Posts in Category: Article

ISSUE 01-08-2022 RON BLOCH DIES AT 77

A retiree to Corrales since 2015, Ron Bloch died unexpectedly on December 28. He was 77. The Missouri native joined the  Peace Corps in its early days after graduating from St. Louis University in 1966. While serving in that capacity in Venezuela, he was drafted into the Army during the war in Vietnam. Stationed to South Korea, he had responsibilities for nuclear weapons. After leaving the military, he went into human resources, primarily in the Boston area. In his retirement, one of his main projects was coaching returning Peace Corps volunteers. He was proud to have helped more than 4,000 of them.

Bloch was active in Corrales’ Village in the Village and the Corrales Arts Center. He turned his backyard into a nature preserve where he regularly fed birds and rabbits; he enjoyed watching coyotes and bobcats as they passed by.

He is survived by wife Kathleen Brown, daughter Catherine Bloch and son Christopher Bloch. A celebration of his life will be announced at a later date. The family suggests memorial donations to New Mexico PBS or to the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA.org).

ISSUE 01-08-2022 BILL CLARK DIES

Outdoorsman and adventurer Bill Clark of Corrales died December 26 after a 41-year career with Los Alamos National Laboratories and 21 years fighting off cancer.

Family members noted that “The last few years of Bill’s life were filled with fewer adventures. He battled lung disease due to complications from radiation treatment with inspiring grace and positivity, and a determination not to let illness keep him from doing the things he loved.”

Born and raised in Pennsylvania, in his twenties Clark discovered the Southwest on a long bike adventure.

He is survived by wife Danette Clark, mother Beth Clark, brother Budd Clark, daughters Tiffany Hinsley, Tricia Franchville and Laura Kuskil, as well as seven grandchildren.

A celebration of his life will be held this summer. Contributions of fun memories and photos are encouraged via facebook.com/groups/bill clark.

ISSUE 01-08-2022 TRASH PICK UP CHALLENGE

Two villagers, Janet Ruth and Dave Krueper, have issued as 2022 Trash Pick Up Challenge to make Corrales more litter-free by January 2023.

“We would like to issue a 2022 Trash Pick Up Challenge to Corraleños,” they told Corrales Comment December 31. “Today, New Year’s Eve morning, on our morning walk, we brought along two trash bags, and filled both of them on the loop we take which takes us about 45 minutes, or maybe 2.5 miles.

“If everyone did this on their walks through the village once a month in 2022, we would have a very clean village!”

Ruth, an ornithologist, was featured in a Corrales Comment article a year ago about her book Feathered Dreams. She was also instrumental in having the Corrales Bosque Preserve named an “Important Bird Area”  by the Audubon Society. She and  Krueper recently collaborated on the Annotated Checklist of the Birds of the Village of Corrales and the Corrales Bosque Preserve, published by the New Mexico Ornithological Society.  

ISSUE 01-08-2022 COUNCIL PASSES BAN ON COMMERCIAL CANNABIS GROWING IN NEIGHBORHOODS

Commercial-scale growers of marijuana have been operating legally in Corrales for years, and at least nine new sites for cannabis businesses are proposed on land east and west of Loma Larga.

Until now, the only legal cannabis grow sites have been those licensed and regulated to produce it for medicinal uses. But that will no longer be the case: the new N.M. Cannabis Regulation Act sets up a process by which “micro-producers” can harvest up to 100 plants to sell for recreational use.

Given the state law, Village officials are being advised they can’t ban such marijuana crops even if they wanted to. So for several months, the controversy in Corrales has been to what extent municipal regulations, or land use zoning, might be imposed to restrict cannabis growing where it would be offensive in residential neighborhoods.

That’s what happened at the Village Council’s special session January 4. On a 5-1 vote, councillors approved an ordinance that “the commercial production, manufacture, sales and distribution of cannabis and cannabis products are prohibited in the A-1 and A-2 zones.”

Perhaps the biggest  hang-ups are Corrales’ long-standing land use zone categories that lump agricultural areas and residential areas together. In virtually all parts of Corrales, anywhere you can build and occupy a home, you or your neighbor can grow a crop to sell commercially.

At a special session of the Village Council January 4, councillors had to decide whether to pass an ordinance that allows marijuana cultivation in neighborhoods as long as facilities or activities that might reasonably be considered offensive to nearby residents, such as odors, are at least 300 feet away.

That January 4 special council meeting was held the day after Corrales Comment’s deadline for this issue, so results could not be included here.

Most of the issues involved in the council’s action January 4 can be understood by carefully reading commentaries and letters published in this issue, as well as an article in the December 18 issue explaining measures adopted by the Village of Los Ranchos on the east side of the river.

As of the end of 2021, the N.M. Cannabis Control Division lists  the following nine Corrales properties with pending applications to produce cannabis.

• 984 Camino de Lucia, as a “cannabis producer microbusiness;”

• 3577 Loma Larga, as a “cannabis producer,” near the intersection with Sagebrush Drive;

• another permit pending at 3577 Loma Larga as a “cannabis producer;”

• another at 3577 as a “cannabis producer microbusiness;”

• 4484 Corrales Road, near the intersection with East Ella Drive, listed as a “cannabis producer microbusiness;”

• 119 Veronica Court, off Rayo del Sol, also listed as a “cannabis producer microbusiness;”

• 184 Mountain View Lane, off Corrales Road at the north end of the village, where the past executive director of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, Mike Hamman and family live and farm, listed as a “cannabis producer microbusiness;”

• 1084 West La Entrada, just east of Loma Larga, listed as a pending  “cannabis producer microbusiness;” and

• 266 Target Road, just west of Corrales Elementary School, also listed as a pending “producer microbusiness.”

Of the proposed marijuana production locations above, most attention has been directed to the one for 184 Mountain View on property held or managed by Hamman and his stepson, Antonio Olguin.

That’s in part because Hamman said in a Corrales Comment interview last month, and told the mayor and Village Council at their December 18 meeting, that he “had no dog in this fight” over pending Corrales ordinance regulations for cannabis.

After it came out that Hamman’s plans would, in fact, be affected by amendments to Corrales’ cannabis regulations, he submitted the following statement to clarify plans to grow marijuana on the small farm at the end of Mountain View.

“In the interview in the Comment's last edition I made a statement related to legal cannabis production that 'I don't have a dog in that fight' and I wish to clarify that regarding the difference between my professional role as I retire from MRGCD and my personal situation on our organic farming operation in the north end in zone A-2.  The MRGCD has received a number of inquiries regarding use of District water for cannabis production and the response is that this use is consistent with the District’s Water Distribution Policy and that since it will be a legal crop starting in April  2022, District water can be used just as it is for any other agricultural purpose but if any special accommodation for alternative delivery methods other than flood irrigation is required, the operator must first obtain an approved license from the District.  So no dog in the fight on that front.

“Regarding my personal situation, my wife and I lease a portion of our land to the organic grower who is our son and he has been struggling to make a decent living selling organic produce through farmers' markets and other outlets for over four years now.  An irrigation well used to drip irrigate a 3,000 square foot high tunnel green house began failing two years ago and in getting a well replacement permit, the State Engineer informed me that it must have a commercial water right for what was being grown and sold at that time so a significant investment was required to purchase and transfer the water right and re-drill the well at a greater depth.  In addition, the entire farm/property’s energy use is being offset with solar panels which was also a significant investment. 

“Upon passage of the N.M. Cannabis Regulation Act, my son looked into the specific provisions for the microproducer to grow up to 100 plants that appears to work well in the established green house that uses only sunlight for seasonal production and may provide for a young, struggling farmer to supplement the organic vegetable operations as well as help pay for the operating costs as he builds his business. 

“My farm duties are taking care of the chickens, the fruit orchard and irrigating the larger field with District water when it’s available, and I personally would not be involved in, or profit from, any of the cannabis production or sales. 

“The only reason my name is involved is that the application requires identification of the property owner. The application process is rigorous and no decision has been made as to whether or not this will proceed given the uncertainties of licensing and other factors. 

“With that said, we are committed to organic food production and offsetting our carbon footprint with solar power and recycling green matter to improve the soils that, over time, become a netcarbon sink instead of emitter.  It’s a small operation but a worthy endeavor that preserves two acres of farmland, provides organically produced food and a potentially sustainable income from sales of agricultural products. 

“I apologize for the mis-leading statement but not for my son’s right to pursue this legal option on private property under the requirements of the act and any the Village ordinance may further require.”

Each of the nine cannabis producer applications listed above are identified as either in draft form or “pending applicant action,” as indicated for Hamman’s request.

Why those applications to grow cannabis in Corrales remain pending is not clear. Villagers have been told that the State’s Cannabis Control Division cannot approve such applications until each has gained approval from the municipality involved. But Village Administrator Ron Curry said December 30 his understanding is that the Village cannot act on any municipal permit until the state acts.

In November 2021, the Village Council imposed a three-month moratorium on processing applications to grow cannabis here. Resolution 2139 was passed which included a moratorium to pause the processing of all applications for new cannabis-growing permits for 90 days.

Village Attorney Randy Autio said, “The idea of the moratorium would be to craft the best law we could with all the data we can gather and the examples that we’ve already been identifying from other states.”

Many villagers spoke at a November meeting, all expressing their fear and dislike of commercial cannabis farming in residential Corrales areas. Some mentioned odor, others mentioned crime, some talked about night time light pollution, and others loss of property value. Their voices seemed to call out in unison with the same basic plea: “do what you can, councillors, to protect us from this frightening development.”

Autio’s response to these pleas was to mention that villagers have the right to grow cannabis as much as they have the right to live in a place that is protected from the negative aspects of cannabis growing.

He also reminded the council, “We are not an independent state, like an Indian reservation might be, within the United States that can pass its own laws. We are a creature of state law.”

He went on to say, “It may not be a good law, that’s not for me to determine, but it is the law of the land at the present time.”

Councillor Mel Knight suggested making the resolution 120 days, four months instead of three, giving the council much needed time to draft an ordinance.

Mayor Jo Anne Roake quickly spoke up, saying the village had consulted with an unnamed state attorney working for the municipal league. The mayor said of this person, “his concept is that 90 days is 60 days too long.” She then referred to attorney Autio to “explain the risk of waiting longer” to the councillors.

Councillor Kevin Lucero objected to the state’s cannabis legislation, saying, “the State said it itself, they’re driving the car as they are building it. We are trying to meet some crazy deadlines, trying to put some legislation in place that […] fulfills the will of our constituents and protects this village.” He said he was in favor of extending the period to 120 days. 

Councillor Zachary Burkett agreed, explaining “there is zero point in doing a moratorium if we’re going to do it in such a short period that we can’t improve something during that moratorium.” Councillor Burkett also noted that the areas in discussion are only those zoned A1 and A2, not Corrales’ commercial district. He argued that permits for the commercial areas would still be considered and might be granted during the moratorium, thus further protecting the village from the risk of lawsuit.

ISSUE 01-08-2022 CANDIDATES SIGN UP TO MAKE DECISIONS ON YOUR BEHALF

In most elections, incumbents are considered to have a distinct advantage. But that offers little predictive value for Corrales’ upcoming election for mayor and three of the six members of the Village Council,  because only one incumbent is seeking re-election.

So decision-making for Village government should look very different —but also likely very familiar— after Election Day March 1.

That’s because the three mayoral candidates include former Mayor Gary Kanin and former Councillor Jim Fahey. And in Council District 4, one of the candidates to fill Tyson Parker’s seat  is none other than a former councillor representing that district, John Alsobrook.

Also seeking the District 4 seat is Courtenay Eichhorst, son of former Councillor Bob Eichhorst.

Amid a flurry of rumors that she would not seek re-election, Mayor Jo Anne Roake said January 3 she had not decided whether to try for a new term. In the end, she decided not to run.

The only incumbent to sign up for four more years was District 3 Councillor Mel Knight, who faces challenger Jonathan Dilts.

Kevin Lucero opted not to seek re-election for the Council District 1 seat, but three villagers stepped up: Rick Miera, Cora Frantz and James Ward.

Terms are not expiring for the council seats held by Bill Woldman, Stuart Murray and Zach Burkett, nor by Municipal Judge Michelle Frechette.

Any write-in candidates for the positions which become open in March must file with the Village Clerk on January 11. Early voting begins February 1.

Among major issues with which the new governing body likely will grapple are changes to the Village’s land use ordinances, possible revisions to the Corrales Comprehensive Plan, residential density, especially regarding senior living facilities and regulation of water usage.

ISSUE 01-08-2022 WHAT’S AHEAD FOR 2022?

The new year launches with optimism and flush bank accounts, at least for public institutions and maybe yours.

The State treasury is brimming, apparently with lots more revenue to come in 2022, and Village government is all smiles with $4 million tucked away. “The Village is in excellent financial health,” Mayor Jo Anne Roake crowed as the new year dawned. “The Village does a great deal with the annual $6 million budget… and we’ve got about $4 million invested with the Local Government Investment Pool.”

Your own personal finances may not be so rosy, and inflation may erode yours along with those of the Village and the State. The 2022 session of the N.M. Legislature begins January 18; it will be dedicated almost exclusively to —money.

Pandemicwise, Corraleños continue to be well served by relentless efforts of Commander Tanya Lattin and the Corrales Fire Department; prospects are improving that the less  lethal omicron strain of COVID-19 will dominate the virus world during 2022.

At the start of the year, 664 people in Corrales and  other neighborhoods in the 87048 zip code area such as Skyview Acres, had been diagnosed with the disease. The number of Corrals-specific COVID-19 deaths has not been disclosed but are known to be at least seven.

The year 2022 will bring other changes, even in how collective decisions are made. Municipal elections in early March will name a mayor and three members of the Village Council. Those villagers willing to serve in one of those positions had to file notice of their candidacy on January 4.

Who voters choose on March 1 could well be determined by candidates’ position on growing marijuana in Corrales for the recreational use market which is sure to boom this year. Retailing of cannabis to the general public will begin by April 1.

The medical cannabis store at the corner of Corrales Road and Rincon Road is expected to sell to recreational users once licensing and other protocols are in place. At least one other existing store farther south on Corrales Road likely will begin selling marijuana this year.

A periscope view of how the marijuana-growing business is likely to play out here may be offered later this month by recommendations for changes to Corrales’ land use ordinances. That advice to the mayor and council members will be submitted by a committee made up of citizens from each council district working with land use specialists from the Mid-Region Council of Governments tasked with suggesting revisions to Corrales’ Code of Ordinances Chapter 18.

Among other issues, those recommendations are expected to cover an analysis of Corrales’ bed-rock dictum of allowing just one home per acre (or one home per two acres on land  at the south end of the village formerly within Bernalillo County). It’s the perennial “casitas” controversy.

Those recommendations likely will include proposed regulations on walls and fences along Corrales Road. Village Administrator Ron Curry said he expects the Village Council may make decisions on land use policies by mid-summer.

He does not expect a ground-up revision of the Corrales Comprehensive Plan during 2022 —unless villagers demand it as the community wrestles with the turbulent cannabis cultivation issue. Re-writing a comprehensive plan, he said, “can be a very painful experience, with neighbors pitted against neighbors. It’s just my opinion, but I think we were headed toward a ‘comprehensive plan light’ but that may change now with the cannabis issue and the fact that we don’t have any  residential zoning per se.”

Village officials will move ahead with renovation of municipal offices, following conversion of the old “Corrales Valley Fire Station” into the relocated Planning and Zoning Office and Animal Control operations. Changes have already been made to the reception area of the Village Office;  plans are afoot to  re-do the restrooms and create a sole-purpose staff break room.

Curry thinks those may be done by the end of summer 2022, roughly when a thorough make-over of the Village Office parking areas is expected. Preliminary groundwork for the latter, done by Public Works crews, may begin by mid-2022.

Construction of a bike path along the south side of upper Meadowlark Lane, and a horse trail along the north side, from Loma Larga to the Rio Rancho border is expected before mid-year. Curry thinks that can be completed by May 1.

He’s also looking forward to plans for the Village to take over ownership and management of the Corrales Interior Drain, east of Corrales Road. A committee appointed by the mayor is scheduled  give its recommendations later this year.  to facilitate that, Curry said he intends to call a meeting of that committee and other groups, such as the Equestrian Advisory Commission, the Bicycle, Pedestrian Advisory Commission, the Tree Committee, the Bosque Advisory Commission and the Parks and Recreation Commission in the weeks ahead. “We’re going to find some money for them to get started on the planning for that.”

A long, long, long-planned project, extension of sewer service to the Priestly-Coroval neighborhood east of the post office is not funded past a design and engineering phase. “I don’t have a time line for that,” Curry added.

Another protracted project, construction of a new gym for the Corrales Recreation Center, could come to fruition later this year. Curry said last month that “there’s a very good chance” the new gym could be under way during 2022. The total gym project is expected to cost around $3 million, and  about $2 million is already available, he explained. “But we’re exploring ways we can have the whole project done at one time. Giving a start date for the gym would depend on when we can get the rest of the money.”

On Corrales’ eastern fringe, major earth-moving work is already mostly complete for the wetlands to be established where stormwater coming through the Harvey Jones Flood Control Channel discharges to the Rio Grande. In the months ahead the multi-agency project will oversee planting of trees and other vegetation. Year one of that effort, led by The Nature Conservancy and the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority,  should be complete by the end of the year.

A pilot project for re-forestation in the Bosque Preserve was implemented by volunteers and the Corrales Fire Department last month. Donated cottonwood trees, three-leaf sumacs and golden currants were planted in a large area that burned in 2012. The Fire Department will continue filling water tanks positioned on the levee nearby from which plantings can be irrigated as they establish. If successful, the project will be replicated in other parts of the preserve.

