending on where it is purchased. 

—Elizabeth Rosenthal, MD, in An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back , 2017

So much focus on health care centers around access issues. While it is very important to provide opportunities for New Mexicans to receive health coverage —either through public or private programs— there is another issue that must be addressed: the wasteful, costly and administratively complex pricing of health care services.

We need to think of our health care system as a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece is connected to other pieces. The puzzle cannot be solved without figuring out how the pieces are connected to each other.

Thus, just gaining access to health insurance will not address hospital costs, pharmaceutical drug prices, the frustrating (and costly) administrative burden on health care professionals, or increasing patient out-of-pocket responsibilities, which may prevent people from getting the care they need.

Our state needs to come up with a coordinated solution to address both access and cost. The jigsaw puzzle needs to be solved.

For over two decades, the Health Security for New Mexicans Campaign, currently a coalition of 170 diverse organizations and thousands of individuals, has been working on a homegrown systemic New Mexico solution. We have reached out to all areas of the state, seeking feedback on a simple idea: let’s set up our own health plan that automatically covers most New Mexicans, offers comprehensive services and freedom of choice of provider, and is overseen by a geographically representative citizens’ board (like a co-op). Private insurance may play a supplemental role, as it does in many European countries (and as is the case with traditional Medicare).

The Health Security proposal requires a major paradigm shift, one that combines and coordinates the key elements —the different puzzle pieces— of our health care system.

According to three independent New Mexico studies (the most recent in 2020), the Health Security approach will slow the rate of increase of health care costs, ensure coverage for all state residents, and simplify what has become a complex and administratively burdensome system that frustrates health professionals and patients alike.

In 2021, the New Mexico Legislature provided funding to develop the details of the proposed Health Security Plan. This funding enabled the Office of Superintendent of Insurance to hire consultants to engage in key research areas during the initial year of the design process.

While the 2019 Health Security Act provides important guidelines for creating the Health Security Plan, there are many details that stillneed to be fleshed out, including enrollment, hospital and health professional payment systems, appeals systems, IT/medical records, accountability systems, and more. Decisions will have to be made about these details before the plan can begin offering coverage. Once designed, a fiscal analysis can then be conducted on the plan as designed— not as projected.

If New Mexico is to develop a systemic solution to our health care crisis, it is important to understand how these different key elements impact each other. Unlike a jigsaw puzzle, however, these critical components of our health system require gathering information about state and international experiences, learning from them and then deciding what would work for our state, keeping in mind how each piece fits together and impacts access and cost.

During the 2022 legislative session, the superintendent presented very promising results on the three critical research topics selected.

Topic 1. Investigation of federal waivers and agreements that provided key information regarding prospective plan enrollment numbers.

Initial results: The report describes various approaches to receiving federal waivers or agreements, focusing on Medicaid and Medicare, the two largest programs in New Mexico, while ensuring the protection of recipient entitlements.

Topic 2. Exploration of provider payment system methodologies that focused on whether it is possible to standardize our complex multi-layered payment system, as many European countries have done.

Initial results: The report describes various options to develop such a coordinated system so providers and health facilities do not have to deal with multiple different charges for the same service.

Topic 3. Research on the feasibility of creating a global budget program for hospitals, a payment system in which hospitals receive a predictable, sustainable revenue stream instead of depending on an unpredictable, complicated charges system. (Maryland’s global budget program has been very successful.)

Initial results: Two reports, written by separate consultants, concluded that New Mexico could greatly benefit from such a system, whose creation can be funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

In sum, the reports describe possible paths to take that will address both access and cost issues.

But more research is required.

Recently, the legislature increased the funding for this coordinated approach. The appropriation will enable the superintendent to follow up with the suggestions made in the initial reports and to investigate two additional critical topics: how to address rising drug prices and how to create a workable inter-operational IT system so that no matter which plan you have, the provider you go to will have your complete medical history.

While the design project clearly is a multi-year effort, the research on some of these pieces in the health care puzzle can lead to more immediate solutions.

For example, a hospital (and clinic) task force could be created this year to figure out how a global budget system could work in New Mexico, with the goal of applying for startup funds from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It would be possible to create a second task force to explore the creation of a program to negotiate drug prices that could benefit all New Mexicans.

Thus, the Health Security Plan design process will enable New Mexico to phase in key pieces of the puzzle —like hospital and drug costs, keeping in mind how these programs would impact the other jigsaw pieces of the health care system and how they would align with the systemic reform the Health Security approach will ultimately bring.

