A community newspaper for the Jicarita watershed, including the
Rio Mora, Rio Santa Barbara, Rio de las Trampas, Rio Pueblo, & Rio Embudo
Local Group Tours Constructed Wetlands with Environment Department By Mark Schiller
By Mark Schiller
The Camino Real Ranger District has implemented a new forest management strategy which may become a model for other ranger districts. This program breaks the district down into nine "ecological management areas" and analyzes them from the perspectives of "existing conditions, desired conditions, and possible practices" that will produce the desired conditions. The nine districts (see map on page 4) include West Entrañas, East Entrañas, Santa Barbara, Agua Caliente, Pecos Wilderness, Rio Pueblo, Rio Grande del Rancho, Taos Canyon, and Black Lake.
According M. A. "Crockett" Dumas, district ranger, this plan is the result of district managers realizing in the early 1990s that implementation of forest plans was not working as projected. The plans too often failed to address the needs and desires of the people who use the forest and often ended up being litigated in court. Dumas, determined to spend more time in the field and less in court, decided to conduct a door to door survey of residents in the communities immediately adjacent to the forest to find out what their priorities were concerning the forest and how they hoped to realize them. This process, which Dumas calls Collaborative Stewardship, gives forest users a greater stake in the management process and the use of sustainable practices in maintaining and improving forest conditions. At the same time, Dumas and his staff divided the district into the nine zones based upon topography and vegetation. They then mapped the areas existing conditions with regard to watersheds, fisheries, roads, vegetation types, vegetation conditions (young, middle-aged, and old), wildlife, fire concerns, customs and traditions, and recreation. This gave them a picture of what the areas looked like at the time, and how the people used them. Next, factoring in the information they had gathered from the survey, they projected the desired condition, i.e., what the people want the area to look like and how they would like to use it. And last, they projected what processes they could use to attain the desired condition. Dumas and his staff emphasize that none of this is "cast in cement." They view these management strategies as "working documents" which are always open to review and revision.
Max Córdova, president of the Truchas Land Grant, has worked closely with the Camino Real staff in addressing the forest uses and needs of his community. He maintains that the Collaborative Stewardship program provides an unparalleled opportunity for communities to get involved in the comanagement process. "Not only does it provide for the resource needs of our community, it addresses the overall health of the forest and promotes sustainable practices." He contrasts this with the management practices of some other national forests in the state, which he says continue to be patronizing and insensitive to local concerns. Córdova told La Jicarita that the key issue is "getting to know each other and breaking down old adversarial relationships." Along with Dumas, he cited Henry Lopez and Ben Kuykendall as staff members who have been particularly helpful and responsive.
For more information concerning the Collaborative Stewardship program, readers can contact Crockett Dumas at 587-2255. The ranger stations also conducts walking tours of management areas and projects the first Tuesday of each month.
On Sunday, April 27, the Peñasco Valley Youth and Family Community Center was opened for the afternoon so community members could take a look at the newly renovated facility (formerly El Norteño). Once the necessary inspections are completed, the center will be formally dedicated and ready for outreach offices, youth activities, seniors programs&emdash;whatever the community wants its center to be.
The Board of Directors, comprised of Francis Rodarte, Elena Bissell, Nancy Montaño, Rudy Aguilar, and Merlinda Archuleta, are applying for nonprofit status for the center, and in the meantime can apply for grants under the umbrella of Mountain Ambulance. The board would like to see the center raise enough money to support a full-time administrator, as well as coordinators for youth programs, seniors programs, community outreach, technical assistance, etc. They would also like to see various social service programs&emdash;food stamps, youth counseling, alcoholic treatment, etc., establish outreach offices at the center. Dan Lobato of Chamisal has already volunteered to be youth program coordinator. The Rocky Mountain Youth Corps is planning a wilderness training session at the center this summer. Arnold Lopez, a Peñasco High School teacher and member of La Plaza Telecommunity, will be working to get the center's planned computer lab hooked up to the Internet.
Volunteers are also needed for various committees: Fundraising; Opening Day; Equipment; and Outreach. At the open house, a wish list was posted on the wall. These items include: tables, desks, chairs, shelves, filing cabinets, computers, printer, copier, fax machine, pool table, television, VCR, all kinds of sports equipment, playground equipment, kitchen supplies, and art supplies.
Board member Nancy Montaño urged everyone in the community to get involved. Anyone else interested in volunteering services can contact any of the board member, or call Montaño at 587-2127 or 758-1836, ext. 21.