On the opposite side of Corrales, talks are continuing about prospects for bringing in water from the City of Rio Rancho for the proposed, nearly forgotten, area designated for commercial development adjacent to the Rio Rancho Industrial Park. Infrastructure for such delivery of water to the Neighborhood Commercial and Office District (NCOD) is not likely to come this year.

But plans are continuing for a Corrales Fire Department water tank at the top of Angel Road to which a series of fire hydrants might be connected in future years. Curry hinted that the Village has been in discussions with the N.M. Department of Transportation regarding the future of Angel Road, but he declined to explain further.

Asked to look ahead for 2022, the Village Administrator said a theme will be putting available funding to work on long-planned projects and facilities. “The money that we have coming to us, via the feds for COVID relief and via capital outlays from the State, we’re going to put that money to use, on the ground.

“It has gone slower than I would have liked, just due to delays at the state and federal levels. But people expect us to use the federal money, the capital outlay money and now the bond money.”

Those uses include the trails along upper Meadowlark, improvements to the municipal parking lot and possibly extending the sewer lines east and west of Corrales Road. “Most people like having their own wells, and the way to protect those wells is to have a good sewer system.”

Curry said the proposal to purchase the Gonzales parcel frontage, next to Wells Fargo Bank, will come before the Village Council for a decision during 2022. But he expects one of the biggest snags to be the seller’s asking price and the appraisal. “People  tend to have a higher value for their property than what the appraisals come in at. And we have to go by the appraisal and how it’s zoned.”

He said the Village does have money to buy the Gonzales parcel if the council decides to move ahead with the acquisition.

ISSUE 12-18-21 MRGCD EXEC DIRECTOR MIKE HAMMAN PREPARES TO STEP DOWN

As Corrales’ Mike Hamman prepares to step down as executive director of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District next month, he gave a wide-ranging interview to Corrales Comment  about the future of farming here, cannabis cultivation, climate change, prospects for a municipal water system and a N.M. water plan. More than a year ago, the Conservancy District’s chief engineer had planned to retire in 2022 and concentrate on his two-acre family farm here. But that changed when Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham asked him to serve as her senior water adviser.

In that capacity, he will direct a 50-year water plan for New Mexico.

“The governor has asked me to develop a whole-of-government approach that will include State departments, the  legislature, stakeholder interests and water resource professionals from around the state,” Hamman explained.

The goal is “to develop projects and policies that will advance water resiliency strategies in every region in the face of shortages resulting from persistent drought and rising temperatures.

“This effort will  help to prioritize infrastructure needs and make policy and funding recommendations to the governor and legislature for the 2023 60-day session.”

In his long career managing water with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the City of Santa Fe and Native American agencies before joining the Conservancy District January 20, 2015, Hamman focused on collaborations; he expects that to be crucial in his new role starting next month.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address New Mexico’s growing water resource challenges.”

The Conservancy District’s chief executive feels strongly that Village government should not try to ban marijuana cultivation here.

He said a flyer distributed by opponents of legal production of cannabis in Corrales “shamefully uses fear mongering to try and sway Corraleños into denying our small farmers the right to participate in a legal activity that may keep them in business.”

Hamman pointed to research by a  non-profit organization that debunks cannabis opponents’ claim that marijuana uses an extraordinary amount of water. “It further states that cannabis uses less water than tomatoes, corn and other crops in California.”

“People are pointing to the SWOP operation on the north end as to what may  happen in their backyards, but that is impossible with the proposed zoning regulations the Village is proposing.

“It makes sense to zone out large commercial greenhouses, as no one wants them next door, but the micro-producer regulations will fit within the community as with all other agricultural activities that the Village is committed to support in other ordinances.

“It would be a shame if these fear tactics convince the Village Council to further limit opportunities to make a decent living as a small farmer that may have no choice but to sell out to development. Is that what we want in Corrales?”

He said he is neither pro- nor anti- cannabis. “I don’t have a dog in this fight,” he said. “I’m just pro-farmer.”

When Hamman took over as director of MRGCD,  the district supplied water to approximately 10,000 separate irrigators, and since then, between 200 and 300 acres are no longer cultivated, he reported. A bigger change has been restoration of the district’s financial reserves to carry out necessary, but long neglected, infrastructure upgrades, repairs and maintenance.

He was asked what has been the biggest difference, operationally, in how MRGCD functioned when he took over compared to today.

Hamman said the board of directors as far back as 2008 cut its  rates that farmers had to pay to irrigate, which over time, depleted the district’s reserves to pay for needed repairs and maintenance. He said the previous executive director, Subhas Shah, “was quite proud of the surplus, but we had what I consider to be a highly under-served system. It had a lot of deferred maintenance, a lot of outdated equipment.  Why they were  holding on to that big reserve fund, I don’t know. It was just  the nature of the management at that time. But I came in at a time when the district had a lot of good, experienced board members who led the charge to cut the bleeding.

“We were bleeding three or four million dollars a year just in the operating budget out of that surplus, so we were in the red, and depleting the surplus that was supposed to be for infrastructure. The new thinking came in just before I was hired.

“The new board told me to operate the office professionally, get our staff operating in the black and let’s take a look at our long-term capital needs.

“Those were the parameters that I was supposed to take on, in addition to improving relations with the six Middle Rio Grande Pueblos and all our local governments… because quite frankly, those relationships were pretty bad. I mean, people dealt with the district because they had to, but they sure didn’t like to.

“That was one of the things that I worked really hard on. I brought my political capital with the Pueblos with me, as well as with the federal and state agencies. Those were things I had worked on for my entire career, and the board was buying that when they hired me.”

Between stints with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, he worked on water issues for the Jicarilla Apache government for more than eight years, and later a salmon habitat recovery program for tribes in the Pacific Northwest’s Klamath Basin.

He was the City of Santa Fe’s first director of water operations at a time when the City acquired the utility from Public Service Company of New Mexico. After five years there, he was recruited by the Jicarilla Apache to serve as its first water administrator.

“Then in 2008, the area manager position came open with the Bureau of Reclamation in Albuquerque. My wife and I looked at that and decided it was a good time to come back home.”

He took early retirement from that position to take the MRGCD job. “I told the board when I came on that I would give them four-plus years, and that I had retirement plans of my own after working in public service for 40-plus years.”

Those plans included farming here in Corrales as well as developing some property he owns in Alaska. “Great plans, but those will be put on hold for a little while longer. Our illustrious governor is a very persuasive lady.  She told me we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform New Mexico’s water situation, from both an infrastructure and a policy perspective.”

He said the governor had high expectations that the  State’s 50-Year Water Plan would be completed by now, but that has nor been the case, partially due to the pandemic and inadequate funding. “I think the plan is coming along pretty well, but we’re going to need more time to do it right.”

A crucial factor in moving ahead with a water plan and its implementation is that adequate funding may finally be available, “such as the federal infrastructure funding that is coming into the State, and there’s still quite a bit of under-utilized capital appropriation from the legislature for water projects that is not yet put to beneficial use.”

Hamman said he has been told that $600 million in previous state appropriations for water projects remains unspent. “There are a lot of reasons why that’s the case, and that’s why we need a really good analysis for how we can capitalize on that.”

Already widely recognized are the “serious shortcomings for rural water systems and regional water insecurity problems that are going to take the best minds and commitment to action to get this jump-started in the right direction,”  Hamman explained, “rather than continue to chase our tails about things like, ‘well, who’s going to be the State Engineer?’ and ‘what are the qualifications going to be for that position?’ Instead, we have an opportunity to re-evaluate the whole system.”

He hopes to formulate a vision for  New Mexico’s water future with the help of  experts and groups around the state coupled with a time line “so that when August-September rolls around, we’re in a position to advise the legislature, the governor’s office and all the regions of the state that ‘we’ve heard you; we know what needs to be done, and here’s the plan. So now it’s up to you guys to do what you need to do for appropriations and other legislation.’”

Hamman conceded planning and good intentions have produced initiatives in the past, yet not much happens. “Let’s look at it this way. Many people in many of the basins around the state have tried so many times in the  past to make progress on these things, but we’ve never had the stars to align the way things seem to be working now.”

He said he has been hearing from citizens, civic groups and specialists who want to help get this done. “I’ve been getting  lots of offers of help. Everybody wants things to change. I don’t think I’ve experienced that before, where people and non-governmental organizations are saying ‘just let us know what you want us to do.’ I’m hearing that from just about every sector.”

Hamman said he thinks that is because people are so frustrated with inaction over decades,”and because the federal government is lined up to help us as they never have before, and we have all the oil and gas revenues coming in that are way above what we had expected. If we can’t make hay now, shame on us, right?”

Given those expected revenues, Hamman was asked whether that might brighten prospects that Corrales could finally get a municipal water system. Three decades ago, Village officials explored what it would cost to implement a water system, and the stunning answer was upward of $60 million, before inflation.

“Like all things, there has got to be the political will for it, and now people don’t feel there is a need for it,” Hamman replied. “The fact that we could connect to a regional utility is a possibility. Maybe Rio Rancho on the north end and Albuquerque on the south end. And the City of Albuquerque is already handling some of Corrales’ wastewater, so maybe some pieces of that are starting to fill in.”

He said existing federal-state funding could probably pay for wastewater projects here. “I know there are a lot of shallow wells that people are still counting on for household drinking water. I think  at a minimum they should look at putting their wells down into a deeper aquifer, maybe 200-300 feet.”

Hamman doesn’t think it is impossible that Corrales might be able to start a municipal water system. “No, it isn’t out of our reach. For the same reason that  you could probably afford a sewer system, you could afford a water system, but that depends on the political will and ability to raise taxes.

“Once you have a utility up and running, then people pay for the operation and maintenance, but it would take some combination of grants and loans that are available to Corrales.

“If the Village Council was serious about it, the first thing they would do is hire a competent firm to analyze the costs and rate structure. The N.M. Environment Department would require that in a preliminary engineering report, and I bet, even right now,  Corrales could get a grant to do that preliminary work.”

He agreed that Corraleños may not be ready to give up their own private wells just yet. “But if they’re starting to have contamination problems, they will be.”

Water availability could be an equally important motive for starting a municipal water system. As climate change reduces snow pack melt in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, the aquifers under Corrales will drop over time, leading to the expense of drilling  deeper wells. “It is true that the decrease in precipitation and the decline in irrigation agriculture in Corrales is ultimately going to lead to declining water tables… there’s just no doubt about that.”

Another impact from the ongoing drought is decreased water in the Riverside Drain, also known as the Clear Ditch. “I was recently contacted about the drying of the “Clear Ditch,’ which is happening for a number of reasons, drought being one of them.”

A major contributing factor is ever more domestic wells drawing down the water table. “Every individual well pumping is creating its own cone of depression, and that keeps the return flows that used to go to that drain, and then, there’s less and less irrigation going on.”

On top of those factors, the riverbed  is degrading as the Rio Grande flows past Corrales so that it is now lower than the Riverside Drain, he explained. On the bright side, he said release of water from upstream dams in the weeks ahead will raise water levels which may well raise it in the drain as well. “We’ve had this release from El Vado Dam to Elephant Butte so that the water in the river did up come up a couple of feet” which could mean a little more water in the Riverside Drain.

The soon-to-be senior water advisor for the governor  offered a general outline for the kinds of questions to be addressed in the 50-Year Water Plan. “Obviously the big ones are the infrastructure needs related to water and resiliency from the water supply perspective; that’s really the cornerstone of a good water plan.

“You’re recognizing the differentials between supply and demand, and what components of that supply are vulnerable and need to be shored  up. Or do we need to completely prepare to provide soft landings for certain segments of our water user community so that it’s not a complete loss of income or complete inability to do agricultural production that we’ve become accustomed to. We’ve had a fairly resilient system up until the last decade or so when we’ve started to see the serious signs of climate change impacts.

“Rising temperatures create the need for more water to grow the same amount of the same crop.

“When temperatures go up, aridity goes up. There’s more evapotranspiration to grow that same crop. That’s happening with the bosque and with every bit of vegetation that relies on water to survive. And bare ground also will evaporate more moisture. So not as much snowpack will accrue and it will run off quicker.

“Our infrastructure is designed for a specific type of run-off pattern, and now we may have to re-visit that, because run-off patterns are changing. And we have a different moisture pattern in which we may see more intense monsoonal events which will be damaging to that infrastructure. But that could be a source of water that can be captured and used in some form or fashion.

“Those are the sorts of things that you identify in a really solid water plan.”

An earlier water plan produced in 2018 identified about a quarter of a billion dollars in unmet infrastructure needs, Hamman recalled, and some of those needs are currently being addressed.

“What we need is a really comprehensive program for regional and rural drinking water systems. If there isn’t capacity from a rate base because of lack of population, or just lack of capacity within the organization that would take responsibility, then the systems have to be supported.

“So that is the matrix of the sort of things that we need to put into the total picture of what needs to be done,” he summed up. “And Corrales could fit right into that. You could do it in segments; you could make agreements with Rio Rancho to bring their water in, even though people here will complain about it because their water doesn’t taste as good as our own well water.

“But it’s very doable, and these regional systems are the best way to go since it has a better rate base and everybody can ride on everybody else’s shoulders.”

Like the MRGCD director before him, Hamman is open to the idea that the Corrales Interior Drain, a ditch east of Corrales Road that runs from the east end of Valverde Road to south of East Meadowlark Lane, could become municipal property owned by the Village of Corrales. The ditch has largely ceased to deliver return flows from agricultural fields to the Rio Grande; in fact much of it is dry all year.

A committee appointed by Mayor Jo Anne Roake is developing a proposal to transform the ditch and adjacent ditch roadways into public open space. But that will happen only if and when the Village takes full ownership of the property, thus relieving the Conservancy District of liability.

“We’re always hearing about traffic problems on the ditch banks. But that is more of a Village problem, not a Conservancy District  problem.

“We’re not in the park business and not in the road business, and we don’t want to be.”

If the Village sees the drain as a desirable asset, it should come to an agreement with the district to transfer ownership, Hamman suggested. He noted that the primary framework for Corrales recreational trails has long been MRGCD property. “But are we as a community going to allow the MRGCD to provide all of its open space into the future?”

He ended the interview by assuring villagers that he will continue to be a Corraleño for many years to come. “I’ll be leaving the district in really good hands. We have an excellent staff and a public service ethic that didn’t necessarily exist in the past.

ISSUE 12-18-21 STILL NO START-UP DATE FOR UPPER MEADOWLARK TRAILS

Still no start-up date or timetable has been announced for construction of paths along upper Meadowlark Lane between Loma Larga and Rio Rancho. Earlier this year, Village Administrator Ron Curry predicted it might be complete by the end of 2021. But as of December 1, Corrales Public Works Director Mike Chavez reported “We are at 80 percent completion with the design,” which is being carried out by Village Engineer Steve Grollman.

In his briefing for the mayor and Village Council  last July, Grollman said he had the design three-quarters finished. During that July 8 report, Grollman proposed constructing a ten-foot wide  asphalt path between the subdivisions’ walls on the south side of the road and the existing eastbound driving lane. That path, for pedestrians and cyclists, would be designated for bikes headed uphill, or westward, only. Cyclists headed eastward, downhill, would be expected to use the regular driving lane along with cars and trucks.

As proposed in July, a six-inch high curb would divide the bike path from the adjacent driving lane. At each of the five roads leading into subdivisions along the south side of upper Meadowlark, Grollman said crosswalks would be painted on the trail pavement. Listening to the discussion, Curry was optimistic. “I would like to think it could be done by the end of the year,” he ventured.

In his December 1 email to Corrales Comment, Public Works Director Chavez suggested a cause for the delay. “We just closed out the final funding for the Meadowlark drainage, so we can now finish the drainage. Our engineer requests that we finish the drainage to Loma Larga before we start the trail project.

 “I am working on scheduling the contractor for the Loma Larga drainage as we speak.”

A solution to stormwater run-off from the 60-foot wide road right-of-way has stymied the upper Meadowlark project for a full decade.

In 2011, Corrales got a $214,000 grant from the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG) “to plan, design and construct the West Meadowlark Lane Trail.” But Village officials returned the money after stiff opposition from homeowners along the road over fears the project would bring stormwater flooding onto their property.

An opposition petition was presented to the Village Council at its April 12, 2011 meeting. The project was stopped even though it had been planned for at least three years. At an August, 2009 council meeting, a resolution was approved to design and build bike lanes and a five-foot wide compacted earth trail along upper West Meadowlark. At the time, the mayor was confident he would get the bike paths built during 2011. (See Corrales Comment series on trails, starting with Vol. XXVIII, No.18, November 7, 2009  “First Steps to Implement Village-wide Trails Plan”)

But the project for bicycle riders, pedestrians and horse riders wasn’t done in 2011, and now apparently won’t be done in 2021, even though a state grant for $243,500 was formally accepted by the Village Council at its September 28, 2021 meeting to “plan, design and construct the West Meadowlark Lane Trail.”

Planning has, in fact, been under way for more than a decade. The proposal to construct bicycle lanes or paths that would link bike lanes along Loma Larga to those in Rio Rancho has been endlessly scrutinized since 2009, and was to have been implemented at roughly the same time the roadway was  realigned nearly three years ago.

On-the-ground work relocating utility lines inside the public right-of-way was completed by the end of February 2018, which included substantial earthmoving.  Awarding of a contract to actually rebuild the road was to have been accomplished by then.

But another hang-up arose: getting the N.M. Department of Transportation’s concurrence with design changes to the westerly end of the proposed bike trail.