New Mexico has been given an extraordinary opportunity to carefully design a workable solution to our health care crisis, one that is appropriate for our large, mostly rural state with its small population.

For more information, visit our website: http://www.nmhealthsecurity.org

By Jeff Radford

Shouldn’t the United Nations have stopped the war in Ukraine? What’s wrong?

Many times in recent memory, the UN  has sent military peacekeeping forces into zones of armed conflict, usually with great effect. But in Ukraine, no such UN intervention has happened or is likely to happen.

The reason is  Russia’s veto power in the UN Security Council. That’s a fundamental problem that stems from the UN Charter established at the end of World War II.

The five permanent members of the Security Council —Great Britain, France, the United States, China and Russia — were deemed so important to maintaining world peace that the brand-new world body probably would be powerless to mount any military intervention without their approval.

Or, although it was not stated, the veto power was ingrained precisely because any foreseeable major war was likely to involve one of those five, who therefore wanted to preempt any potential deterrence to their own future military ambitions.

The UN Charter, signed in June 1945,  provides no way to override or void the veto power of any of the five permanent members. And if such a mechanism did exist, or might exist in the future, it would surely mean the United States would be subject to losing its own veto power when it became embroiled in a military conflict.

Given changed conditions since World War II and in light of the war in Ukraine, does the UN need to be changed fundamentally to achieve its main objective, to maintain peace in the world?

A friend of mine —really more of an acquaintance with whom I had a continuing personal relationship— led a far-reaching project to reform the United Nations in 1997. Canadian Maurice Strong, now deceased, is best known as convenor of the seminal 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Environment. He went on to serve as founding secretary-general of the UN Environment Program.

Assigned by then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 1997 to propose urgent reforms to the world body’s structure and organization, Strong accepted Annan’s challenge  that “the organization needs to be significantly re-configured in order to do better what the international community requires it to do.”

As he was finishing his task, I spoke to him briefly at UN headquarters in New York. As usual, his thoughts headed off in many directions almost simultaneously, and he seemed to be stressed.

The organizational problems to be addressed went far beyond advisability of retaining Security Council members’ veto powers. In fact, his report, “Renewing the United Nations: A Programme for Reform,” runs more than 100 pages but mostly skirts the politically fraught matter of veto power.

The report starts by stating that “The United Nations is a noble experiment in human cooperation” and that its charter was “drafted with the searing experience of  history’s two most destructive wars fresh in mind.”

In reviewing the report, I found no reference to the Security Council’s veto powers as being a problem or even a dilemma. It was not mentioned in a section titled “Institutional strengths and weaknesses” nor in the section on “Peace and Security.”

Yet at Paragraph 102, the report states “Reform of the Security Council is of great importance for its functioning and legitimacy. Within the General Assembly there have been intensive and prolonged discussions regarding the expansion of the Council, an issue that can be resolved only by Member States. This is a key issue for the United Nations and a positive resolution of it would contribute to the prospect of moving forward with other issues.”

But it has no discussion of eliminating the veto power. Nor does Chapter 5 “Focusing on Substantive Priorities.” Nor does Chapter 7 “Prepared for a Changing World.”

So if the structure of veto power within the Security Council is immutable, what else could stop a conflict such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

The prospect of after-the-fact criminal prosecution might, and in fact, was referenced in Paragraph 90, titled “International Criminal Court.” It says “For nearly half a century —almost as long as the United Nations has been in existence— the General Assembly has recognized the need to establish an international criminal court to prosecute and punish persons responsible for crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.” It noted that a June 1998 diplomatic conference would be convened to adopt a treaty to establish such a court.

The International Criminal Court was, indeed, established in 2002. No country has veto power over the court... except that only 126 countries have ratified the treaty; Russia and the United States have not, so war-related criminal charges against either nation likely would not proceed for lack of jurisdiction.

Short of a change in the UN Charter’s the Security Council veto provisions or who can wield them, the only alternative may be a global grassroots movement that leads to another treaty, outside the UN structure, that could field a military peacekeeping force. But that holds grim portends as well.

Is the United States any more ready than Russia to relinquish its claim to deserved hegemony and thereby avoid war-related accountability?