On Sunday, May 4, Picuris Pueblo dedicated its new community center, the first stage of a long-awaited "holistic" center. Carl Tsosie, Tribal Sheriff, acted as host for the afternoon's singing, dancing, and meal. Special guests attending the opening included Regis Pecos, executive director of the New Mexico Office of Indian Affairs, State Representative Nick Salazar, D-Nambe (who helped get funding for the center), and representatives from other pueblos around the state.
The 9, 000 square-foot building has solar panels for heating; facilities included in this first phase are a gymnasium with bathrooms and showers, and a small kitchen/concession area. The second phase of the project will include hot tubs and meeting rooms. Two more phases are planned as well, and will provide classrooms, a library, and a swimming pool. All of these projects are contingent upon acquiring adequate funding through the state legislature, community development grants, private foundations, and individual contributions.
According to Jonette Sam, administrative assistant, the Pueblo would eventually like to offer all kinds of activities for seniors, children, and the entire Peñasco valley community: language classes, karate classes, team sports, etc. The Pueblo will be applying for a special library grant to underwrite the cost of a library. Fundraising activities are already under way: Darren Córdova and Sierra Azul played a benefit concert on Friday, May 9. Anyone interested in contributing to the center can contact Sam at the Pueblo at 587-2519. You can also contact her if you are interested in renting the facility for various activities.
Several weeks ago boxholders in the Peñasco area&emdash;from Córdova to Vadito&emdash;received a mailing from Tierra Encatada Development Corporation, which included a fact sheet, survey sheet, and users agreement sheet regarding the corporation's proposal to bring natural gas to the area. In its proposal the corporation asks residents to pay $300 (a minimum of $25 down, with a six-month payout) to become members of the nonprofit corporation. Based on an estimated figure of $10 million to bring gas lines to Córdova, Truchas, Ojo Sarco, Las Trampas, El Valle, Chamisal, Peñasco, Picuris, Vadito, and surrounding villages, the corporation anticipates that house-hook-ups will run any where from $500 to $5,000, and a monthly fee will range from $50 to $70.
La Jicarita attended a public meeting on May 12 in Truchas to learn more about this proposal. Archie Velarde, president of the board of directors of Tierra Encatada, explained that because this area is part of the La Jicarita Enterprise Zone, and the project falls under zone guidelines for improving infrastructure, the corporation may apply to the Department of Agriculture for a loan that may cover %75 of the estimated
$10 million cost of the project. He also stated that the corporation had contracted with an engineering firm, on a contingency basis, to conduct a feasibility study for the project (a request before the 1997 state legislature for a feasibility study was tabled). In order to apply for a rural development grant, Velarde estimated that the corporation must sign up at least 500 members. The money will be held in escrow until the corporation determines if it has the necessary funding to proceed with the project.
There was some confusion as to how Tierra Encatada, a nonprofit corporation, would run the natural gas system as a cooperative. Gas would be purchased on the open market and hopefully brought to the communities via pipelines connecting to existing lines in the Dixon area. Ron Martinez of La Jicarita Enterprise stated that he hoped the Enterprise would be able to work with the corporation to start up a construction company to build the pipelines. Several people in the audience questioned the urgency of the project. The only information people now have is the mailing, and they are being asked to become a member by the end of May, only several weeks away. Velarde apologized for the lack of publicity (the Truchas meeting was sparsely attended) but said that the enrollment period could not be extended because of October grant deadlines. Carol Miller, Green Party candidate for Congress in the recent election, expressed her concerns that perhaps this money could be better spent in helping people insulate their homes and exploring new technologies that would allow people to diversify their heating sources. She also wondered if asking for this amount of money, under the auspices of the Enterprise Zone, the corporation would jeopardize future requests for other economic development projects. Max Córdova stated that the corporation seemed to be interested only in addressing long term needs without considering alternative plans if the project proves to be unworkable.
For further information regarding Tierra Encatada Development Corporation you can call Archie Velarde at 753-5640.