NMDOT had withheld approval for the earlier design by Corrales engineer Brad Sumrall that depended on a waiver from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The original engineering plan was rejected because the slope was too severe (both east-west and north-south) for persons in a wheelchair.

A proposed work-around also failed to materialize.

The steep slope at the top of Corrales’ part on Meadowlark Lane was recognized as a potential problem from the earliest days of planning for the trails project. That was one reason why, in the early days of community input, the equestrian path was proposed for the north side of the road (since hooves could manage the slope without difficulty.)

But as the years wore on, alignment for the horse path was switched from the north side to the south, primarily based on evolving public input. That put the multi-use trail along the north side of the road, which led to the ADA issue.

Village officials decided to move ahead with reconstructing the roadway while  leaving the trails component for a later phase. As the road was being finished, Village Administrator Curry said the trails needed a start-from-scratch re-thinking, and promised a thorough public involvement effort.

But in July 2021, at the first public meeting to launch a re-start, only three members of the public attended since almost no notice was given. At that session, Grollman explained his preliminary design for a bike path and horse trail.

That was followed by another public meeting via Zoom on September 22. Again the meeting was not announced in time to be published in Corrales Comment before it was held. Meetings are also usually announced at the Village of Corrales website, http://www.corrales-nm.org.

The second time, Mayor Jo Anne Roake mentioned the Zoom meeting in her September 2021 “Mayor’s Message,” noting that “Door hanger notifications will also be hung on the doors of homes off Meadowlark, especially in the cul-de-sacs. Please spread the word.” People who live along upper Meadowlark are not the only villagers interested in potential trails for bikes, horses and those on human feet. Corraleños living throughout the village have decades-long involvement in what’s at stake in pending decisions.

(See Corrales Comment Vol.XXX, No.10, July 9, 2011 “Corrales Gives Back $160,000 for Upper Meadowlark Trail” and Vol.XXX No.16 October 8, 2011 “Upper Meadowlark Task Force Meets Mondays.” and Vol.XXXX No.1 February 20, 2021 “Corrales Returns $167,417 Meant for Meadowlark Trails.”)

The project has been amply aired in numerous public meetings for more than ten years. In 2013, a planning firm was called in to conduct a charrette to elicit optimal public input.

As stated in Corrales’ advertised “request for proposals” to build the roadway and trails, the firm winning the contract would “provide complete project design plans for the construction of pedestrian, equestrian, bicycle trails and road improvements including drainage along the upper section of West Meadowlark Road and design for traffic control options at the intersection of Loma Larga.”

ISSUE 12-18-21 OLD SCHOOLHOUSE GETS A NEW ROOF

In early December, the roof was being replaced on the old, one-room schoolhouse at the corner of Corrales Road and Rincon Road. The earthen structure is being restored by John Perea who also owns the adjacent Perea’s Restaurant and Tijuana Bar. Both historic buildings are to be managed in accordance with a common site development plan. Restoration of the old schoolhouse where Corrales kids were taught from the 1870s until 1925 is to be complete before next summer.

Perea acquired the building after the 2008 death of his uncle, Bobby Perea, who lived there. For years the earthen structure at the corner of Corrales Road and Rincon Road was all but swallowed up by dense Tree of Heaven sprouts. Adobe walls were sagging and parts of the interior were rotting away. In October, Perea said he hoped tohave a new roof and new floor before spring. “We would be very fortunate to have the electrical done and have a certificate of occupancy by next spring,” he said.

“We might even be able to have a Las Posada event in there this Christmas, even if we don’t have electrical service done by then.

“The first thing was to stabilize the building so that it didn’t fall down,” Perea said as restoration work resumed after starting about three years ago. “We’ve done a lot of cosmetic stuff and taken down all the interior walls, and taken off all the plaster that was about to fall.

“The idea is to make the restoration as much like the original as possible.”

That goes for the windows as well, although the original single-pane glass is being replaced with insulated glass.­ The project is being coordinated with an architect and other specialists through New Mexico MainStreet, and adobe restoration contractor Rick Catanach.

He intends to use rough-cut lumber and mud plaster as much as possible to keep the old schoolhouse’s appearance like that of a structure built in the 1870s. “We will hide the electrical service because we’ll need that for modern-day uses, and we will furnish it with period pieces. We want to bring in an old potbellied stove. The idea is for it to be like a living museum.”

Inside will be a large room —the old classroom— flanked by two small rooms on the south side. One will be a meeting space and the other an office. Corrales oldtimers used to tell of bringing chunks of coal inside the schoolhouse to burn in the stove that warmed the classroom. A future site development plan may show a common patio area between the old school and the restaurant.

Perea said the shed, or barn, at the rear of the property will be converted into restrooms and perhaps a bodega and coffee shop. “Back in the 1870s that was where the outhouse used to be, so maybe we should put up an old-fashioned outhouse door to the restrooms.”

ISSUE 12-18-21 OLD CHURCH HONORS HISTORIAN ALAN MINGE

The November 28 tribute to the man largely credited for saving the Old Church, historian Alan Minge, included little-known facts about how that was accomplished. Among Minge’s written recollections was the Corrales Historical Society’s approval for the church to be set on fire, or to be filmed as if burning, for a television production. Not long after, the Old Church did catch fire, for real, although that was thought to be caused by lightning, he recalled.

Minge was not only the driving force for saving the Old Church, he also was the primary founder of the Corrales Historical Society and Casa San Ysidro Museum across the road.  He was celebrated as a visionary at the Historical Society’s  event November 28 when a plaque honoring his achievements was unveiled.

Minge died  at his Waterville, Kansas home May 6 of this year, having moved to his native Kansas in 1998. He was 97.

For 30 years, Minge served as chief historian for Kirtland Air Force Base, chronicling the research activities of the Air Force Special Weapons Center and the Air Force Weapons Laboratory. He was also a contract historian for several Pueblo governments documenting their land and water rights claims.

Minge was co-founder and first director of the N.M. State Records Center and Archives in Santa Fe. He wrote the draft legislation creating the State’s 1959 Public Records Act that established the Records Center and Archives. He was honored with the State’s Distinguished Public Service Award in 1969.

At the tribute last month, some of his correspondence and notes about the long struggle to save the Old Church were read by the society’s Alice Glover. A second part of the event were remembrances by his long-time neighbor, Michelle Frechette.

In a July 2010 letter to the society’s then-President Glover, Minge laid out what it took to protect the structure that has become Corrales’ primary icon. “For fear a developer or worse would take over the Old San Ysidro Church property, Shirley [his wife] and I made offers to purchase it. We did not receive an answer directly until our mayor, [Barbara Tenorio Christianson, first mayor of Corrales] approached me to form an Historical Society of Corrales.

“The Village government was suggesting the society as manager of the property after the parish agreed at last to sell the Old Church to the Village.”

 In the early 1970s, the Old Church had been de-sanctified by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe which owned the property. So after the new San Ysidro Catholic Church was built where it is now, the Old Church was leased to the Corrales Adobe Theater.

Minge’s narrative for Glover continued. “Once formed, the society’s immediate challenge was to come to terms with the Adobe Theater group renting the premises for theater productions during the summer.”

The society membership was prepared to pay the Village of Corrales to replace income it would lose from the theater’s  rental.

As other correspondence read by Glover at the tribute demonstrates, Minge’s interest in  preserving the  structure began long before the Historical Society was established. The society’s archive include a January 6, 1954 letter from Minge to a priest in Bernalillo explaining his motive. “Nearly two years ago, my father and I visited you in Bernalillo with an offer to purchase the Old San Ysidro Church in Sandoval [then the name of Corrales]. At that time, you asked a number of questions regarding an equitable price and also regarding my motives.

“I felt the interview was very satisfactory for you and me, and I was sure you understood my interests were twofold: that our land bordered on those church lands and, secondly, that my wife and I have been most interested in Spanish culture and preservation of what little remains in Corrales. As our home across from the church stands in mute testimony, I am sure the parish can have no doubts as to our respect, care and interest for these things.”

In that January 1964 letter, Minge wrote that he had heard rumors that the Old Church might be sold soon to some other party. “I beg of you to consider my standing application that I be given the opportunity to purchase this property under whatever terms may be decided in the future.”

In a January 1967 letter, Minge explained how he would use the old church if he was allowed to buy it. “I should  then wish to see it used by the community of Corrales as a meetings, lecture and concert hall. My utmost concern for owning it, and the concern of many who have approached me, is to prevent its being destroyed, becoming a commercial venture, or being used as a storehouse for junk.

“We have watched with growing alarm the rapid deterioration of the church building over the past few years.”

In that letter, he pointed out that his own property [now Casa San Ysidro Museum] is adjacent to the cemetery, and that he would be willing to give up some of his land for future use for the campo santo if an expansion of the cemetery was desired in the future.

But those overtures for a Minge purchase were rejected. It was only when Corrales’ first mayor suggested the Historical Society be formed as a more appropriate new owner that a way forward opened.

In his recounting of those formative developments in the July 2010 letter to Clover, the historian explained that Village government finally agreed to terminate lease of the Old Church to the Adobe Theater in 1978.

“It was about this time the Corrales Historical Society received several thousands of dollars (I am not sure of the exact amount) from a production company initiating a television series called Nakai in which a Pueblo Indian sheriff succeeds in protecting a small village and its church from developers,” Minge wrote.

He said the TV producers paid the Historical Society about $2,000 to use the Old Church for some of those scenes. “Some members  were hesitant to have the company working in the plaza, particularly setting fire to Old Church. Negotiators assured us that the fire would be harmless, that creating the illusion of burning the building would cause no damage whatsoever.

“Because the series was being made on a ‘shoestring,’ the company offered $3,000 and no more. That sum, along with the story being filmed of an Indian sheriff saving the village and its church from developers, seemed heaven-sent, and the society agreed to allow the company to proceed.” He wrote that “shortly after filming Nakai, the upper attic area over the southern transept caught fire. Most of us believed lightning to be cause, but the area required replacing some timbers and considerable cleaning.”

His history of the long-running effort to save the Old Church included the effort in the 1980s to build an annex for public restrooms, a kitchen and storage for chairs and other equipment.

ISSUE 12-18-21 WILDLIFE WILL SOON HAVE CONTINUITY OF HABITAT IN BOSQUE PRESERVE

Thanks to The Nature Conservancy, a serious, but avoidable, mistake in managing the Corrales Bosque Preserve may be reversed by summer.

Continuity of habitat for wildlife using the riverside forest will be restored over the next decade as a result of the wetlands project underway at the mouth of the Montoyas Arroyo.

The wide, barren stretch of land between the east end of the Harvey Jones Flood Control Channel and the Rio Grande is to be filled in with vegetation that will be irrigated with stormwater coming down the expansive Montoyas Arroyo watershed as well as treated effluent from one of Rio Rancho’s primary sewage treatment plants.

Fragmentation of the riverine habitat that stretches from  the Alameda Bridge to Rio Rancho’s “North Beach” at the north end of the village has been a serious deterrent to Corrales’ bosque preservation goals.

The late Corrales biologist Jim Findley, who initiated the Corrales Bosque Preserve in 1980 and was asked  by the Village to develop a management plan for it in 2008, warned repeatedly about recurring approved forest clearing projects that fragmented habitat. The largest of those by far was clearing for the outfall of the Jones Channel, but others such as fire breaks had an even greater cumulative effect over a wider area.

Findley, retired University of New Mexico biologist and 65-year resident of Corrales, explained every chance he got that the well-documented richness of the Village preserve’s wildlife assets was due largely to the fact that the woodlands on Corrales’ eastern edge were generally unbroken.

Maintaining the continuity and density of that habitat had been considered essential to the riverside forest’s value as a preserve until the Village’s fuelbreak proposals began getting approved  in 2010.

No Corrales-specific assessment of the results of such fuelbreaks on wildlife were conducted before or after the first project was carried out more than two years ago just north of the Boy Scout Bridge.

Channels have been excavated in the Corrales Bosque Preserve between the outfall of the Harvey Jones Flood Control Channel and the Rio Grande to distribute stormwater to the proposed ten-acre wetlands.

Major earthwork has been underway since early November to use not only stormwater from the vast Montoyas Arroyo watershed but also treated effluent from a Rio Rancho sewage plant on the edge of the arroyo  near Highway 528.

The project is a collaboration among the Village of Corrales, the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority (SSCAFCA), the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, the City of Rio Rancho and The Nature Conservancy.

(See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No.2 March 6, 2021 “Stormwater, Treated Sewage Would Be Used for Bosque.”)

The Jones Channel has functioned as a storm drain carrying rain from Rio Rancho and Corrales into the floodplain of the river since the early 1990s. Deposited sediments over those years will be re-contoured and new earthen channels will be opened.  Removal of accumulated sediment will allow bosque vegetation to connect to groundwater resources helping to sustain cottonwood trees and other plants throughout the year.

Stormwater from the Montoyas Arroyo and the Lomitas Negras Arroyo watersheds will be slowed and diverted  through the proposed wetlands before emptying into the river. But an even more consistent and reliable supply of irrigation water will come from Rio Rancho’s sewage treatment plant.

 That effluent would provide a perennial four to five million gallons a day.

The sewage treatment plant has operated with a discharge permit to send effluent to the river through a pipeline that runs along the flood control channel.

A grader, two front-end loaders and dump trucks worked the riverbank area  between the Jones channel and the river in mid-November to create two paths for stormwater to follow on its way to the river. During major storm events when large quantities of water are pouring through the arroyo, the water would be directed more or less immediately to the river, while during lesser storms, the water would go to a more meandering, distributive channel.

Once the earthwork is completed, trees and other vegetation will be planted, probably in early spring.

Destruction of bosque habitat in 2008-10 from clearing of vegetation along the Corrales Riverside Drain (“Clear Ditch”) and east of the levee triggered intense interest in setting safeguards against future loss.

Over the summer of 2008, three different efforts were under way to bring wildlife needs into consideration when projects such as fire hazard reduction and Riverside Drain maintenance were proposed.

Two of the plans were submitted to the council September 9, 2008. One was a draft by Findley. The other which incorporated the Findley plan was developed by Anita Walsh, a strong opponent of the clear-cutting done along the Riverside Drain that spring.

A third, even more detailed, plan was produced by the Corrales Bosque Advisory Commission (CBAC).

The Findley draft for a management plan was mostly in outline at that time, and was based on a vegetation classification map similar to one produced in 1984 by two biologists, V.O. Hink and R.D. Ohmart.

Findley recommended an attempt be made to “assign acceptable use categories for each vegetation type. Some types might be ‘hands off under all circumstances.’ Some might be ‘limited alteration allowable for specific purposes’ (such as wetland creation). Some might be ‘limited clearing allowable if demonstrably critical for public safety.’”

The Village’s Corrales Bosque Preserve Ordinance No. 234 states  that the designated bosque is “to be protected in order to preserve its natural character for the use and enjoyment  of the residents of the village in such manner as will leave it unimpaired for future use and enjoyment in its natural and protected condition.”

Villagers were dismayed at the habitat loss that occurred in the bosque and along its western perimter this past spring. (See I Vol. XXVII, No. 2, March 8, 2008 “Clear Ditch Tree Cutting Stirs Villagers’ Protest.”)

In the aftermath of the public outcry that spring over the excessive clearing that had taken place, then-Village Councillor Sayre Gerhart suggested that a wildlife habitat plan be developed for the preserve. Findley agreed to work on such a plan.

The Rio Grande Conservancy District  (MRGCD) board of directors got a presentation on the Bosque Advisory Commission’s Habitat Management Plan February 13, 2012.

Bosque commissioners had sought such an opportunity for months. (See Corrales Comment’s nine-part series of articles starting Vol.XXVIII, No.7, May 23, 2009, “Bosque Preserve Habitat Plan Now Available”)

Management responsibility for the Corrales bosque had been contentious  for decades. On more than one occasion, the MRGCD attorney had fired off brusque legal challenges to Village proposals affecting district property which includes irrigation and drainage ditches and basically all of the riverside forest.

Village government has never claimed ownership of the bosque which it dedicated as a nature preserve in 1986.  But over the decades, MRGCD officials have concurred with Village proposals that the land be protected from abuses, that the municipality provide police and fire protection to the territory and that recreational and environmental values be enhanced.

The 2010 Habitat Management Plan, largely developed by Bosque Advisory Commission’s then-chairman, David Worledge, established what the community’s goals were for the preserve; it outlined fire protection measures and habitat improvements, and recommended restrictions on activities that would compromise those objectives.

Since its earliest years as an incorporated  municipality, Corrales has maintained a desire to manage and insure protection of the woodlands along its eastern fringe. Corrales Ordinance 61, dated November 18, 1975, noted that the Village’s annexation of the bosque had approval from the MRGCD and from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

That ordinance refers to the Conservancy District’s resolution on March 11, 1975 that concured with the Village’s annexation.

But MRGCD has repeatedly asserted that Village officials have no authority to pass ordinances that apply to district property without its expressed consent. That potential conflict intensified when the Village Council passed Ordinance 234 on October 23, 1990, “preserving and protecting the Corrales Bosque Preserve; prohibiting and making unlawful certain activities in the Corrales Bosque Preserve;…”

For the most part the “Corrales Bosque Preserve Ordinance” simply outlawed activities that the Conservancy District wanted to discourage anyway, such as littering, dumping, setting of fires and unauthorized excavations, and allowed the Corrales police department to enforce those laws.

In most, if not all, cases any Village-imposed restrictions were accompanied by legal terminology that said those rules in no way constrained the MRGCD and its crews from conducting their activities.