ISSUE 04-23-22 ‘MUDDING DAY’ AT OLD CHURCH APRIL 30; BRING GLOVES, RAKE

Communal repair and maintenance of the Old Church  and grounds returns Saturday, April 30, organized by the Corrales Historical Society. Volunteers of all ages are needed. Come with gloves, hats, sun screen, shovels, rakes and maybe a trowel with which to apply mud to the courtyard wall in front of the church. The effort begins at 9 a.m. and continues until 3 p.m., although helpers and spectators  can come and go as they please.

In exchange for their time, volunteers will be treated to breakfast and lunch prepared by society docents. Early birds get coffee and doughnuts in the morning, organizers promise. Among the necessary tasks are mud plastering the low courtyard wall, clean up of the grounds, weeding the flower beds and painting window frames.

The Old Church is on Old Church Road, about one-half mile west of Corrales Road.

ISSUE 04-23-22 TOUGH NEW RULES ON OIL & GAS OPERATIONS CUT METHANE, TOO

Tighter regulations for oil and gas operations in New Mexico were adopted in a ruling of the N.M. Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) in mid-April. The new ozone pollution control standards were  hailed as “historic progress for the health and safety of communities across New Mexico,” according to Jon Goldstein, a former secretary for the N.M. Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department who is now on the staff of the Environmental Defense Fund.

The ruling was hailed by Conservation Voters of New Mexico as a good step toward addressing the “fossil fuel-induced climate crisis”  that has now “positioned New Mexico as a leader on the way to a clean energy future.” The ruling applies to equipment in oil and gas fields and monitoring  to assure repairs are made when leaks and malfunctions occur. The new controls are for what are known as ozone precursors, or chemicals that produce ozone in the atmosphere, a known health hazard.

Controlling those emissions will also control much of the potent greenhouse gas methane. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXXI No.4,  April 9, 2022 “Corrales’ Barry Bitzer Considers Oil and Gas Regulations.”)

Corrales’ Barry Bitzer serves on the EIB and heard testimony during weeks of hearings before the decision came April 14. “Reduced methane emissions will certainly be a secondary benefit,” Bitzer told Corrales Comment April 14, “but we were tasked with reducing ground-level ozone in areas of the state where oil and gas production has been pushing our air quality to the brink of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s violation levels that could trigger federal intervention.”

Corrales’former mayor, Scott Kominiak, was asked for his comments on the new EIB ruling since he is president of ABQ Energy Group which operates natural gas transmission and delivery systems from his home office here. Kominiak said pressing business did not allow him to send comments before the Comment deadline. He  has an office here and in Houston.

Operators, presumably including Kominiak’s firm, will be required to have emissions data certified by an engineer once the rules go into effect in mid-2022.

Oil and gas field leaks and malfunctions are estimated to account for 70 percent of the industry’s methane emissions statewide. The ruling was expected to cut methane releases by some 851 million pounds a year in New Mexico.

The ruling comes less than two weeks after the latest United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which warned that too little progress is being made in the effort to keep average global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial age levels.

In fact, it said, the warming trend is to exceed 2 degrees by the end of this century.

The 270 scientists from 67 countries who produced the IPCC report “Climate Change 2022: Impact, Adaptation and Vulnerability” pointed out that just to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees higher will  require nations to collectively reduce greenhouse gases by 43 percent within the next eight years.

The EIB hearing process started last year to consider a petition from the N.M.  Environment Department to beef up rules for oil and gas operators in counties where releases of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (precursor chemicals to formation of ozone) have risen to at least 95 percent of federal ambient air quality standards.

Sandoval County is one of those, but most are in southeastern and northwestern parts of the state.

In recent years, attention has been focused on methane releases and their exceptional short-term potency as greenhouse gases.  But the State of New Mexico has limited ability to address methane because it is not a listed “criteria pollutant” in the context of the federal Clean Air Act’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Even so, it has been estimated that based on calculations for expected decrease in ozone precursor releases, methane pollution in New Mexico would be reduced by around 851 million pounds a year. 

ISSUE 04-23-22 KANIN’S LEFT OVER CAMPAIGN FUNDS DONATED TO LIBRARY, ANIMAL CONTROL

Leftover campaign funds for Gary Kanin’s unsuccessful run for mayor are being donated to Village government’s Animal Control efforts and to the Corrales Library. At the April 12 Village Council meeting, one of his campaign organizers, Fred Hashimoto, presented a check for $500 to the victorious candidate, Mayor Jim Fahey, to be used for the Village’s animal services. He said the excess funds amounted to $1,000 and that a similar check for $500 would be presented to the library. Hashimoto later said donations to the Kanin campaign were all local.