As reported in the last issue of La Jicarita, the New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA) is sponsoring a two-day workshop to address issues currently facing New Mexico parciantes. The dates of the meeting at the Oñate Center in Alcalde have been changed, however. The workshops will be held on Saturday, June 28, and Sunday, June 29. Speakers scheduled for June 28 include: Estevan Arellano, director of the Oñate Center; Antonio Medina, of the Mora Water and Land Protective Association; and David Benavides, a lawyer with Northern New Mexico Legal Services who specializes in water law. They will address issues regarding sustainable development, historical research, and water law. Speakers scheduled for June 29 include: Pat Simpson, a water-law expert formerly in the State Engineer's Office, now working for the Attorney General; Wilfred Rael, a paralegal with Northern New Mexico Legal Services and an officer in the Questa Acequia Association; Bernadette Fernandez, a nutritional consultant; Arnie Valdez, of Valdez and Associates; Patricia Quintana, with the New Mexico Department of Agriculture; Stan Crawford, organic farmer and author; and Julie Mullins, attorney. This day's discussion will focus on water leasing and banking, alternative agricultural methods, and organic farming and marketing. For further information you can contact Nicasio Romero at 421-7057.
Southwest Organizing Project and Acequia Associations Protest Transfer of Water Rights to Intel Corporation
By Kay Matthews
Intel Corporation, the giant computer chip factory based in Rio Rancho, has applied to the Office of the State Engineer to purchase 2,027 acre feet of water, worth $4 million, near San Marcial in Socorro County. The corporation will then retire these surface water rights to offset the impact on the Rio Grande from its three wells, which provide 2.9 million gallons of water daily to the plant. Intel was granted permission to drill these wells in 1994, by then State Engineer Eluid Martinez. By law, Intel can only transfer water rights within its ground water basin&emdash;Otowi Gauge, north of Santa Fe, to Elephant Butte.
This water transfer request is being protested by a coalition of groups who feel it is part of a systematic attempt to take water from traditional uses for urban and industrial use. According to Michael Coca of Acequia Madre de Las Vegas, one of the protestants, this transfer is "an attempt to destroy the communities and 'cultural continuity' that rely on indigenous agricultural practices. . . . Water should not be separated from the land." The other protestants to the transfer include La Joya Acequia Association, Socorro Soil and Water Conservation District, La Joya Mutual Domestic Water Consumers Association, Southwest Organizing Project, and Albuquerque South Valley resident Robert Roibal.
If approved, the transfer will mean that these rights can no longer be put to beneficial use in Socorro County. They are currently owned by ten families, although over 80% of the water rights are owned by three of these families. According to a spokesman for the Socorro protestants, this transfer of water rights out of Socorro County impacts the county's ability to determine its future water use and development. In its regional water plan the county has acknowledged that it is currently using more water than it has rights to use and will be forced to purchase water to meet future needs. Ironically, this regional water plan was paid for by the Interstate Stream Commission, a part of the State Engineer's Office, which has endorsed regional planning as the best way to meet future water needs. A water transfer to Intel will negate the plan's purpose.
The protestants feel that this particular case could be precedent setting in future water transfer requests that will affect other parts of the state, particularly northern New Mexico. A hearing date for the protest has been set for August 4, in Socorro. Fred Allen is the hearing officer, and testimony will be heard from both the protestants and Intel. The protestants are asking readers to sign the enclosed letter, requesting that the State Engineer deny this water transfer, and send it to the following address:
Tom Turney, New Mexico State Engineer
Bataan Building, Room 101
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504
Governor Gary Johnson
State Capitol Building
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
If you would like more information you can contact Jeanne Gauna or Michael Leon Guerrero of the Southwest Organizing Project at 505 247-8832.
By Kay Matthews
La Jicarita recently went on a tour with M. A. "Crockett" Dumas, Ben Kuykendall, and Henry Lopez of the Camino Real Ranger District to take a look at the proposed prescribed burn on Bear Mountain in Santa Barbara Canyon. The group also toured the Borrego area (across from Amole Canyon on NM 518) which was treated by a prescribed burn in 1995. Others who came along were Greg Miller, Carson National Forest hydrologist, Scott Draney of the New Mexico Fish and Game Department, and several people from Taos and Questa.
The proposed Bear Mountain burn, approximately 2100 acres, extends from the forest boundary near Rodarte to Indian Creek, near Santa Barbara Campground. The project is part of the Santa Barbara management area of the Ecosystem Management program (see accompanying article) and, according to the Forest Service, will achieve a desired condition of improved wildlife habitat and a reduction of fuels that could trigger catastrophic fire. Accessible areas of the proposed burn will be open to communities for firewood gathering and to small commercial operators.