The 1990 ordinance said, for example, that “Law enforcement officers, fire department and emergency rescue unit personnel, authorized agents and employes of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, and other authorized officers, agents and employees of the federal, state and local governments, acting within the scope of their duties, shall be exempt from the provisions of Section 6-13-2” spelling out prohibited activities.

12-18-21 WHY WON’T THE VILLAGE RELEASE GONZALES FIELD APPRAISAL?

An appraisal for the front three acres of the Gonzales tract next to Wells Fargo Bank has not been released by Village officials despite citizens’ keen interest in having it purchased for public use.

A report had been expected in October or November for the vacant three acres owned by descendants of Corrales’ founder, Juan Gonzales Bas, for possible use as a “village center” linking the Village Office complex east of Corrales Road, La Entrada Park and the library, and the 5.5-acre heritage farm extending west to the Corrales Acequia ditch bank.

Corrales Comment requested a copy of the appraisal report from Village Administrator Ron Curry November 22 but he replied Decembver 6 that it is “still under executive session protocols,” meaning for now, the appraisal is for the eyes of the mayor and council only.

Back on September 28, Curry was asked by a member of the Village Council for an update on the appraisal; he replied guardedly that those discussions had taken place in a closed session, but added he expected to be able to report to councillors within 60 to 90 days from August 6.

More than four years ago, a sustained effort began to seek acquisition of the Gonzales property for a variety of public purposes, although elected officials remained mostly lukewarm to the idea.

Finally, in May 2021, an ad hoc Heritage Park Planning Committee mounted a new push that apparently persuaded the Village Council to seek an appraisal on the parcel that has been zoned for commercial use since the 1980s.

The ad hoc committee’s May 13, 2021 proposal to the mayor and council laid out its rationale why the Village should at least move ahead with obtaining an appraisal on what it called “The Gonzales Three-Acre Property: the real estate investment for the future.”

Below are excerpts of the proposal which had drawn support from numerous civic groups and Village-appointed committees. The document was written primarily by former Village Councillor Fred Hashimoto and John Thompson, chairman of the Corrales Landmark Tree Preservation Advisory Committee, which  originally advocated “establishing an arboretum of trees which would feature: open space, recreation, education (trees appropriate to Corrales; school gardens, etc.), shade, possible heritage plantings (like grapevines…; hence, a “Heritage Park.”)

The May 2021 proposal continued: “Architects and land-use planners became involved and a new paradigm evolved: Corrales owning the Gonzales three acres property as a centrally-located, potentially multi-use- — all ages and abilities— open space. Mention has been made of a Heritage Park and a Village Center, but those are only some possibilities for a central Village open space.”

In an email to Corrales Comment October 2, Hashimoto said he had been in contact with Gonzales family members who remain especially interested in selling the three acres to the Villlage of Corrales, as they had been to selling the 5.5-acre tract farther west which has been saved as farmland in perpetuity as the “Juan Gonzales Bas Heritage Farm.”

Hashimoto said the descendants would welcome working with the Village on this. “I believe that other interest in the property has been received by the family, but they still prefer that the Village ends up owning the land.

“Several years ago, when some of us met with Hector Gonzales, he clearly stated that. Although the family (many of Hector’s remaining siblings are elderly and live in another state) would like to sell the land, they have not placed it on the open market, hoping that something can be worked out with the Village.

“For the last three to four years, this has been a consideration.”

(See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXVI No.9 July 8, 2017 “C-Zoned for Decades, New Ideas for Gonzales Frontage.”)

Hector Gonzales died in March 2019.

The May 13 proposal made the point that the three-acre frontage next to the bank “can serve as a natural leading gateway to the Gonzales Bas 5.5-acre farmland, which, to this time, has been obscure to many Corraleños.

“The Village will own both sides of Corrales Road and have a municipal presence there visible and identifiable to people in the many thousands of cars which pass by daily.

“This private three-acre space has been used (courtesy of the Gonzales family) by Village residents during parades, festivals and rallies. Having this as a public space will ensure unencumbered Village use. The space-enhanced area could be conceived as a Village Center, which has been historically and geographically core to many municipalities, local and worldwide.”

The document quoted Corrales architect Pat McClernon explaining “With the Village owning both sides of Corrales road, this would leverage the past investments and build upon community success for all proposed activities benefiting village residents as well as our guests from outside the village.”

Another Corrales architect-planner, Ed Boles who has specialized in hist oric preservation, put it this way back in 2018: “Forward-looking acquisition of pivotal land in the center of the Village may yield both tangible and intangible benefits. In economic revitalization circles it is well known that strategic public investment, including recreational and cultural projects, can help stimulate private sector development.”

The committee’s proposal argues “This Gonzales-owned three acres is the most historic farmland in the village. It has been single-family owned since 1712. Back in those times, Juan Gonzales Bas raised sheep in corrals. Many believe that that’s how the village became named ‘Corrales.’

“If the Village desires, some of the land can be leased out to commercial business(es). Owning the property gives the Village more control over how it’s used. More than a dozen years ago, a developer proposed building a large office complex there which would have blocked the viewshed to the west. This blocking did not please P&Z chairperson Terry Brown, but given their ordinance guidelines, P&Z could not stop it. The developer developed a health problem and the complex did not materialize. However, if the Village owns the land and decides to have commercial there, it has more control over site and development plans than P&Z could have….”

“Over the last several years, the three acres, in one form or another, have been discussed at dozens of our meetings. Participants have included those from the Corrales Landmark Tree Preservation Advisory Committee, architects and members of volunteer groups such as Corrales Arts Partners, Sandoval Master Gardeners, Native Plant Society of New Mexico, Corrales Tree Stewards, Parks and Recreation.

“Once the Village owns the three acres, these organizations, in addition to Corrales Main Street and the 4-H Club, could help with planning, implementation and maintenance for the open space,” the proposal said.

“Volunteerism in the Village is a positive movement. People working together to make the village better is powerful, and benefits Corrales in more ways than just the material projects produced. The many who have worked for the three-acre concept are such volunteers.

“They have zero personal vested interests in the Village purchasing and developing the three acres except that it brightens the village’s future.

“To purchase and own the 3A is something the Village should do. It’s just some empty land now, but it can be much more. (Unfortunately, it could be much worse, and that’s just another reason why the Village should own it.)

“Currently, the Corrales Historical Society is celebrating ‘300 Years of Corrales Heritage and 50 Years of Village Incorporation.’ The three acres goes back those 300+ years. Wouldn’t it be fitting for the Village to purchase this very unique piece of Corrales heritage in the 50th year of its incorporation to solidify its standing and for the betterment of its future?”

When he proposed the purchase agreement for what is now the heritage farm at the May 13, 2008 Village Council meeting, then-Mayor Phil Gasteyer called it “the historic centerpiece for the Village of Corrales.”

But the purchase did  not include the front three acres of the tract, just north of Wells Fargo Bank. That frontage was sold to developer Jack Westman who hoped to build an office complex there.

However, he was key to arranging the deal by which the Village acquired the family’s 5.5 acres to the west, adjacent to the acequia, which otherwise would have become a housing development.

“I have to give Jack Westman a lot of credit,” said Hector Gonzales. “He had a lot to do with working this agreement out. He’s the one who took the lead on it.

“He talked to the people in the Village [Office] who have the answers to what we wanted to do,” Gonzales explained. “You know, I have tried for years to get the Village to buy it, but it always seemed like they wanted to go in the opposite direction.”

He said he thought the Village should have purchased the entire tract, including the frontage slated for offices, “but I understand the Village doesn’t have a lot of money to do something like that.”

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).

The resolution also called for purchase of water rights sufficient to keep the land in cultivation. Selling price for the property was $1,256,445, and water rights cost $231,000 for a total of $1,487,445.

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. 

12-18-21 MORE TURNOVER AS VILLAGE INSPECTOR LEAVES

Corrales’ building inspector, Joe Benney, resigned in mid-November, another departure in the position with significant turn-over in recent years.

No reason was disclosed publicly, although Corrales Comment has requested a copy of a letter or resignation if that exists. Village Administrator Ron Curry, who met with Benney regarding that departure, said in an email that Benney resigned “to take another job that pays more.”

Controversy regarding actions taken by the building inspector in recent years has centered on  approvals for “casitas” which some villagers consider blatant violations of the Village’s long-standing restriction on residential density.

Manuel Pacheco had been Corrales’ building inspector for about five years, but when he left in 2018, he was replaced by Lee Brammeier who had more than 14 years of building code enforcement with the City of Rio Rancho, City of Albuquerque and other governments.

When Brammeier left, he was replaced by Benney earlier this year.

The building inspector position falls within the Planning and Zoning Department.

ISSUE 12-18-21 CORRALES BOSQUE GALLERY HONORS ARTIST MEL MILLER

Early next year, the Corrales Bosque Gallery will host a month-long homage and memorial sale in honor of Mel Miller, an important figure in the Corrales arts scene, who died in 2020.

Miller, along with his wife, Arlene, was a founding member of the 28-year-old Corrales Bosque Gallery. A life-long painter and illustrator, Miller designed the logo still in use by the gallery.

After serving as a medic in WWII, Miller graduated from the Art Institute in Chicago. He worked as an illustrator, art director and painter for many years in Chicago before moving to New Mexico in the early 1990s for retirement.

He sold postcards at the gallery for $2, and gallery envelopes were often enhanced by one of his cartoons. Miller and his wife remained as active members of the gallery until each passed on. Arlene Miller died in 2005 and he followed her some 15 years later, leaving behind a large body of work that will be featured in the memorial sale.

A gallery representative calls the upcoming event “A rare opportunity to see much of Mel’s work in one space and available for sale.” With participation from Miller’s family, the event will run the entire month of January 2022. Eighty percent of the proceeds from the sales will be given to the family, and the rest to the gallery.

Corrales Bosque Gallery is located at 4685 Corrales Road, in the Mercado de Mayo. Masks are required to enter the gallery which is open daily from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

ISSUE 12-18-21 WHY NOT JOIN CORRALES BOARDS, COMMISSIONS?

Since before Village government’s incorporation as a municipality, community life was sustained by volunteer committees and associations, such as the Corrales Historical Society and the Corrales Volunteer Fire Department.

Some of those early civic groups have survived as nongovernmental organizations to this day while others have become official Village boards and commissions, with membership appointed by the mayor and Village Council.

Peruse the following list to see whether your own interests coincide with one or more of those boards. The Village Clerk in the Village Offices across from Wells Fargo Bank will always accept applications to be considered as vacancies arise.

The boards and commissions are: Planning and Zoning, Parks and Recreation, Bosqe Advisory Commission, Equestrian Advisory Commission, Senior Advisory Board, Library Board, Farmland Preservation and Agricultural Commission, the Bicycle, Pedestrian Advisory Commission, Tree Preservation Advisory Committee, Lodger’s Tax Board, Capital Improvements Advisory Committee, the Interior Drain Advisory Committee, Casa San Ysidro Advisory Board and the Water Issues Advisory Board.

At least two other groups have strong liaison with Village government: the Corrales Historical Society and Corrales MainStreet, Inc. Membership to those organizations is not by appointment by the mayor.

According to the Village of Corrales  website December 1, current members of the boards are listed as follows, although some are probably incomplete or out of date.

  • Bicycle, Pedestrian Advisory Commission: Dayton Voorhees, chair, Chris Allen, Jeff Radford, Suzanne Harper and Susan Zimmerman.
  • Capital Improvements Advisory Committee: Dick Foote, chair, Polly Garner, Patrick Hogan, Jason Howard and Lynn Martinez.
  • Interior Drain Committee: Doug Findley, chair, John Perea, Rick Thaler, Jeff Radford and Sayre Gerhart.
  • Farmland Preservation and Agricultural Commission: Lisa Brown, chair, Linda Walsh, Stacia Spragg-Braude, John Perea and John Sweda.
  • Lodger’s Tax Board: Judith Newby chair, Fritz Allen, Norris Tidwell, Dee Turner and Barbara Kline.
  • Planning and Zoning Commission: John McCandless, chair, Sam Thompson, Michele Anderson, Jerry Stermer, Melissa Morris, Ken Killebrew and Mike Harper.
  • Tree Preservaton Advisory Committee: John Thompson, chair, Fred Hashimoto, Don Welsh, Carol Conoboy and Ian Daitz.
  • Corrales MainStreet, Inc.: Sue Evatt, president, Valerie Burkett, Linda Parker, Lynn Martinez, Kim Stewart, Cookie Emerson, John Perea, Joel Gregory and Maureen Cook.
  • Bosque Advisory Commission: Joan Hashimoto, chair, Mary Chappelle, Tim Gonzales, Joan Morrison, Lonnie Peets and Alexander Price.
  • Equestrian Advisory Commission: Patty Carroll, chair, Janet Blair, Bon Bagley, Christina Savitsky, Ellen Robb and Susan Alvarado.
  • Library Board: Kip Wharton, chair, Walter Walkow, Cynthia Nava, Liz Volkmann, Jim Wright, Ginger Foote and Gail Chynoweth.
  • Parks and Recreation Commission: Renee Clifton, chair, Ed Cole, Joseph Montoya, Tony Messec, John Perea, Joanne Reid and Chris McIntyre.
  • Senior Advisory Board: Mel Alper, chair, Antonio Planells, Margorie Gerber, Richard Perea, Don Reightley, Dolores Biehl and Gilbert Merriman.
  • Water Issues Advisory Board: Don Turton, Brad Sumrall, Maryann Wasiolek, Wendy Fidao Bali and Bert Coxe.
  • Corrales Historical Society: Nan Kimball, chair, Marge Gerber, Carol Rigmark, John Derr, Dora Scherzinger, Mary Davis, Margarita Sexson, Jude Rudder, Carolyn O’Mara, Jill Russell, John McCandless and Dee Turner.

ISSUE 12-18-21 NOW BRING US SOME FIGGY PUDDING, AND BRING IT RIGHT NOW!

By Meredith Hughes

“Now bring us some figgy pudding!” We small mob of kiddie carolers back in the day are standing in front of your door, wishing you a Merry Christmas, but making demands which become increasingly pushy. “Now bring us some figgy pudding, Now bring some out here….”

And, further, ominously,  “We won’t go until we get some….”

(I do not recall getting any, period.)

What exactly was so compelling about figgy pudding? Likely it was a plum or even raisin pudding, or certainly a dried fruit pudding, rather than fig, and the song referenced above, though vaguely attributed to traditions in the West Country of England, was not pinned down and promoted until 1935 when the Bristol-based composer, conductor and organist Arthur Warrell published it as “A Merry Christmas.”

According to Kimberly Killebrew, of The Daring Gourmet, an early figgy pudding “was more of a wet, sticky, thick porridge consisting of boiled figs, water, wine, ground almonds, raisins and honey.”  

Enticing?

Later cooks added ground meat and grains to the mix, and later still such evolved into a steamed pudding made with raisins. And brandy. Setting the completed fig-free pudding on fire was part of the fun, too, apparently.

Although… since some food historians claim figgy pudding comprised 13 ingredients, as in Christ and the 12 Apostles, and was served with a sprig of holly up top, i.e. the “crown of thorns,” this might have been construed as a tad over the top, and yet, Christmas in Christian terms denotes the birth of Jesus, rather than his demise, right? Puzzling.

Mind you, many religious traditions have made the fig their own, the most famous of which possibly is the tree in Bihar, India under which Gautama Buddha found wisdom. It’s known as the “bohdi, or enlightenment, tree.” Ficus religiosa. A cutting from this tree was carried to Sri Lanka and planted there in 288 BCE. It survives today, making it supposedly the oldest flowering plant in the world planted by humans.

And the fig tree is one of the earliest plants period, cultivated even before wheat, and possibly even the one that enticed the mythical Eve. Though the apple is often cited as that tempting offering, it cannot compare, surely, to the soft, oozing, often red inside, fig, in seductive terms. (Apples likely originated in Kazakhstan, not really the Middle East nor the Near East, both saidto  be the original home of the fig.)

It’s a quick hop from the evocative fig to the fig leaf, which became the covering du jour for male genitalia during the Renaissance. (Children, avert your eyes.) Evidently the Greeks had been okay with guy displays, but covered their female equivalents. Come Christianity, however, it was “oops, we all are damned.” In some cases actual branches were used to cover painted privates, but by the era of Queen Victoria, plaster fig leaves were a booming business. The Queen’s copy of Michelangelo’s “David” was suitably fig-leafed.

Leaping ahead to 2003, Lloyd Kreitzer, known to many Corrales residents as “The Fig Man,” bought his first fig cutting in Albuquerque. He claimed, in a story by High Country News in 2014, that a month later he had 120 fig trees. And also that as a four-year-old, he loved climbing his uncle’s fig tree in Los Angeles.

Kreitzer joined the Peace Corps straight from college, and there dove into tropical agriculture, experiencing practices that enabled him to embrace the fig with some knowledge.

By now Kreitzer reckons he has tasted over 300 fig varieties, and has explored much of New Mexico in search of heritage fig and other fruit trees, including 150 year-old peach orchards in Mogollón. 

According to Kreitzer, “ripe figs were for the rich in Europe, dried figs were for the poor.” The fig likely reached Mexico after a lengthy and arduous journey from Spain most likely via the Azores. Saplings would have been packed in boxes and as space allowed, gained spot on ships bound for Mexico,  a two and a half month voyage.

These ships were chronically crowded with families and export goods, with shortages of water, yet somehow the fig trees were kept alive until they reached eastern Mexico ports. Thereafter they were transported on ox-drawn carts to Mexico City, a two and half week journey. The ox cart people were mainly concerned with the well being of their ox, first, then their carts, and then the cargo, so it appears that “respect for fig trees helped some arrive safely in Mexico City by 1535.” And from there later reached New Mexico.