“Many gave generously to Gary’s campaign,” he told Corrales Comment. “All donations came from local people and not from any at the state or national level. 

“Political parties or similar organizations were also totally not involved financially or in any other way; in his campaign, voters were not contacted to vote along party lines,” he added.

“At the conclusion of the campaign, approximately $1,000 remained in its fund.  Gary felt that to equally divide that residual between benefiting animals in the Village and the Library would be positive.  A $500 check was presented to the Village Animal Control at the last Village Council meeting and a letter with check is being sent to the Friends of the Corrales Library.”

 Although no campaign finance reporting would prove it, the last mayoral campaign was probably the most expensive in Corrales’ history as a municipality. Both campaigns relied heavily on mailed slick, four-color printing flyers and other mass media techniques.

ISSUE 04-23-22 CORRALES IRRIGATION CANAL FED BY HUGE, LOUD DIESEL-POWERED PUMPS

Pumped by two huge diesel engines on the west bank of the Rio Grande, irrigation water continues to flow onto Corrales fields —for now. But without a helpful monsoon season this summer to replenish reservoirs upstream, farmers here can expect severe reductions in water deliveries from the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy  District (MRGCD), perhaps as early as August or September.

In late January, the MRGCD’s acting chief engineer, Jason Casuga, warned irrigators here and elsewhere in the service area “to expect significant changes to irrigation delivery during the 2022 irrigation season” since water managers  have “little storage water available, and will depend on natural river inflows for irrigation deliveries.” But that was not the worse of it.

For decades, the water for irrigation in Corrales has been pumped from the river at a topographically optimal location, La Angostura, a location where the  river narrows and therefore deepens,  into a main canal that passes through mainly tribal lands before pouring water into the Corrales Main Canal at the extreme north end of the village. The water pumped from the river at the Angostura Diversion Dam near Algodones has come into Corrales through a large pipe, or culvert, under the river bed as a result of  hydraulic siphon action. That 80 year old pipe, constructed with what resemble wooden barrel staves, is called the Corrales Siphon. But it broke.

A potential problem was discovered nearly a decade ago when tell-tale ripples could be seen on the water’s surface, indicating the river was roiling over something submerged. Then those ripples became rapids. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXII No.16 October 5, 2013 “River Bed’s Drop Disturbs Buried Irrigation Culvert.”) At first MRGCD officials hoped the old 1,000 foot long wooden pipe could withstand the turbulence, at least until a temporary fix could be implemented. But as Casuga told Corrales Comment earlier this year,  “it’s anticipated that water deliveries to the Corrales Main Canal and the laterals and acequia fed by the Main Canal will be significantly impacted due to the recent discovery of damage to the Corrales siphon pipe,” he said, adding “The damage to the siphon is likely to prevent the use of the siphon altogether.”

To keep sufficient water flowing to the Corrales Main Canal, MRGCD officials decided to temporarily set up diesel-powered pumps on the river bank to draw water directly from the river, and pipe that a short distance to the Main Canal.

As of April 15, water seemed to be flowing more or less normally in Corrales’ irrigation ditches.

Even so, Casuga urged farmers here and elsewhere to leave their fields fallow this year if possible, with an offer of financial compensation for irrigators “who voluntarily forego irrigation this season.”

Information about the MRGCD’s Emergency Fallowing Program can be found by contacting Casey Ish by email ing to casey@mrgcd.us or by phoning 505-259-8799.

ISSUE 04-23-22 WILL CORRALES FINALLY BUY HISTORIC GONZALES FRONTAGE?

Negotiations continue for the Village’s possible purchase of the vacant three acres adjacent to Wells Fargo Bank. The land that fronts Corrales Road is a remnant of the tract farmed by the founder of Corrales, Capitán Juan Gonzales Bas, whose descendants own it to this day. Proponents of the acquisition have been persistent for more than five years, first advancing the idea that the land might be used as a botanical garden. Other proposals soon followed, but Village officials were luke-warm to all of them, especially faced with competing needs to be funded.

Despite citizens’ pressure, the Village was reluctant even to order an appraisal to learn what it would cost to buy the land that lies between Corrales Road and the Village’s earlier purchase of 5.5 acres farther west which has been preserved as the Juan Gonzales Bas Heritage Farm. But that reticence softened somewhat after Village Administrator Ron Curry discovered nearly $5 million more than was thought to be in Corrales’ bank accounts. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXVIII No. 20 January 11, 2020.)