There are three main vegetation types that the Forest Service intends to treat with the burn: mixed conifer, including aspen, near the Indian Creek boundary (35%); the steep slopes of oak (25%) north of Indian Creek; and ponderosa pine understory (40%), off Forest Road 1877 near the forest boundary. According to the Forest Service, a burn in the mixed conifer will help reduce fuels and regenerate aspen. Greg Miller, forest hydrologist, cautioned that an uncontrolled fire through this area could devastate the watershed. He said that any short-term affects of sedimentation caused by a controlled burn could be tolerated by the river, which uses periodic inputs of sediment to develop banks and provide shore habitat. He also pointed out that the Forest Service will establish a buffer zone to prevent the burn from getting too close to the Rio Santa Barbara, in both the mixed conifer and oak areas.
Ben Kuykendall, district wildlife biologist, explained to the group that the fire will be set from the top of the ridge down, in segments, to the buffer zone along the river. The desired condition in the oak section is regeneration of the oak as well as snowberry and grass for mule deer, elk, and bighorn sheep. According to Kuykendall, because of a lack of forage, herds of elk have been invading the hay fields and gardens of residents down the canyon.
The group drove into the ponderosa pine area of the proposed burn on Forest Road 1877, which leads to Bear Mountain. The Forest Service will open the area for fuelwood before burning, marking trees under 8 inches for cutting. Commercial sales of 25,000 to 50,000 board feet will also be available on approximately 400 to 500 acres. Age classes in the area, which was logged in the 1970s, range from 20 to 25 years with some hundred-year-old trees as well. There is significant infill with ponderosa seedlings, and the Forest Service hopes to thin these out and stimulate grass and forbs with the burn. Coupled with the thinning of the smaller diameter trees, a more savannah-like condition can be achieved. While viewing this area, a discussion arose as to the impacts fuelwood gathering has on the Camino Real District. According to Crockett Dumas, district ranger, the Forest Service can easily supply all the area's fuelwood needs by keeping traditional fuelwood areas that are in need of thinning open to the public. Other areas, less accessible by road, can then be better protected for wildlife habitat and riparian value. La Jicarita also asked about the recent report, sponsored by Forest Guardians, claiming that Carson National Forest does not meet the requirements of snags per acre. Dumas stated that while his district had been heavily impacted by the logging activity of the Santa Barbara Pole and Tie Company in the early part of the century, when many of the big trees were cut, current management policy is addressing the need for snags. By concentrating the fuelwood gathering in heavily managed areas, the district can better educate the public about the importance of protecting snags. He feels that the unroaded areas of the forest have the required number of snags per acre. A member of a Taos bird watching group was also along on the tour, and she concurred with Dumas that for the most part, there is adequate snag distribution on the forest.
The Forest Service has decided that it is already too late this year to conduct the prescribed burn, but may consider it for next fall or spring. The area will be burned in stages, for brief periods of time, and only when conditions are optimal for safety and smoke reduction. The New Mexico Environment Department will monitor the activity for air quality. Scott Draney, of the New Mexico State Game and Fish Department, emphasized that a public education program has tried to show people that a few days of smoke are worth the safety a controlled burn can provide. Because of the heavy recreational use the canyon sees there is
The Peñasco Area Acequia Federation has scheduled a meeting to consider formalizing the organization at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 28, at the Peñasco High School Library. Parciantes have been meeting informally for one year to discuss acequia issues. This group hopes to be able to keep area acequia users informed on issues such as water rights adjudication, legislation which can affect water users, water banking, instream flow, dealing with the State Engineer's Office, and how Native American water rights affect other water users. In order for the group to incorporate, 51% of area acequias, which include Ojo Sarco, Las Trampas, El Valle, Chamisal, Ojito, Vallecitos, Vadito, Placita, Peñasco, Rodarte, Llano Largo, Llano San Juan, Llano de la Llegua, Rio Lucio, Dixon, and Embudo, must participate. For more information concerning the organization and this meeting, you can call Verna or Ben Gurulé at 587-2528.
La Peñasco Area Acequia Federation tendra una junta el día 28 de Junio a la 1:00 p.m. en el Peñasco High School Library. El enfogue de la junta sera para considerar formalizando la organización. Parciantes se han juntado varias veces durante el año pasado y han discutido asuntos de las acequias. Este grupo desea informar a parciantes en asuntos como ajudicación de los derechos de agua, legislación que puede afectar el uso de agua, "water banking," "instream flow," asuntos con la oficina del Ingeniero Estatal, y como los derechos del agua de los indígenos afectan los derechos de otros parciantes. En orden que el grupo se pueda incorporar, 51% de las acequias de la area tendran que participar. Esas areas incluyen: Ojo Sarco, Las Trampas, El Valle, Chamisal, Ojito, Vallecitos, Vadito, Placita, Peñasco, Rodarte, Llano Largo, Llano San Juan, Llano de la Llegua, Río Lucío, Dixon y Embudo. Por más información perteniendo a la organización o a esta junta, ustedes pueden llamar a Verna o Ben Gurulé al #587-2528.