Numerous immigrant groups over many generations brought figs with them to New Mexico. Kreitzer relates that in Silver City, in the Chihuahua Hills neighborhood, crypto-Jews planted figs in their front yards to signal that there were Jews living there.

Wherever a walled compound had two connecting walls, a micro-climate was created, and such has been a perfect spot for a fig, especially facing south, at least before the hard-hitting summers of climate change.

Los Poblanos: Historic Inn and Organic Farm in Los Ranchos has had decent success with its fig trees, one of which is said to be over 100 years old.

The Alvarado Hotel, built in Albuquerque in 1901, was the crown jewel of Harvey House hotels serving the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. It was home to numerous fig trees, and the garden manager invited local ranch kids to pick and eat the fruit.

Before The Alvarado was demolished in 1970, cuttings were made of the trees, and “The Fig Man” obtained cuttings of the cuttings. (Figs apparently grow easily from seeds, and from cuttings.) That meant Corrales’ Sandy Gold was able to buy one for her greenhouse about 10 years ago.

“He charged me way too much for it, in a one-gallon pot,” said Gold recently, “About $60.” Repotted into a much larger pot, the fig eventually exploded into the ground, its roots reaching hither and thither, and the tree continues to produce luscious fruit.

Exploding roots in Gold’s greenhouse, built by the Texas Greenhouse Company in about 2003, are not unusual. “Roots seek out other roots,” asserts Gold, whose affinity for encouraging plant life is well known locally.

So Gold’s fig from “The Fig Man” lived, but one in Jane Butel’s possession did not.  “Lloyd's tree that was given to me died, though I have a friend with a huge fig tree.”

Southwest cooking guru and author Butel had no figgy pudding recipe but said “I love figs.  One of my favorites is fig jam, made with some lemon juice, a bit of rind and fresh lavender. Actually, I make it several ways and it is heavenly on freshly baked cheddar-green chile biscuits.”

So, no figgy pudding from Butel. Maybe no one especially likes it?

My late mom’s fave cookie, the Fig Newton, which the rest of us deeply disliked, was first produced in 1891, and was named after the town of Newton, Massachusetts. The product thrived until joined by other “fruit-filled” biscuits in the 1980s, and was renamed in 2012. Henceforth it and they are known as Newtons.

Still don’t give a fig? Apparently that disparaging comment derives from the Spanish “fico,” or fig, which gave its name to a traditional gesture of contempt made by placing the thumb between the first and second fingers. The gesture was said to be common in Shakespeare's time and was known as “The Fig of Spain.” But why?

The fig — beloved, rude, feared, disliked—what a food!

Herewith, Jane Butel’s fig jam recipe:

Fig/Candied Ginger/Lemon Jam

I have always loved to make jam or preserves.  With figs being so sweet, I have varied my basic favorite jam to the following proportions.  You do not need to use pectin if you combine some unripe fruit pieces with the riper fruit.  This is great for windfalls where you have to cut the bruised portions off.

Fundamentally you use ¾ cup sugar to each 1 cup of chopped fresh fruit. So you can make any sized quantity. If fruit is very sweet,  you can cut back a bit on the sugar and add lemon juice —usually about 1 teaspoon lemon juice per cup of fruit or to taste. 

Yield: 10, 8 ounce jars of jam

10 cups quartered fresh figs

¼ cup candied ginger, finely minced

1 large lemon, zested and juiced (need at least 2 Tablespoons juice)

6  cups sugar

  1. Using a deep, heavy bottomed kettle, place the figs, ginger, lemon and sugar in the kettle; and bring to a slow simmer, stirring constantly until the fruit becomes juicy. Then turn up the heat to medium high and boil, continue to stir constantly.
  2. Meanwhile, using a large flat baking pan —about 9 x 13 inches— place 10, 8-ounce jelly jars upside down with one inch of water in the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil and allow to boil until jam is ready to place in jars. At least five minutes of boiling is needed to prevent bacteria. Meanwhile, keep stirring the jelly.
  3. When the boil starts to settle down to smaller bubbles and the mixture is visibly thicker and making large bubbles as it boils, test for doneness either with a thermometer or the sheet test. With the thermometer, jams are done when they cook to a temperature of 7 degrees above boiling. For the sheet test, using a large metal spoon, dip the spoon into the mixture and hold vertical to the surface of the jam, tilting the bottom of the spoon back a bit. If the mixture sheets off with two drops on either side of the spoon joining together and sheeting off, then it is done. A second test is to use a small white or light colored plate and place some drops on the plate. Tilt vertically and if the mixture slowly rolls down in long droplets, the jam is done. On the other hand if the mixture runs down, it needs more cooking.
  4. Take off the heat and stir to make sure the fruit pieces are evenly distributed. Jar the jam by placing a canning funnel, into the sterilized jar and ladle the jam into each to within one inch of the top of the jar. Then, dipping a clean cloth in the hot water used for boiling the jars, use it to clean out the inside of the jar and rub around the top. Dip the lid in the hot water and place rubber side down on the jar and tighten a jar ring as tight as it will go. Set aside on a clean towel. After a few minutes, double-check the jars to make sure the rings are as tight as they can be. Label and store in a dark place and enjoy!

See http://www.janebutelcooking.com   All recipes are reprinted with permission from Jane Butel’s publishers.

“The fig is the edible fruit of Ficus carica, a species of small tree in the flowering plant family Moraceae. Native to the Mediterranean and western Asia, it has been cultivated since ancient times and is now widely grown throughout the world, both for its fruit and as an ornamental plant. Ficus carica is the type species of the genus Ficus, containing over 800 tropical and subtropical plant species.

A fig plant is a small deciduous tree or large shrub growing up to 7–10 metres (23–33 ft) tall, with smooth white bark. Its large leaves have three to five deep lobes. Its fruit (botanically an infructescence, a type of multiple fruit) is tear-shaped, 3–5 centimetres (1.2–2.0 in) long, with a green skin that may ripen toward purple or brown, and sweet soft reddish flesh containing numerous crunchy seeds. The milky sap of the green parts is an irritant to human skin. In the Northern Hemisphere, fresh figs are in season from late summer to early autumn. They tolerate moderate seasonal frost and can be grown even in hot-summer continental climates.”

And from Wikipedia:

Also see The Fig Man  http://www.landofenfigment.com/

“There is a special job about being with figs because they are so ancient and so patient. They will be the last plant to leaf or fig in the spring. So do not be surprised if a month or two or five passes and then suddenly they leaf out.”  Lloyd Kreitzer, The Fig Man

ISSUE 12-18-21 DON’T FORGET TO DECLARE YOUR CANDIDACY ON JAN.4

Have any ideas to address speeding in your neighborhood? Traffic congestion along Corrales Road?  Trails and bike paths? Marijuana farms? Are  you willing to work on those issues and others with the mayor and Village Council? If so, consider running for office in municipal elections coming up in early March. Deadline for declaring your candidacy is Tuesday, January 4. Positions will be open for mayor and Village Council Districts 1, 3 and 4.

You can pick up a candidate packet at the Village Office to learn what’s involved. If you can’t get to the Village Office January 4, you can run as a write-in candidate if you file the paperwork on January 11. Village Clerk Melanie Romero will accept a declaration of candidacy between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on those days, January 4 and January 11. Three seats on the six-member Village Council are available, now held by Kevin Lucero representing Council District 1 in northwestern Corrales; Mel Knight in District 3 in the central part of the village west of Corrales Road; and Tyson Parker representing District 4 for  neighborhoods north and south of upper Meadowlark Lane.

See the council district map published in the December 4 issue of the Comment, or at the Village of Corrales website, http://www.corrales -nm.org.

Terms are not expiring for the other three members of the Village Council: Bill Woldman in District 2; Zach Burkett in District 5; and Stu Murray in District 6. Their terms end in March 2024, as does that for Municipal Judge Michelle Frechette.

None of the incumbents has publicly stated whether he or she intends to seek re-election.

Although relatively new to the council, Parker’s term ends in March because he is filling out the term for former-Councillor Dave Dornburg, who resigned. Incidently, Dornburg had filled the term of John Alsobrook who also resigned, in 2016.

The municipal election will be held March 1. Early voting will start with the Village Clerk in the Village Office February 1, when requested absentee ballots will also go out.

Whoever is elected in March, major decisions likely will be needed for the following questions:

  • should Village government take over Corrales Road which is State  Highway 448, as the N.M. Department of Transportation would like?
  • should Corrales relax or abandon its restriction against more than one dwelling per acre (or one home on two acres in the southern part of the village?)
  • should the commercial growing of marijuana be banned or restricted in residential neighborhoods?
  • what, if anything, should be done to make Corrales more “business friendly?”

ISSUE 12-18-21 TRIBAL LEADERS LIKELY TO SUE AFTER SANDOVAL COUNTY GERRYMANDERING

Three Sandoval County commissioners made a decision last week to dramatically alter the voting power of many Sandoval County residents, especially those who live in Corrales. The meeting held on December 9 was a follow-up to one held on November 18, when the commissioners presented potential redistricting maps to the public. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No.20 December 4, 2021 “Gerrymandering: Is Corrales Voting Strength at Risk?”)

Former Republican Senator Rod Adair, whose business was contracted by Commissioner David Heil and Wayne Johnson, the County Manager,  presented four maps he had drawn, and a private citizen, Isaac Chavez, presented one. Public support for what came to be known as “the Chavez Plan” was overwhelming at the meeting and in the comments on the county website.

Chairman Commissioner Heil found minor flaws in Chavez’s plan that according to him, made it obsolete. Many Sandoval County residents, as well as Commissioner Katherine Bruch, saw flaws in Adair’s plans as well. After this meeting, Chavez teamed up with Commissioner Kenneth Eichwald to visit with tribal leaders in the county, trying to quickly determine what should happen to make “the Chavez Plan,” now called “the Eichwald Plan,” better serve their needs.

Both Adair and Chavez made alterations to their plans, and brought these to the December meeting.

After almost three hours of public comment largely begging the commissioners to either delay making a decision or to move forward with the adoption of “the Eichwald Plan,” the three Republican commissioners who sit on the Sandoval County Commission decided to ignore the input of so many of their constituents and approve a map that may well be deemed illegal in the coming months or years.

To the surprise of many attending the meeting, Commissioner Jay Block not only rejected “the Eichwald Plan,” but also the altered Adair plan. And instead made a motion to approve one of the plans from the November 18 meeting. Quickly, Commissioner Heil seconded this motion. A vote ensued in which the commissioners voted along party lines.The new Sandoval County district map, uproots Corrales from its current district and places it with Bernalillo and Placitas.

It was revealed at the meeting that Adair’s hiring is particularly contentious and may open the door for litigious action to be taken against the commission. His contract, though over $10,000, is under the $60,000 limit that requires the approval of the full commission. Also, before his hiring, Adair stated that he would get input from local and tribal leaders before drawing his maps. At least  one leader, Corrales’ own Mayor Jo Anne Roake, was not consulted.

Former Sandoval County Commissioner Donnie Leonard was involved in the last two Sandoval County redistricting efforts.

Leonard weighed in on the contentious decision made at the meeting, saying, “It’s my understanding that Native Americans are for sure going to sue.”

He went on to say, “In the past we tried to give all groups in the county fair representation. This time, that did not happen.”

Commissioners David Heil, Michael Meek and especially Commissioner Block, whose district includes Corrales, may be remembered for exposing Sandoval County government to expensive litigation, as well as for disregarding input from the county’s tribal leaders.

While perhaps ensuring a Republican majority on the Sandoval County Commission well into the future, the body  is supposed to represent an overwhelmingly majority-Democratic population, so some of the commissioners may have put their own political futures in jeopardy.

As Block summarized, in perhaps his  most candid moment of the evening, “You should never trust the government.”

ISSUE 12-18-21 LOS RANCHOS AHEAD OF CORRALES ON CANNABIS DEBATE

On December 14, at their final meeting of the year, the Corrales Village Council scheduled crucial votes for a special session January 4 on possible new regulations on growing marijuana commercially. As a framework for their discussion, it is helpful to look to Corrales’ southern neighbors who are facing similar challenges, and are a few steps ahead.  The Village of Los Ranchos has passed an ordinance that seems to reflect the views of villagers while also attempting to adhere to the rulings set forth in the 178-page House Bill 2, the New Mexico Cannabis Regulation Act (NMCRA). 

Like Corrales, Los Ranchos originally adopted an ordinance outlawing the growing of cannabis within their village. Ordinance No. 273, which prohibited “the cultivation, manufacture, and distribution of cannabis and cannabis-derived products in the Village,” was adopted in March of 2021.  After New Mexico passed its Cannabis Regulation Act, the governing body of Los Ranchos, called the board of trustees, began collecting and hearing data from residents, as well as legal and cannabis experts in August of this year. 

According to Tiffany Justice, planning and zoning director in Los Ranchos, “The discussion was how can we abide by the CRA and still provide protection for Los Ranchos residents, since most of our zoning is agricultural/residential.” State Senate District 10 (Los Ranchos) Senator Katy Duhigg, who helped write the NMCRA, was present at the Board of Trustees meeting on October 6, along with Los Ranchos Attorney Nann Winter. Corrales Attorney Randy Autio was on the agenda for this meeting, but was not in attendance.

At this meeting, after Attorney Winter made a thorough presentation explaining the NMCRA, Director of Planning and Zoning Justice gave the trustees three options reflecting varying levels of regulation, from total prohibition of cannabis to total, if regulated, allowance.  The board preferred the middle option, and after another month of tweaking, Ordinance 282 was finalized, then adopted on November 10, which repealed Ordinance 273.  

This ordinance states that in all agricultural/residential areas of Los Ranchos, “The cultivation, intentional growth, manufacture, and distribution of cannabis and cannabis products, except for homegrown or homemade cannabis, are prohibited.”  It is only in the Los Ranchos commercial/retail zone that cannabis may be cultivated, manufactured or sold, with many qualifications and limits. The Village Center Zone is exempt from this allowance and cannabis is prohibited there as well as in the agricultural/commercial zone. 

Corrales councillors who fear lawsuits from the State could be emboldened by Los Ranchos’ actions, and perhaps take courage. As Los Ranchos resident Mel Eaves said at one of the board meetings, “If the Village has to protect villagers against the State… then the Village ought to do that.”

ISSUE 12/04/21 A TRIBUTE TO ALAN MINGE

A tribute to the late historian and preservationist Ward Alan Minge was held at the Old Church Sunday, November 28. A plaque honoring his decades-long effort to save the Historic San Ysidro Church was revealed during the Corrales Historical Society program featuring talks by his neighbor, Michelle Frechette, and long-time society official Alice Glover. For many years, he and his wife, Shirley, lived in the old Gutierrez house they bought in 1953 across from the Old Church. While they devoted years to restoring the historic home and transforming it into what is now Casa San Ysidro Museum, they also worked tirelessly to preserve the Old Church.

They transferred ownership of the home and antique collection to the City of Albuquerque in 1997 for use as a branch of the Albuquerque Museum, and they collaborated with other villagers beginning in 1974 to buy the church from the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. The Old Church is now owned by the Village of Corrales and managed by the Corrales Historical Society, for which Minge was a co-founder. He died at his Waterville, Kansas home May 6 of this year, having moved to his native Kansas in 1998. He was 97. Shirley Jolly Minge died in 2004.

For 30 years, Minge served as chief historian for Kirtland Air Force Base, chronicling the research activities of the Air Force Special Weapons Center and the Air Force Weapons Laboratory. He was also a contract historian for several Pueblo governments documenting their land and water rights claims.

Minge was co-founder and first director of the N.M. State Records Center and Archives in Santa Fe. He wrote the draft legislation creating the State’s 1959 Public Records Act that established the Records Center and Archives. He was honored with the State’s Distinguished Public Service Award in 1969.

ISSUE 12/04/21 HOW CLIMATE CHANGE WILL AFFECT NM WATER

By Scott Manning

How will increasing temperatures and  a warming climate affect future water supplies in Corrales and  other parts of New Mexico? Officials at the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD), the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) and the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (ABCWUA) are taking steps to conserve water and to conduct studies about the impact of climate change on the future water supply.

The director of the Interstate Stream Commission, Rolf Schmidt-Petersen,  explained this summer that New Mexico is going through a second year of water shortage caused by severe drought. In 2020, poor snowpack and reduced runoff water created severe drought conditions. That was compounded by a poor monsoon season this year. These water shortages have created problems for New Mexico with its water-sharing agreements with neighboring states.

One such agreement, the Rio Grande Compact, was signed by New Mexico, Texas, and Colorado in 1938 and details 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 and 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 may not store any Rio Grande water when Elephant Butte storage is low. Schmidt-Petersen explained that the water shortages in summer 2020 developed rapidly and that, without releasing the debit water,  the Rio Grande would have dried up through Albuquerque.

Water officials hoped that the depleted water stores and severe drought situation last summer would be resolved  this 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 summer. To make matters worse, the San Juan-Chama Rivers’ water supply 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.

So New Mexico began summer 2021 in a drought with little water storage. Schmidt-Peterson says that New Mexico has not experienced this kind of water scarcity since the early 1980s which makes the recent drought unprecedented in modern times.

Despite the recent droughts, there has been little discussion of revising the water sharing provisions 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 come under litigation in three cases during 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 because that 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.

The ISC plans to continue to navigate the Rio Grande Compact for the foreseeable future.

Instead of revising the Rio Grande Compact, agencies like the ISC, MRGCD and ABCWUA try to 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 available river water.

