Rural Conservation Alliance Protest of Buena Vista's 2012 Application to Transfer Water for Mining

May 15, 2012

Scott A. Verhines, P.E., State Engineer
Office of the State Engineer
5550 San Antonio Dr. NE
Albuquerque, NM 87109-4127

Re: File SD-07396-Amended-B into RG-93238 and RG-93239
Applicant(s): Center for Educational Initiative, and Buena Vista

Dear Mr. Verhines,

This letter is a formal protest by Rural Conservation Alliance (RCA) to the application referenced above. Approval of the application will both be contrary to conservation of water, as well as detrimental to the public welfare of the State of New Mexico.

The Rural Conservation Alliance (RCA) is an unincorporated association of community organizations and individuals whose mission is dedicated to the preservation and protection of the natural resources and rural character of the Galisteo Basin area of Santa Fe County New Mexico.

The RCA would be specially and substantially affected by approval of the application. The application, if approved, would change the purpose of use of water from "irrigation" to "sand and gravel washing" and other purposes such as dust control in connection with mining on over five thousand acres within the area. This would result not only in the destruction of the viewshed, but would result in environmental and cultural degradation. The move to land and wells, as described in the area "La Bajada Hill", in Santa Fe County, is a region recognized as historically, culturally and environmentally significant to New Mexico. The granting of this application does not reflect Santa Fe County zoning for this area. Development and industry would result in new roads, building, heavy industrial traffic, increased pollution from carbon emissions and other particulates. Surface destruction from mining in this historic, culturally significant, scenic, and recreational area would be detrimental to the public welfare of the state of New Mexico. Mining would also yield a negative, financial effect vis-a-vis New Mexico tourism (local, national and international.) La Bajada Mesa and Escarpment is the southern gateway of arrival to the City of Santa Fe. The view shed should be protected. It has been a historical, cultural, environmental, geographic and scenic landmark for centuries. The "Official Scenic Historical Marker" is located at the nearby La Bajada visitor center along I-25. Vast amounts of literature, paintings, drawings, sculpture, pottery, photographs and films attest to its profound significance. The NM Heritage Preservation Alliance has listed La Bajada Mesa and Escarpments as one of the Most Endangered Places in the state of New Mexico. The NMHPA writes: "Mining and development could disturb the view shed of the entire escarpment. Any disturbances of the land will diminish the capacity to appreciate the significance of the space."

The use of water contemplated under the application is contrary to the conservation of water. In 2005, Buena Vista submitted a zoning permit application for a mine to Santa Fe County in connection with mining 106 acres of land located within Township 15N, Range 7E, Sections 22, 26 and 27, which is included in the larger 5,000+ acres contemplated by this water application. At that time, Buena Vista estimated that it would need 710,000 gallons, or 2.17 acre-feet, of water per year simply for dust control alone. This current water application seeks only 3 acre-feet per year for both dust control AND sand and gravel washing, which is a water intensive activity. Obviously, this amount of water is woefully insufficient to accomplish the intended uses on a tract of land over 5000 acres, and could result in either overdiversions by applicant to accomplish the end or increased dust pollution, as a result of insufficient water resources to accomplish the purpose. This would be both contrary to conservation and detrimental to public welfare.

Approval of the application is also contrary to conservation of water and would be detrimental to the public welfare as it would result in new withdrawals of groundwater, the effect of which would not be offset by retiring agricultural water rights located forty miles away. There is no known hydro-geologic connection between the groundwater aquifer at the move-to site with the Rio Grande. The hydrogeology of La Bajada Mesa area is complex, and there are known faults across the area that separate local aquifers from the Rio Grande. Water within the Galisteo Basin is already over appropriated, and new withdrawals would only result in increased depletions to the already oversubscribed surface water and groundwater resources in the area.

File SD-07396-Amended-B into RG-93238 and RG-93239 is contrary to the public welfare of the state and its residents. Furthermore, it also severely impacts a vital wildlife corridor from the state of Colorado to Mexico. This "corridor of connectivity" has been recognized and endorsed by the Western Governors Association, formidable state and national institutions, and the Wildlands Project. Wildlife corridors are fundamental to the larger, strategic planning of "continental conservation". La Bajada Mesa connects the Jemez, Sangre de Cristo and Sandia Manzano Mountain ranges. These corridors are vital to the movement of wildlife and provide extensive, long term genetic viability of migrating populations.

Finally, there is no need for another mining operation. There are several existing gravel mines in close proximity to File SD-07396-Amended-B into RG-93238 and RG-93239 that provide abundant, needed and required materials. The industrial impact from a new and unnecessary mine would deteriorate this renown historic, cultural and environmental view shed. Any use of water for mining and development in this location is inappropriate and would negatively effect Waldo Canyon Road (i.e. the western access to the Cerrillos Hills State Park.) File SD-07396-Amended-B into RG-93238 and RG-93239 is a misuse of water and contrary to its conservation.


Ross Lockridge, for the RCA


--Comments, opinions of the RCA, POB 245, Cerrillos, NM 87010--