La Jicarita will take a break for June. Look for the next issue around July 15.
The New Mexico Acequia Association will be sponsoring a two-day workshop to address acequia issues and sustainable development on Saturday, June 28, and Sunday, June 29 at the Oñate Center in Alcalde. For more information, call Nicasio Romero at 421-7057.
By Mark Schiller
On Saturday, May 10, about a dozen residents of communities in the Dixon, Embudo, and Peñasco areas accompanied Peter Wilkinson and Dennis Slifer of the New Mexico Environmental Department (ED) on a tour of constructed wetlands at the Santa Fe Opera and a private residence in Santa Fe. Wetlands, along with providing wildlife habitat and aesthetic value, are a highly effective way of detoxifying wastewater. Members of the group are hoping to implement a model wetlands project in the Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo watershed as part of a $250,000 grant the ED has received to evaluate and do remediation within the watershed.
The Santa Fe Opera tour was conducted by Randy Lutz, opera prop master, who has recently completed a 26-hour course that trained him as a Level I Wastetreatment Plant Operator. The opera's wetlands consists of three, 14-inch deep ponds which cover approximately one-half acre just west of the main opera building. The ponds are lined with a heavy plastic liner, then filled to a depth of eight inches with gravel and planted with a variety of aquatic plants ranging from bulrushes and cattails to water irises. The detoxification process is accomplished by bacteria which thrive on the root systems of these plants. The system is entirely gravity fed and has a capacity of 5,000 toilet flushes every two hours. While the opera's system has a supplemental ultra violet (UV) light detoxification system, Lutz emphasized that after the water has passed through the three ponds before undergoing the UV process, it is entirely detoxified and suitable for irrigation purposes. The opera's system recycles all of its wastewater into three 10,000-gallon holding tanks which it uses to irrigate its approximately 150-acre xeriscaped grounds. Lutz also pointed out that the wetlands have greatly increased wildlife in the area, particularly songbirds.
The second stop on the tour was a private residence on Old Santa Fe Trail, formerly owned by Georgia O'Keeffe and now owned by the Miller family of Houston. This wetland consists of four ponds, approximately half the size of the opera's, and has a capacity of 1,500 gallons a day. This system, constructed in the same way as the opera's, takes nine days to run the water through the four ponds. It empties into a fifth pond, which is a water garden, consisting of water lilies and ornamental fish. A maintenance worker who conducted the tour pointed out that the bird species on the estate had increased from 35 to 65 with the wetlands. She also told the group that because the system has no mechanical components, it's operation is both low maintenance and low cost.
Both wetlands were designed and engineered by Southwest Wetlands of Santa Fe, which is one of the groups that has pioneered constructed wetlands in the Southwest. This group, which originated in 1989, also designed the wetlands at Los Padillas Elementary School and Elephant Butte State Park, described in the previous issue of La Jicarita.
The citizens group subsequently met to discuss how it wanted to proceed. Members discussed several potential wetlands sites, both in the Peñasco and Dixon-Embudo areas. Peter Wilkinson agreed to contact Tom Andrews, one of the founding members of Southwest Wetlands, to set up a meeting to evaluate these sites. Members also suggested getting in touch with other wetlands engineers for competitive bids. Everyone present agreed that if the group is able to finance a wetlands project, local people should be hired to do the work. The next meeting will be scheduled once Wilkinson is able to set up a meeting with the wetlands engineers.
On May 5 U. S. District Judge Edwin Mechem dismissed the La Manga timber sale lawsuit, filed almost three years ago by Forest Guardians, Carson Forest Watch, and other environmental groups, claiming that the Forest Service had failed to protect old growth. La Companía Ocho, the small logging operation based in Vallecitos which is guaranteed 75% if the sale, will begin logging the first unit when weather allows. Because of recent snow and rain, the area is too muddy to access. La Jicarita has contacted Ike DeVargas of La Companía Ocho and arranged to tour the sale area before the loggers begin cutting. We will report on how the area looks now, what the loggers intend to cut, and will then follow up on what the area looks like after the harvest. Loggers plan to harvest approximately one million board feet in the first unit, with a total sale volume of 2.1 million board feet.
Copyright 1996-2001 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.