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. These early notifications provided farmers with time to plan their 2021 growing season accordingly.

According to MRGCD Chief Engineer Mike Hamman, a Corrales resident, the agency has implemented an annual fallowing program in which farmers can choose to fallow their land for a payment instead of planting during drought years; through this program 1,000 acres of farmland have been left fallow.

More generally, it was announced earlier this fall that the MRGCD has been awarded $2.9 million by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund improvement to water infrastructure throughout the district to improve water efficiency. The money will be spent on  improvements to the district’s primary canals and laterals as well as for farms, including conservation easements.

Other efforts to confront climate change are also underway. 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 of water conservation at the ABCWUA, said the authority is doing its part to mitigate the risks of water shortages in the Albuquerque area.

Given the ongoing drought, Albuquerque residents are no longer using surface water to meet the water needs. Instead, the City of Albuquerque is drawing on water in the aquifer.

Bustos explained 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.

As a result, ABCWUA has not observed reductions to the aquifer greater than their models predicted.

Even so, water conservation efforts can be further improved. According to Bustos, the ABCWUA has adopted strategies to further reduce water consumption in Bernalillo County. The ABCWUA focuses its efforts on community outreach and education about water usage in the community.

First, the Authority does frequent outreach to the top 5-10 percent of residential water users in the city and encourages these residents to cut back their usage.

Second, the authority provides free consultations and 40-50 audits each week to help residents become more water efficient. Third, the authority 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 by this summer, and the ABCWUA records that the residents who have attended the class have cut down their water usage.

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

The authority has also previously entered water-sharing agreements with the MRGCD before 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.

In the short term, Bustos is hopeful that the rest of the year won’t see further restrictions. But water officials fear that New Mexico will experience ongoing water concerns in the long term due to climate change.

To better understand the challenges posed by climate change to water resources in New Mexico, the ISC is conducting a 50-year plan that assesses the impacts of climate change, determines the resiliency of New Mexico communities to these changes, and proposes adoption strategies, where needed.

There are four phases of the 50-Year Water Plan.

Phase 1 began in January 2021 and ended by March 1. This phase involved assessing the process with the New Mexico Water Dialogue, coordinating experts with the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources (NMBGMR), and building approaches to the plan.

Phase 2 of the plan, the “Leap Ahead Analysis,” began on March 1 and ended June 30. The purpose of the analysis was for experts led by the NMBGMR to compile scientific information about the impact of climate change on New Mexico communities and water supplies over the next 50 years.

The planning effort is now in Phase 3, the outreach and assessment phase, where the ISC intends 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.

The ISC’s other partners in the effort, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute, and the N.M. Indian Affairs Department, will play a role. This phase will continue through January 2022.

During Phase 4 of the plan, scheduled for spring 2022, the ISC and collaborating authorities will 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 water shortages in New Mexico are driven by both a multi-decade climate cycle and a warming climate. In the coming half-century, the NMBGMR reported the average temperature in New Mexico is expected to increase by five to seven degrees Fahrenheit, while average precipitation is expected to stay relatively constant.

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.

But the hotter climate will impact the environment in further ways as well. A warmer climate will strain vegetation and allow fires to proliferate, thereby harming 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.

That damage could disrupt normal drainage systems and damage water infrastructure, further straining water resources. Water quality will decrease as well with the increase of water temperature and potential growth of bacteria in water supplies.

The 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 alike.

Water concerns are unlikely to go away as New Mexico becomes hotter and drier in the coming decades.

ISSUE 12/04/21 MY EXPERIENCE AT COP26: A YOUNG PERSON’S PERSPECTIVE

By Scott Manning

I attended the United Nations COP-26 with my editor, Jeff Radford. He has attended many United Nations conferences during his time as a journalist, and prior to COP-26 the last conference he coveered was the 2015 COP-21 in Paris. In contrast, this was my first United Nations event, and by attending I joined many young people getting involved in the climate crisis.

Climate change is a significant consideration for us. After all, my generation will be dealing with the consequences of climate change and working to develop solutions to the crisis throughout our lives. Yet my generation also shares similarities with older generations: young people have different degrees of engagement with the climate issue, and there are disagreements about what exactly should be done about it.

And although young people like Sweden’s Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate from  Kenya are leading youth movements for climate justice around the world, not all young people are hopeful about the future. I know some of my peers are cynical about our prospects over the next few decades. So young people do not currently form a fully united front against climate change, but many young people are participating in the solution-building process.

I saw two main kinds of youth activism in Glasgow. First, young people attended the COP26 conference in large numbers. Jeff and I observed over the course of several days at the conference that the average age for an attendee was probably mid-thirties to early forties. This average age was driven down by significant youth participation. Young people attended the conference as observers, journalists and activists working at informational booths. Other young people were accompanied by their older counterparts —perhaps part of a mentoring relationship so that they could experience and participate in the United Nations process.

Second, young people marched and attended rallies throughout Glasgow and across the world. In this setting they marched to demand greater and more immediate action than what COP-26 was appearing to provide. The marches in Glasgow saw tens of thousands of people march for climate justice, demonstrating the tremendous commitment young people have to the climate cause.

Many young people are upset about the state of the climate, and they should be upset. This planet is our home, and we should be more mindful about how we live in our home. Some young people may be upset that the United Nations appears to approach such a serious challenge with, in the words of Greta Thunberg, a bunch of “blah, blah blah.”

From this perspective, the United Nations COP26 conference did not pursue the climate change with the action such a challenge requires. Instead, some young people see the UN conference as a political exercise in which politicians and business leaders come together to promise change without delivering on that promise.

A friend of mine at college pointed out that the UN does not have a robust mechanism to create enforceable, binding agreements that hold countries accountable. Instead, the UN operates through consensus building and pledges, and these pledges may be broken. For example, at COP-26 activists complained that developed countries had failed to uphold their agreement to provide billions in climate financing to developing countries to address climate change threats. This kind of broken promise undermines the capacity for the United Nations conferences to generate significant change.

Instead of attending the COP sessions, other young people engage in protests. Protests and marches are effective means of generating engagement with young people because these forums appear to speak in their understanding of enacting change through collaboration and people power. Yet here activists must still work to generate long-term political coalitions. This kind of engagement can be difficult for young people to pursue due to a lack of knowledge on how to get involved as well as a lack of available time.

In Glasgow, I, too, found the United Nations conference to have frustrating moments: speakers at the presidency presentations would give overly broad promises about reducing carbon emissions by 2035 without providing details; at some negotiation sessions representatives appeared to offer small edits and revisions instead of settling the major disagreements; and the conference was full of people calling on the creation of climate solutions, leaving one to wonder what solutions already exist and what steps we could take to implement these preexisting solutions today.

Yet despite these shortcomings, I think COP26 had important developments. In particular, the broad commitments made to end deforestation and to drastically reduce methane emissions were positive developments. And by the end of the conference, the United States and China agreed to work together on climate efforts.

So upon reflection, COP-26 was messy. But I think that this reflects the reality of the climate situation and the participation of young people in the climate crisis: such a large concern like climate change offers no easy solutions or conclusions, and young people will participate in the climate conversation with a wide diversity of perspectives and approaches.

Young people may care about climate change, but that care does not immediately precipitate clarity. I expect that we will continue to contend with the full consequences of climate change for some time to come. And eventually, solutions, decisions and plans of action will emerge.

As I left COP-26, I was filled with both hope and frustration. Frustration that the conference had not been more fruitful, but hope that actions would be taken. As Obama concluded in his remarks to young people in Glasgow, now the hard work begins.

ISSUE 12/04/21 JOAN FINDLEY-PERLS JOINS BOSQUE GALLERY CO-OP

The daughter of a founding member of the artist cooperative Corrales Bosque Gallery, Joan Findley-Perls, has recently joined the venture. She is a daughter of Tommie and Jim Findley. Her graphite drawings will be on display and for sale at the gallery for its “Small Treasures” exhibit.

The co-op began when 21 local artists committed to renting a store-front space in Mercado de Maya. Among the original organizers were Tommie Findley, Pat Smith,  Pauline Eaton, Paula Hendriks, Jan Mikkelsen, Ron Moffatt, Vicki Nowark, Diana Stetson, Mariana Roumell-Gasteyer and Sheryl Brainerd.

Findley-Perls is the wife of former state legislator Bob Perls. Her artistic talent came to light publicly when she helped organize a family art exhibit at the Old Church which featured her mother’s work. (See Corrales Comment Vol. XXXV, No. 14, September 10, 2016 “Tommie Findley’s Fool-the-Eye Ceramics Delight.”)

ISSUE 12/04/21 ANTICLIMACTICALLY, TIME CAPSULE UNEARTHED

The mystery continues as to what was inside the time capsule outside the Village Office, sealed away 25 years ago to mark the Village of Corrales’ 25th anniversary as an incorporated municipality. It’s now 50 years on, so the safe was to be opened to the amazement of onlookers and wellwishers, perhaps to be re-sealed with present-day items and mementos that would amaze folks in another 25 years, or 2046.

But it took the Fire Department’s mental-bending “jaws of life” to break into the safe after many tries to open it using the prominently posted and clearly legible combination for the lock. With perhaps 20 people looking on, Village officials tried twisting the combination dial as instructed: “right to zero, left to 20, right to 50, left to 96. Grasp handle and pull very hard.”

No matter who tried, nor how hard they pulled, the handle would not budge.

One of the onlookers made the suggestion that others surely thought: call in the Fire Department known for its success in prying open crumpled car doors to extricate injured accident victims.

A team arrived promptly and first tried to insert a wedge between the door and the safe frame. Hammering and wedging failed, so finally the jaws of life was put to work. Even then, opening the time capsule was not easy.

Finally the mangled door lay open and the contents exposed: basically a soggy mess. If the time capsule was meant to be air-tight, is certainly was not water-tight.

Virtually everything inside the safe was soaked, so that any attempt to lift any paper would have torn several. So Mayor Jo Anne Roake quickly decided the best course of action was to let it all dry out. She described the contents as “two very water-logged albums, a rusted beverage can and a VHS tape. It did not look good.”

The mayor said the items would be entrusted to archivist Ann Van Camp and Corrales Historical Society Archive Committee member Kitty Tynan who offered assurance that eventually some of the enclosed print material will be readable.

“This preservation project is ongoing and will be documented and made part of a Corrales Historical Society file memorializing the great effort put into assembling the time capsule 25 years ago,” Roake said in consolation.

Actually most of the time capsule contents have been  known for 25 years since Corrales Comment reported on the project at the time. On July 4, 1997, villagers gathered to place the time capsule which was to be opened  September 22, 2021. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIV No.9 June 20, 2015 “Creepy, Crumbling Concrete  Case Contains July 1997 Time Capsule.”)

Reported to be inside the safe were at least the following:

  • A 1971 group photograph of the Village of Corrales’ first mayor and Village Council;
  • a group photo of the 1997 mayor and council;
  • a list of all Village elected officials serving from 1971 to 1997;
  • group photos of the Corrales Volunteer Fire Department, Police Department, the Corrales Library staff and patrons of the Corrales Senior Center;
  • a postmark from the days when Corrales’ official name was “Sandoval;”
  • a photograph of the then-young Corrales Growers’ Market;
  • a videotape of the celebration of Corrales’ 25th anniversary at the Old Church;
  • photos of Corrales horses;
  • a message written by then-Mayor Gary Kanin;
  • a copy of Pauline Eisenstadt’s book on Corrales’ heritage;
  • a copy of Corrales Comment’s special edition on the 25th anniversary;
  • photographs by Jim Findley of Corrales’ first municipal election;
  • photographs of Corrales’ historic homes and structures; and
  • documents about the community’s early history.

It is likely that most, if  not all, of those items can be assembled again if the soaked items cannot be restored.

ISSUE 12/04/21 ACT SOON IF YOU WANT TO RUN FOR VILLAGE OFFICE

Thinking about running for office with village government?  Want to be mayor? Councillor? December is the time of year when villagers —for a variety of  reasons— beginning seriously considering a run for elective office. If you’re one of those, you’ll have to make up your mind soon. Tuesday, January 4 is candidate filing day for the municipal elections to be held in early March.

You can pick up a candidate packet at the Village Office to learn what’s involved. But if you can’t make up your mind —not actually a qualification for an elected official— or can’t get to the Village Office that day, you can run as a write-in candidate if you file the paperwork on January 11. New Village Clerk Melanie Romero will accept a declaration of candidacy between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on those days, January 4 and January 11.

Three seats on the six-member Village Council are available, now held by Kevin Lucero representing Council District 1 in northwestern Corrales; Mel Knight in District 3 in the central part of the village west of Corrales Road; and Tyson Parker representing District 4 for  neighborhoods north and south of upper Meadowlark Lane. See the council district map published in this edition of the Comment, or at the Village of Corrales website, http://www.corrales -nm.org.

Terms are not expiring for the other three members of the Village Council: Bill Woldman in District 2; Zach Burkett in District 5; and Stu Murray in District 6. Their terms end in March 2024, as does that for Municipal Judge Michelle Frechette.

None of the incumbents has publicly stated whether he or she intends to seek re-election.

Although relatively new to the council, Parker’s term ends in March because he is filling out the term for former-Councillor Dave Dornburg, who resigned. Incidently, Dornburg had filled the term of John Alsobrook who also resigned, in 2016.

The municipal election will be held March 1. Early voting will start with the Village Clerk in the Village Office February 1, when requested absentee ballots will also go out.

Whoever is elected in March, major decisions likely will be needed for the following questions:

  • should Village government take over Corrales Road which is State  Highway 448, as the N.M. Department of Transportation would like?
  • should Corrales relax or abandon its restriction against more than one dwelling per acre (or one home on two acres in the southern part of the village?)
  • should the commercial growing of marijuana be banned or restricted in residential neighborhoods?
  • what, if anything, should be done to make Corrales more “business friendly?”

ISSUE 12/04/21 AUDUBON SOCIETY WEIGHS IN ON BOSQUE CLEARING HERE

The Village of Corrales has been asked to conduct a “scientifically informed assessment of the fire risk” in the Bosque Preserve before approving a project that would remove much of the vegetation along the east side of the levee. The Audubon Society, which designated the Corrales Bosque Preserve as an “important bird area” in 2014, has weighed in on the proposal to eliminate vegetation along the east side of the levee in a November 9 letter to the mayor and Village Council.

The Central N.M. Audubon Society asked the Village to reconsider its preliminary approval for the proposal by the Corrales Fire Department and the N.M. Forestry Division that could begin before spring. The letter requested “reconsideration of the plans to clear trees along the Corrales Bosque levee detailed in the “Wildland/Urban Interface Hazardous Fuels Reduction” proposal. We find the proposal’s fire danger estimate of the vegetation along the levee to be unsupported scientifically and likely exaggerated.

“It is also our position that the habitat and ecological value of the trees targeted to be cleared, and the project area’s designation of this section of Corrales bosque as an Important Bird Area , has been underestimated.”

In the letter, the regional society raised many of the same issues presented by members of the Corrales Bosque Advisory Commission last month. The letter was signed by Perrianne Houghton, president of the Central New Mexico Audubon Society.

“From the proposal, it is unclear whether the primary intent of clearing trees extending from the toe of the levee, is to create a clear passage for emergency vehicles in case of a Bosque fire, or whether the primary motivation is to reduce potential fuel for a fire. If the former, then removing native trees —and particularly Coyote Willows— growing in and along the ditch banks, is clearly unnecessary and should be avoided, as they do not impede the passage of vehicles along the levee.

“If the latter, then we ask, before going forward with clearing the levees, the Village of Corrales make a scientifically informed assessment of the fire risk posed by native riparian trees (including Rio Grande Cottonwoods, New Mexico Olives, and Coyote and Goodings Willows) that are vitally connected to a continuous water source (in this case, the irrigation ditch that flows parallel to the levee year round).”

After a presentation on  the proposal given by Fire Chief Anthony Martinez, the council voted to let the project move ahead. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No.17 October 23, 2021 “Bosque Preserve Clearing Along Levee Gets OK.”)

In the November 9 letter, the Central New Mexico Audubon Society (CNMAS) and Audubon Southwest (ASW) asked for more transparency in decisions about clearing vegetation in the preserve given the presentation to the council September 14, 2021. 

“While CNMAS and ASW recognize the increased fire risk posed by a hotter, drier climate and understand that clearing vegetation and cutting trees can be an essential fire preventive, we urge you to take a scientific approach to management of this area, that accurately assesses the fire dangers posed by native riparian vegetation and trees connected to a continuously flowing water source.”

The two Audubon organizations said they support much of the assessment produced by the bosque advisory commission. “This report uses peer-reviewed, scientific studies to evaluate the role trees play in supporting native wildlife and the overall ecology of the Corrales Bosque, along the levee. We endorse the following CBAC recommendations:

“•  We do not see the necessity of thinning the entire 20-foot strip. Thinning should be accomplished in areas where fire access is most necessary, rather than thinning within a uniform width along the entire levee.”

“•  All small Elms, Tamarisk, and Tree of Heaven should be removed, when possible, without damaging stands of New Mexico Olive and willows.”

“•  Healthy Russian Olive trees within the 15-foot strip should be left in all areas where they don’t interfere with access needed for fire personnel… dead Russian Olive may be removed within the 15-foot strip where access or levee maintenance is required.”

“Most significantly, we endorse what the CBAC refers to as their most important recommendation, which is for transparency in the activities of the MRGCD and Chief Martinez in what they ‘intend to do, and where’ as part of Wildland/Urban Interface Hazardous Fuels Reduction projects.