And, the general obligation bonds voters approved in 2020 allows those funds to be used to acquire land to be preserved as  open space. The appraisal was ordered —although the amount was not disclosed publicly— and the Village approached the Gonzales family with an offer, which was still being considered as of April 12.

Village Council discussions about the possible acquisition have been conducted in closed sessions as allowed by state and municipal law. When Corrales Comment asked two councillors for at least a general update on the pending transaction in early April, one of them, Stuart Murray, replied “All I can say for now is that the Village tendered an offer to the family and we are waiting on a response. It was based on a current appraisal and council sweetened the offer to the maximum allowed by law.

“For now, we are in a wait-and-see mode.”

One of the most active and persistent advocates for the purchase, John Thompson,  offered a few more details. “I heard that there is one holdout in the Gonzales family on approving the sale.

“Apparently there were multiple appraisals and all below what the family originally wanted. I have no idea what the appraisal value was.

“The Heritage Park Committee provided lots of ideas on how to use the three acres in conjunction with La Entrada Park and the Juan Gonzales Bas Heritage Farm,” Thompson added. “This would create a multi-use open space that would maintain a viewshed from Corrales Road all the way back to the acequia.

“The extra space creates an area for library and park parking, demonstration gardens (native plants, pollinators, curandera) that could be supported by volunteers such as Master Gardeners, as well as an arboretum, vineyard and trails.”

 Thompson  said he would like to see a comprehensive masterplan for the entire Gonzales tract from Corrales Road to the Corrales Acequia irrigation ditch to the west to include the park and library.

“I know that there is great potential for the Gonzales property to be a great asset for the village.”

Three front acres next to Wells Fargo Bank have been zoned for commercial use since the 1980s;  a site plan for an office complex there was presented in 2008 by developer Jack Westman who acquired the parcel from the Gonzales family.

The  project never happened, and the land reverted to ownership by the family.

Eventually Thompson and others on his committee, including former Councillor Fred Hashimoto, approached the mayor and Village Council about buying it for a botanical garden, a year-round growers’ market and a food canning facility for local produce.

Speaking for the Corrales Tree Preservation Committee, John Thompson suggested the acreage could be used to grow heritage grapes and fruit trees as part of the botanical garden. 

At the May 24, 2016 Village Council meeting, the Tree Committee presented its accomplishments and goals in a 10-minute power point presentation. At that point, the committee had not really zeroed in on the Gonzales frontage.

It envisioned a place for people to gather, hence benches and picnic tables amongst the plantings, land that is already irrigated or that could be, a place convenient to village residents, with parking, showcasing a selection of trees appropriate to Corrales, naturally, even including heirloom fruit trees that once were abundant here.

The plan was to name the arboretum or botanic garden after the late Evelyn Curtis Losack.

When developer Westman had made his proposal for the land in 2008, he gained approval for three office buildings which were to be under construction that fall.

 At the May 21, 2008  Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, Westman explained that the entire parcel in question had historic significance for Corrales, noting that the deed goes back to 1712 when it was obtained by Capitán Juan Gonzales Bas.

Westman said a monument to Gonzales and his descendants would be erected in the patio in front of the office building along Corrales Road.

Westman was also key to arranging the deal by which the Village was to acquire the westerly 5.5 acres, adjacent to the acequia, which otherwise would have become a housing development.

Since then, both Westman and Hector Gonzales have died.

When he proposed the purchase agreement for the 5.5 acres farther west at the May 13, 2008 Village Council meeting, Mayor Phil Gasteyer called it “the historic centerpiece for the Village of Corrales.”

When contacted in 2008, Hector Gonzales said he and other family members have wanted for a long time to have the land preserved as open space. “Now it’s coming true,” referring to the Village’s purchase of the 5.5-acre parcel.

The resolution approved by the Village Council May 13, 2008 authorized the mayor to enter into a purchase agreement for the westerly 5.5 acres of the front parcel (not including the three acres zoned commercial).

Funds to pay for the acquisition came from the Village’s general obligation municipal bonds approved by voters for farmland preservation in August 2004 and from grants such as those provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s  Farm and Ranch Land Preservation Program.

Hector Gonzales said his ancestors once owned all of what is now Corrales and Rio Rancho, holding lands as far south as the Calabacillas Arroyo and as far east as what is now Edith Boulevard, since that’s where the Rio Grande then ran. To the west, the Gonzales property went all the way to the Rio Puerco.

“My family would like to see that heritage recognized” in what happens on its remaining farmland in Corrales, he said.

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