“In addition to supporting the above CBAC recommendations, CNMAS and ASW would like to point out that between 217 and 238 species of birds have been recorded at various birding hotspots along the length of the Corrales Bosque, demonstrating it to be an extremely important New Mexico bird habitat:

“•  While stands of ‘willows’ are mentioned generally within the second bulleted item above, we want to specify this refers to Coyote Willows (Salix exigua) and emphasize this should be among the species (along with Cottonwoods and New Mexico Olives) that are the highest priority to preserve due to their high ecological and habitat value. Coyote Willow stands provide nesting sites for a variety of native songbirds, for example Common Yellowthroats, Yellow-Breasted Chats, Blue Grosbeaks, and Spotted Towhees, as well as a potential habitat for the endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher. This diversity of native plant and bird species reflects the designation of this section of Corrales bosque as an Important Bird Area (IBA)  by New Mexico Audubon Society (currently Audubon Southwest) in May 2014. National Audubon Society | Audubon Southwest 3131 S. Central Avenue | Phoenix, AZ 85040/

“•  From the proposal, it is unclear whether the primary intent of clearing trees extending from the toe of the levee, is to create a clear passage for emergency vehicles in case of a bosque fire, or whether the primary motivation is to reduce potential fuel for a fire. If the former, then removing native trees  —and particularly Coyote Willows—  growing in and along the ditch banks, is clearly unnecessary and should be avoided, as they do not impede the passage of vehicles along the levee.

“If the latter, then we ask, before going forward with clearing the levees, the Village of Corrales make a scientifically informed assessment of the fire risk posed by native riparian trees (including Rio Grande Cottonwoods, New Mexico Olives, and Coyote and Goodings Willows) that are vitally connected to a continuous water source (in this case, the irrigation ditch that flows parallel to the levee year round).

“Historically, bosque fires only increased in frequency and severity once trees were disconnected from the river, due to dredging and channelization that effectively stopped annual flooding. If the aforementioned native trees are associated with the irrigation ditch, it is likely the fire risk they pose is minimal.

“We would finally draw your attention to the vital role of shade trees and vegetation in combating the impacts of ,climate change by helping to maintain lower stream temperatures, and reduce evaporation:

“•  Shade from trees and other vegetation along the irrigation ditch help to maintain lower water temperatures, which results in less evaporation. Climate change and drought make maintaining lower ditch temperatures and minimizing evaporation increasingly crucial. As the study ‘Effects of Riparian Management Strategies on Stream Temperature Science Review Team Temperature Subgroup’ points out, ‘the most efficient method to maintain low stream temperatures is to reduce heat loading from solar radiation. Shade prevents stream warming by reducing inputs of heat energy from solar radiation’ (Leinenbach, McFadden, and Torgersen).

“ Greater evaporation from the irrigation ditch would decrease water for farmers and water available to return to the river channel downstream.

“•  As climate change continues to reduce and periodically stop water flow within the river channel, many of the native riparian trees growing near the river will likely struggle to survive. This makes the preservation of habitat along irrigation ditches, including trees growing near the levee, increasingly crucial. Even as the Rio Grande has dried for many months each year in the Lower Rio Grande, irrigation ditches have continued to flow.

“If irrigation ditches become the only continuously flowing water through the Middle Rio Grande, then the future distribution and abundance of native riparian plants and trees —as well as the survival of the native animal species that depend on them— will be increasingly dependent upon our ability to preserve and even encourage their growth along irrigation ditches and levees.

“To summarize, CNMAS and ASW request reconsideration of the plans to clear trees along the Corrales Bosque levee detailed in the ‘Wildland/Urban Interface Hazardous Fuels Reduction’ proposal. We find the proposal’s fire danger estimate of the vegetation along the levee to be unsupported scientifically and likely exaggerated. It is also our position that the habitat and ecological value of the trees targeted to be cleared, and the project area’s designation of this section of Corrales bosque as an Important Bird Area , has been underestimated. CNMAS and ASW support several recommendations of the CBAC. In addition, we agree with the importance of transparency in the activities of the MRGCD and Chief Martinez in their objectives for the Wildland/Urban Interface Hazardous Fuels Reduction projects.

“CNMAS and ASW thank you for your consideration of this most important issue. We are available and willing to help continue the conversation and look forward to working closely with you for the betterment of our natural surroundings.”

The Village Council gave a go-ahead to Fire Chief Anthony Martinez and the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District at its October 10 meeting where Martinez and MRGCD Planner Yasmeen Najmi convinced the mayor and all councillors to let the clearing project proceed. No timetable was given when work would begin, although it would have to cease, or pause, by April 15  to comply with the federal Migratory Bird Act.

In late November, funding for the clearing project had not been made available.

If the plan goes ahead as described in October, all along the entire length of the levee, non-native trees and other vegetation would be cut and removed at the edge of levee on its east, or river, side. According to Najmi, that is necessary to maintain the levee, although it was not stated what kind of maintenance would be needed that could not be done from the top of the levee.

However, she referred to retaining federal certification of the levee’s integrity, a concern raised 11 years ago the last time the Corps of Engineers and MRGCD proposed clearing trees from the toe of the levee.

Back then, the Corps’ Fritz Blake, since retired, explained that the proposed clearing probably would not be required after all because the federal requirement was an over-reaction to concerns about levees around the nation in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXIX No.3 March 20, 2010 “Corrales Monitors Corps’ Research on Levee.”)

The 2010 project was to have removed essentially all vegetation within 15 feet of the levee.

Blake said in an interview February 2, 2009 that trees along the Corrales levee might not need to be removed after all.

He said the new levee safety criterion of a 15-foot, tree-free buffer at the sides of the levee was being resisted elsewhere around the United States as well.

“We understand that this is a difficult situation for the Conservancy District and for the Village of Corrales, and we will continue to work with both to get it resolved. Our number one priority is to ensure the safety of the levee. But we’re not quite convinced yet that taking out a 15-foot swath of trees is the way to solve the problem.” Blade said.

Most of the trees of concern existed when the Corps rebuilt the levee in 1996-97. The design of the levee at that time did not require those trees’ removal. Even so, nearly 2,000 trees were removed when the levee work was done, but those that were retained on the river side were considered no threat to the levee. At that time, trees could be no closer than three feet to the toe of the levee.

Besides, Blake noted in 2009, if they started removing those trees, it might be determined a year later that it wasn’t really necessary. “It’s possible that a year from now, our technical people might say, ‘Gee, you don’t really need to do that.’”

When the current Corrales levee was dedicated after being built in 1996-97, it was touted as the best in the United States. “This is one of the best, if not the best, levee in the nation,” said Don Lopez, representing the State Engineer’s office and the Interstate Stream Commission.

At the October 12, 2021 Village Council meeting, members of the Corrales Bosque Advisory Commission tried to convince the mayor and council not to give the fire chief  and the MRGCD carte blanche to take out all non-native vegetation along the levee. They especially urged that Russian olive trees be retained as a crucial source of food for birds in winter.

Joan Hashimoto, chairperson for the advisory commission, warned that the wholesale removal of trees and thicket next to the levee could actually jeopardize its integrity. Bike tires, hiking boots and horse hooves predictably would cut new paths down the side of the levee channeling increased erosion.

And, she said, the project will “allow bikes, people and dogs to find a new place to reach wildlife. The native shrub and tree removal combined with the Clear Ditch drying, and also the river being almost non-existent, is like a triple-whammy for the animals of our nature preserve.”

Hashimoto pointed out that “levee toe thinning will cut a huge number of living trees and destroy valuable habitat, while a massive dead-and-down fuel load problem exists and indeed gets larger every year with cottonwood’ auto-pruning branches and trees dying.

“I understand regulations. Maintaining the levee is important. Ever since the current levee was constructed over 20 years ago, the east slope has been maintained from the levee road. Although the levee toe is not in strict compliance with regulations, which has been the case and well-known since its construction, the Army Corps of Engineers which has done the levee surveys, has said that the toe vegetation non-compliance would not affect future levee eligibility for federal funding.”

She insisted that the Corrales bird study corridors, or transects, not be destroyed by clearing next to the levee, pointing out that research in those corridors has been funded by the Corps of Engineers and Hawks Aloft, Inc. “It’s important to preserve the transects.”

She concluded by urging “Do thinning where it’s indicated, not monolithic clearing and thinning.”

Another bosque advisory commissioner, Joan Morrison, said she was discouraged by council’s approval of the Fire Department’s plan.

“This proposed clearing of all trees and shrubs including native New Mexico olive is horrendous, and although they say it is only three percent of the total bosque, my walk today revealed that it is likely the most important three percent. 

“There isn’t much New Mexico olive down in the middle of the bosque at all.  And you can bet that clearing a 10-foot strip (10 feet isn’t really all that wide, barely enough for any big machinery) will likely turn into a strip much wider.”

At the council meeting, Morrison said “Last month, I and other CBAC members presented our concerns regarding the proposed Invasive Species Clearing Project Work Plan.  Since our commission’s response to any work in the bosque will be science-based, we subsequently presented to you, on October three, our report in which we outlined these concerns, presented data that our members had collected on the number of trees potentially affected by this project, and offered recommendations and to collaborate with the Fire Department and Conservancy on this work plan.

“In reading the work plan submitted to you for tonight’s meeting, I was dismayed to discover that not only were none of our concerns or recommendations considered or even acknowledged, but that in some ways this new work plan proposes to be even more harmful to our bosque.

“May I remind council members that the Corrales Bosque Preserve is designated as a protected area and an Important Bird Area, and the Village of Corrales is tasked with maintaining it as a natural area and wildlife preserve.  Council has also approved the Bosque Management Guidelines which are meant to foster data-driven decisions and collaboration with the goal of protecting and preserving a variety of habitats in our bosque.

One concern about this proposed work continues to involve process: the CBAC was not informed of the initial proposal until three days before the September council meeting, CBAC members present and past who have extensive scientific background were not consulted or even informed, and our concerns were not considered in this new proposal despite our stated willingness to coordinate on this project with the Fire Department and the Conservancy.

“Our primary concerns remain the potential impacts to wildlife habitats from the proposed work.”

Morrison was critical that “No justification is given for the need to completely clear a 10-foot strip out from the toe along the entire length of the levee.  In its over 20 years of existence, the levee has never required such vegetation clearance despite multiple inspections.  The levee’s east slope has always been maintained from the levee road on the top, so why the need now for complete clearing out from the toe? 

“During the September 23 field trip, Chief Martinez indicated that limited fire access pathways into the bosque could be cleared rather than clearing along the entire length of the levee.  Thus we see no justification for complete clearing. 

“Non-native vegetation within the ten feet should be cleared only at the points where access is needed into the bosque for fire equipment and personnel or where a specific levee maintenance activity is required.  Large scale clearing of vegetation along the levee sides and out ten-20 feet from the toe will encourage people to make new paths down the levee sides, causing even more subsidence and erosion.

“There is an extensive amount of dead and down wood along the levee toe that has been left from former clearing projects.  This material constitutes a large and dangerous fuel load.  It is important that all cut trees and other dead and down material generated by this project and from previous projects within the 20-foot area from the levee toe should be removed out of the bosque.  If left, this material only adds to this already large fuel load, increasing fire risk.”

Morrison is professor emerita of biology and environmental science at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

She emphasized that “Any clearing or thinning work in the bosque must be completed by the start of migratory songbird nesting season, April 15, 2022.  However, some hawks and owls known to nest in the bosque begin nesting as early as February and March.

“If this work is to move forward such nests must be identified and appropriate buffers designated.  Disturbance or destruction of these nests resulting from the project would be a violation of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

“Council members, Corrales is advertised as a village with a lovely and natural bosque, and people come here to enjoy it.  Do we want to be known as the Village that cut down prime bosque habitat?

“If you are inclined to accept this proposed work plan, I request that you do so only with commitment to assign and be accountable for the following modifications:

  • Leave all New Mexico olive untouched within the entire 20 feet from the levee toe.
  • The Hawks Aloft transects should be left untouched by this project.
  • Do not clear the entire ten-foot strip along the entire length of the levee but only where needed, at identified intervals where access into the bosque is required for fire equipment and personnel.
  • Remove all cut trees and other dead and down wood generated by this project and others within the 20-foot area from the levee toe, and remove it out of the bosque.”

A former member of the advisory commission, ornithologist Janet Ruth, said the project should avoid taking out standing dead  trees since such “snags” provide crucial opportunities for cavity-nesting birds.

“I would prefer to see those left standing except if they posed a real risk.”

Ruth’s submission to the Audubon Society resulted in its designation of the Corrales bosque as an “Important  Bird Area” in 2014.

ISSUE 12/04/21 BOSQUE WETLANDS PROJECT FINALLY UNDERWAY

Channels have been excavated in the Corrales Bosque Preserve between the outfall of the Harvey Jones Flood Control Channel and the Rio Grande to distribute stormwater to a proposed ten-acre wetlands. Major earthwork has been underway since early November to use not only stormwater from the vast Montoyas Arroyo watershed but also treated effluent from a Rio Rancho sewage plant on the edge of the arroyo  near Highway 528.

The project is a collaboration among the Village of Corrales, the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority (SSCAFCA), the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, the City of Rio Rancho and the environmental goup The Nature Conservancy. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXX No.2 March 6, 2021 “Stormwater, Treated Sewage Would Be Used for Bosque.”)

SSCAFCA advertised a request for bids for project construction in early September when it had a target of breaking ground by mid-October. Sarah Hurteau of The Nature Conservancy provided details about converting the stormwater outfall, between the end of the channel and the river,  using a “green stormwater infrastructure” approach.

The Jones Channel has functioned as a storm drain carrying rain from Rio Rancho and Corrales into the floodplain of the river since the early 1990s. Deposited sediments over those years will be re-contoured and new earthen channels will be opened.  Removal of accumulated sediment will allow bosque vegetation to connect to groundwater resources helping to sustain cottonwood trees and other plants throughout the year.

Stormwater from the Montoyas Arroyo and the Lomitas Negras Arroyo watersheds will be slowed and diverted  through the proposed wetlands before emptying into the river. But an even more consistent and reliable supply of irrigation water will come from Rio Rancho’s sewage treatment plant.  That effluent would provide a perennial four to five million gallons a day.

The sewage treatment plant has operated with a discharge permit to send effluent to the river through a pipeline that runs along the flood control channel. When the plant is operating correctly, those millions of gallons of wastewater will be cleaner than stormwater coming down the channel in the Montoyas Arroyo.

A grader, two front-end loaders and dump trucks worked the riverbank area  between the Jones channel and the river in mid-November to create two paths for stormwater to follow on its way to the river. During major storm events when large quantities of water are pouring through the arroyo, the water would be directed more or less immediately to the river, while during lesser storms, the water would go to a more meandering, distributive channel.

Once the earthwork is completed, trees and other vegetation will be planted, probably in early spring.

Hurteau said the stormwater diversion in the wetlands area uses the power of nature to filter and mitigate pollution as the last of a series of stormwater quality improvement sites, expanding the effectiveness of features already in place upstream. 

Water quality features upstream will capture floating trash and sediment for later removal. The new wetland area will allow water to slow down, spread out across the river floodplain, and sink in using natural channels, with care being taken to maintain flood protection to homes nearby, she said. 

Those constructed features in the Montoyas and Lomitas Negras Arroyos will capture floating trash, and slow-moving water will allow plants and soils to act on pollutants such as automotive chemical residue along roadways. Those would be broken down through bioremediation, so pollutants from roadways are removed before they end up in the river. 

The wetland is designed to reduce bank erosion along the river.  

Many months of planning have gone into ensuring the design resolves existing flow issues, preventing mosquitos,  and maintaining flood control capability.  Hurteau said more than 5,000 postcards were sent out seeking public input and hearings were held in February and March 2021. The team met with relevant agencies and environmental groups to review the conceptual design. 

The Jones Channel in the Montoyas Arroyo and the Dulcelina Curtis Channel in the Lomitas Negras Arroyo are named for the pioneering work those two Corraleños did to control damaging stormwater in a wide territory west of Corrales. They were early members of the Corrales Watershed Board, which was subsumed by SSCAFCA when it was established by the N.M. Legislature in 1990.

(See Corrales Comment Vol. XXV, No.13, August 19 & October 21, 2006 “Corrales Battles Historic Flooding, Threat at Jones Channel.”)

Back in March of this year, the Corrales Bicycle, Pedestrian Advisory Commission recommended that the  wetlands plan include a trail connecting bosque areas north and south of the Jones Channel outfall. “Our commission recommends that potential pedestrian use in the area be considered in the design,” Commission Chairperson Susan Zimmerman wrote to Village Administrator Ron Curry.

“We are concerned that walkers and possibly bicyclists will make their own unofficial trails in the area if they are not designated. Simple, meandering dirt pathways are what we envision.

“We understand that the conservancy has assumed pedestrians would use the existing connection with the acequia trail from the west end of the area. We are concerned that folks would want to get closer to the river, and that this could create a potential problem if not considered in the overall plan.”

ISSUE 12/04/21 GERRYMANDERING: IS CORRALES VOTING STRENGTH AT RISK?

Heads up, Corrales! The Sandoval County Commission is about to make a decision that may change the political landscape in the village for the next 10 years or more. A plan to redraw the Sandoval County district maps was presented at the last County Commission meeting on November 18. Private contractor and former Republican State Senator Rod Adair was hired by the commission and Commissioner Chairman David Heil to draw four possible redistricting maps for the county. He presented these maps at the commission meeting in front of a large, animated crowd.

After Adair’s presentation, private citizen Isaac Chavez presented a fifth map he had drawn up “on his laptop” as a volunteer. After making his presentation as a good citizen, the young man was thoroughly questioned by Chairman Heil, and then Adair was invited back to add criticism to Chavez’s district map. Chavez handled the inquisition with grace, and skillfully answered all of the questions posed to him. Chairman Heil, however seemed unable or unwilling to understand Chavez’s responses.

For Corrales, all of Adair’s proposed maps would mean significant disruption. Currently Corrales shares a district with the southern part of Rio Rancho and Cabezon where many Corraleños shop, work and travel daily. All of Adair’s plans place Corrales, in whole or in part, into a district with Placitas and Bernalillo. Only Chavez’s plan keeps the core of Corrales’s district around Corrales, with parts of southern Rio Rancho.

It is difficult to find any reasoning for combining Corrales with Placitas and Bernalillo, unless it is to group Corrales with other principalities that share political leanings. Or, possibly, Adair forgot to account for the Rio Grande in his map, or he thinks Corraleños are using boats to do their daily shopping.

Another broader, and perhaps more serious issue with Adair’s maps is the packing of all indigenous populations into one, enormous, district. This action was loudly lambasted during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Several tribal leaders were present, and each spoke to the fact that the commission had not reached out to their communities for their input on the maps, and their opposition to being grouped together.

Governor Jerome Lucero from the Pueblo of Zia, Mario Atencio, vice-president of the Torreon-Star Lake Navajo Chapter, and Governor Anthony Ortiz from San Felipe Pueblo were among the members of the public to speak up.

All three of these leaders mentioned Sandoval County’s history of violating the Voting Rights Act and spoke to the disrespect they felt at being left out of the process so far.

Chavez argued that the various Native American pueblos and tribes of New Mexico might have more in common with the neighbors that share their streets and bridges than they do with each other. His map reflects this idea, for the indigenous lands as well as for Corrales.                 

This idea of throwing all the indigenous people into one district, giving them one commissioner to fight for them and their very different geographical concerns, is seen by many as deliberate under-representation. If the November 18 meeting is any indication of how the commission treats those with differing opinions, one commissioner trying to speak for all of the pueblos wouldn’t have a chance.

After the public comments, the commissioners weighed in on the proposed maps. Commissioners Michael Meek and Kenneth Eichwald both expressed concern for the ideas and opinions put forth by the public. Commissioner Meek read out notes he had taken, adding a promise to take all the ideas into consideration.

Commissioner Katherine Bruch spoke out next to clarify her involvement with Chavez’ plan, saying she was surprised and alarmed to have been given credit for making it. On the Sandoval County website, Chavez’s plan is still labeled as the “Chavez/Bruch” plan. Commissioner Bruch clarified that while she was in support of Chavez’s plan, she was due no credit for its making.

Chairman Heil invited Adair to come up to the microphone yet again, presumably to have a chance to respond to the public comments. Adair did so by spending several minutes accusing the public commentators of all having an agenda, “giving cookie cutter arguments,” and “not knowing what they are talking about.”

Perhaps displaying his own agenda, the defensive Adair did not wear a mask and refused to comply with social distancing rules during the meeting. Chairman Heil closed his statements by speaking directly to Chavez to say, “We are in violent disagreement.”

Corrales Commissioner Jay Block called into the meeting on a cell phone, and did not offer words of encouragement for his constituents, saying “This is not a democracy, it is a constitutional republic, and elections have consequences.”

In spite of Block’s discouraging words, Corraleños have until December 9, when the commission meets again, to try to make their voices heard, or risk learning firsthand the consequences of gerrymandering.

ISSUE 12/04/21 ‘GIVING TREE’ GIFT TAGS FROM FIRE DEPARTMENT, NOT AT VILLAGE OFFICE

The annual holiday village food drive, fundraiser and giving tree will look a bit different again this year. With COVID-19 case numbers climbing in Corrales, in lieu of going to the office and picking up a gift tag, villagers are invited to make other, more covid-safe efforts. Monetary donations are welcome and can be made by writing a check to Kiwanis Club of Corrales with “Fire Holiday Drive” in the memo line. These can be dropped off at the fire station, or mailed to the Kiwanis Club at P.O. Box 3810 Corrales, NM 87048.

In 2020, monies were used to pay a local food distributor to provide food for families, and help cover bills that were unusually high because of the pandemic. This year, villagers can also bring in food items. Non-perishable, in-date canned goods can be dropped off at the fire station any time before December 18. Perishable items can also be donated by calling Commander Tanya Lattin at 505-702-4182.

Gifts are also welcome and can be donated by emailing Commander Lattin at tlattin@corrales-nm.org. Families have submitted “wish lists” for essentials like clothing and bedding, and also for toys or gifts. Village families have asked to sponsor a family in years past, by providing a holiday meal or buying all the items on that family’s wish list.

Volunteers are also needed to help wrap gifts. Gift wrap and gifts can be acquired by emailing the Commander. Usually, around 50 families benefit from the annual fundraiser. Villagers can contact Commander Lattin if they or someone they know could use a little help this season. Food and gifts will be delivered to village families December 20-21.

ISSUE 12/04/21 HERE’S WHAT VILLAGERS ARE SAYING ABOUT COMMERCIAL CANNABIS

Even though the Village counselors will not meet until December 14 to revisit the cannabis issue, villagers have tried to make their voices heard in the interim by writing to the council. Published in this edition of the Comment are letters, and in one case, an advertisement for a petition, sent in the hopes of influencing the upcoming decision for which the counsellors bought themselves more time at the last meeting

Steve Gutierrez, a villager who lives at the north end of Corrales, has a unique and important perspective on the cannabis issue, having been involved in the making of ordinance 18-002. This legislation, approved in 2018,  disallowed the growth of cannabis in Corrales residential areas, those zoned A-1, A-2, and H-1.

Corrales zoning is one of the difficulties the Council must deal with, since there are no areas in the village that are zoned as purely residential. In other communities, the residential “R” zone designation protects residents from having commercial activity in their neighborhoods. In Corrales, all properties have conflated residential designations with agricultural, historical or commercial designations.  Zone “A-1” refers to a piece of land that is one agricultural-use acre, and this designation covers the vast majority of Corrales. “A-2” is a 2-acre agricultural plot. Properties zoned “H” are historical sites. 

In his letter, Gutierrez says, “With the large influx of applicants for recreational growth of cannabis, and the threat that ordinance 18-002 violated the Cannabis Regulation Act, the administration and council, likely out of fear of being sued, hastily passed an amendment to the existing ordinance, eliminating the protections against the growth of cannabis in our residential areas.”

Gutierrez quotes an unnamed  “close associate who has been heavily involved with the Cannabis Regulation Act,” who he asked to review ordinance 18-002. This associate found the ordinance to be in compliance with the Act, saying, “The Village of Corrales has the authority to prohibit the production of cannabis in certain zones so long as there are other zoning categories in which the production of cannabis is allowed, which is what the Village did when it adopted Ordinance 18-002.”

Looking at the issue from another perspective is a group of villagers who are leadership members of a small grassroots organization called Sandoval County Indivisible.

In their letter, Bert Coxe, Gary Sims, Terry Eisenbart and Nandini Kuehn voice their concern that a “vocal minority of Corrales residents, for a variety of reasons, is trying to push the Village Council to do something that it does not have the legal authority to do, and that in doing so the Council may be putting the village and its citizens in jeopardy to pay monetary damages in the future.”

The four authors go on to say, “Some people in the village are lobbying to have very extensive regulations of cannabis cultivation, and they essentially want the Village government to ban commercial cannabis cultivation in the village.  Some people are clearly very worked up about this, and a petition is being passed around.”

The third submission in the Comment this week is presumably from these “clearly very worked up” people and does include a petition. While vocal, this group certainly doesn’t seem small. Their goal appears to be similar to that of  Mr. Gutierrez, to ask councillors to pass an ordinance that would prohibit growing cannabis in residential zones.

People across our village are speaking out about this very contentious issue, and waiting to see how the Village Council will respond to their many appeals.

ISSUE 12/04/21 COVID CURSE CONTINUES IN CORRALES

The NMDOH website is reporting the staggeringly high number of 574 COVID cases in Corrales as of November 24. Corrales COVID expert Fire Commander Tanya Lattin reports that November 2021 is on track to be the highest month ever for Corrales Covid cases, with 67 new cases so far. The highest case count in 2020 happened in December, when Corrales saw 69 cases.

Commander Lattin says, “Wednesday November 24, we had eight- new cases. Our five-day case rate has been outrageous, and I am, of course, expecting more after Thanksgiving.” When looking for reasons why Corrales is still experiencing so many COVID cases, it’s easy to point to pandemic fatigue, overcrowded bars and restaurants, or that stubborn anti-vaccine movement.

But there is another significant factor that can’t be ignored, adding to the case numbers and often spreading the virus silently, Corrales kids. Albuquerque Public Schools has been reporting a rise in case numbers that mirrors the swell in Corrales. The week of November 1five, 88 APS school sites reported 330 total cases, a number that has tripled since October.

Nationwide, that same week saw a 26 percent increase in pediatric COVID cases. “Kids’ numbers are going way up” Lattin says. Corrales parents are feeling the burden of the virus on so many levels.

Facing increased pressure to return to offices, many are frustrated when their child is sent home because a stuffy nose and upset tummy warrants a PCR test under COVID protocols. Even if a parent is lucky enough to get a same-day swab appointment for their child, that still amounts to at least three days of missed work and school, waiting for the test to come back.

And what if that test comes back positive?

Bri Smith lives in Corrales with her husband Matthew and their two children, Estella, 15, and Jackson, 12.  In October, the vaccinated family attended a baseball game, sitting near another vaccinated family who were unknowingly infected with asymptomatic COVID. Since they were outside, and more than three feet apart, the families decided not to wear masks.

When Matthew started to feel fatigue and cold-like symptoms a few days later, the family decided to get tested. Matthew’s initial home test was negative, but the PCR test he took came back positive. Bri also eventually tested positive and had cold-like symptoms. 12-year-old Jackson was asymptomatic but also tested positive. Estella never tested positive.

When asked how they felt as parents, after having a positive diagnosis, Bri answered, “We felt devastated. Covid was something we have been trying to avoid for the last year and a half. We were very worried that even though we were having mild symptoms (runny nose, headache, dry cough, slight chest pressure, and loss of smell), that our son would become ill. We credit the vaccines for our swift recovery and his lack of visible illness.”

Bri also says, “Luckily, we don’t know of any close contacts that developed Covid from us. That was guilt and stress that we were very concerned about. We believe that our breakthrough infection was unfortunate but avoidable. I encourage all that can, to get vaccinated and keep masking indoors and outside when social distancing isn’t an option.”

Another Corrales family went through a similar COVID-related ordeal. Ashley Trebitowski and her husband have three children, Cayden, 12, Jackson, ten and Reagan, seven, all living in Corrales.

Cayden caught Covid at school, from a vaccinated, asymptomatic friend with whom he shared a lunch period.

Following his infection, the two other Trebitowski children also tested positive for the virus, and had varying degrees of symptoms.

Ashley says: “I was nervous about our oldest because his heart rate was elevated and he had the worst symptoms. The other two seemed to fight it much easier. The biggest priority was staying hydrated and taking our vitamins, get lots of sunlight, and extra COVID protocol supplements. I’m not sure if they helped but we did everything we could to fight it from the inside.”

seven-year-old Regan, the youngest of Ashley’s children, experienced some bullying from another child at school. A little girl in her class said, “She has COVID, don’t touch her,” a discriminatory comment which hurt the young girl’s feelings.

When asked what advice Ashley would give other parents, she responds, “I very much believe that masks help stop the spread. The child that tested positive and spread it to my oldest had been around tons of kids those few days, he was most likely shedding the virus.”

Whether or not kids have symptoms, they are most certainly catching and spreading the virus.

Parents in our village are faced with very difficult Covid-related decisions, and with Santa Fe schools moving to some remote instruction this week because of rising Covid cases, they are left wondering when APS schools, including our own CES, might follow suit.

ISSUE 12/04/21 ST NICK IS COMING BACK TO TOWN DEC.4 FOR PARADE

After taking a year off for the pandemic, St Nick is expected to return to Corrales this December as the acme of the Corrales MainStreet Starlight Parade. The parade is set to begin on December 4 at 5:30pm. All villagers who wish to participate are invited to line up their festooned cars, floats, tractors and other vehicles beginning at 4:30 p.m. in the Wagner’s Farm Stand parking lot.

As usual, foot or equestrian traffic is discouraged, since the parade is very dark and it is difficult for drivers to see. The parade route will begin at Wagner’s and travel south along Corrales Road to the Growers’ Market parking lot, probably dispersing around 6 p.m. MainStreet plans to have a tree-lighting event at the end of the parade, along with St Nick, and cookies for all.

Of course, Covid protocols will be enforced. Villagers are required to wear masks, even outside, when standing in line or close to those outside of their families. Everyone is reminded to avoid crowding together, and to try to social distance as much as possible. MainStreet also asks villagers to keep an eye on their website, http://www.visitcorrales.com for updates and possible COVID-related cancellations or adaptations. 

Corrales Road will be closed between Tenorio Road and Coronado Road from 5:15 p.m. until the parade finishes. No side road access will be allowed.

ISSUE 11-20-21 TOM NIMS DIES

In spite of Covid’s continued bedevilments, Corrales Mainstreet is planning to host the 2021 Starlight Parade this December 4.

Sandy Rasmussen, spokesperson for Corrales Mainstreet, says that the plans have to be very fluid right now because of the pandemic. Even so, the organization is determined to host some sort of celebration.

Ideally, that celebration would look as much like the Starlight parade of carefree bygone days as possible.  Rasmussen says the plans right now include a tree-lighting ceremony, a visit from St. Nick, and “the usual goodies for all!”

Covid accommodations will include masks for anyone congregating in groups, even when outside. “Maybe we can even have a People’s Choice award for best holiday mask!” Rasmussen speculates. “We know people do not like wearing those masks outside, but this is just a way of us continuing to have community activities and hopefully stay safer.”

The parade route is set to begin at Wagner Farm Store and continue south to the Corrales Growers’ Market parking lot. 

Vehicle line up will begin at Wagner’s at 4:30 pm, with Corrales Rd closure starting at 5:15. The parade itself will begin at 5:30.

All side roads between Tenorio Rd and Coronado Rd will also be blocked, so villagers are warned to plan ahead.

Any vehicle is welcome to participate in the parade, however no foot traffic or equestrian entrants are allowed. “It is dark and very hard for the float drivers to see those folks,” Rasmussen warns.

Villagers and visitors are invited to check the MainStreet website, http://www.visitcorrales.com, regularly for updates about the event.

ISSUE 11-20-21 LARRY SALAS DIES

In spite of Covid’s continued bedevilments, Corrales Mainstreet is planning to host the 2021 Starlight Parade this December 4.

Sandy Rasmussen, spokesperson for Corrales Mainstreet, says that the plans have to be very fluid right now because of the pandemic. Even so, the organization is determined to host some sort of celebration.

Ideally, that celebration would look as much like the Starlight parade of carefree bygone days as possible.  Rasmussen says the plans right now include a tree-lighting ceremony, a visit from St. Nick, and “the usual goodies for all!”

Covid accommodations will include masks for anyone congregating in groups, even when outside. “Maybe we can even have a People’s Choice award for best holiday mask!” Rasmussen speculates. “We know people do not like wearing those masks outside, but this is just a way of us continuing to have community activities and hopefully stay safer.”

The parade route is set to begin at Wagner Farm Store and continue south to the Corrales Growers’ Market parking lot. 

Vehicle line up will begin at Wagner’s at 4:30 pm, with Corrales Rd closure starting at 5:15. The parade itself will begin at 5:30.

All side roads between Tenorio Rd and Coronado Rd will also be blocked, so villagers are warned to plan ahead.

Any vehicle is welcome to participate in the parade, however no foot traffic or equestrian entrants are allowed. “It is dark and very hard for the float drivers to see those folks,” Rasmussen warns.

Villagers and visitors are invited to check the MainStreet website, http://www.visitcorrales.com, regularly for updates about the event.

ISSUE 11-20-21 STARLIGHT PARADE

In spite of Covid’s continued bedevilments, Corrales Mainstreet is planning to host the 2021 Starlight Parade this December 4. Sandy Rasmussen, spokesperson for Corrales Mainstreet, says that the plans have to be very fluid right now because of the pandemic. Even so, the organization is determined to host some sort of celebration. Ideally, that celebration would look as much like the Starlight parade of carefree bygone days as possible.  Rasmussen says the plans right now include a tree-lighting ceremony, a visit from St. Nick, and “the usual goodies for all!”

Covid accommodations will include masks for anyone congregating in groups, even when outside. “Maybe we can even have a People’s Choice award for best holiday mask!” Rasmussen speculates. “We know people do not like wearing those masks outside, but this is just a way of us continuing to have community activities and hopefully stay safer.”

The parade route is set to begin at Wagner Farm Store and continue south to the Corrales Growers’ Market parking lot. 

Vehicle line up will begin at Wagner’s at 4:30 pm, with Corrales Rd closure starting at 5:15. The parade itself will begin at 5:30.

All side roads between Tenorio Rd and Coronado Rd will also be blocked, so villagers are warned to plan ahead.

Any vehicle is welcome to participate in the parade, however no foot traffic or equestrian entrants are allowed. “It is dark and very hard for the float drivers to see those folks,” Rasmussen warns.

Villagers and visitors are invited to check the MainStreet website, http://www.visitcorrales.com, regularly for updates about the event.