Rural Conservation Alliance NEWS -- January 17, 2017

-- Preserve La Bajada Mesa & Escarpment --

-- Mining Company Withdraws Water Rights Transfer Application --

Buena Vista and the Center For Educational Initiatives has withdrawn their application before the NM State Engineer to "change point of diversion and purpose of use within the Rio Grande Water Basin in New Mexico." In their request they give no reason for the withdrawal, but it may be because Santa Fe County has no policy that we know of regarding the use of its water by industry. It could also be that they recognize that the proven preferences of the citizens of Santa Fe County and beyond are for Buena Vista to do nothing towards attempting to strip-mine this beloved cultural and scenic landscape.

The RCA wishes to thank all those members, attorneys, witnesses and citizens that stood up and contributed to resist the use of valuable water related to the proposed exploitation of the Mesa by Buena Vista and Rockology.

Santa Fe County water policies needed: The recent 2016 mining code doesn't reference any policy regarding the origin of a water supply needed for dust control of such industrial operations. Consequently County Public Works apparently feel obliged to sell industry water for hauling. Such heavy hauling impacts roads and adds to the carbon burden generated via transport. Former County policy recommended a 100 year on-site water supply to minimize expected long term environment impacts.


An attempt by Buena Vista to strip the Mesa's basalt,
through acquisition of water rights for mining:
"for sand and gravel washing and dust control on approximately 5217 acres of land . . . ."

One of New Mexico's "Most Endangered Places":

"Significance: La Bajada represents a key landscape demarcation between what the Spanish colonial world
termed the Rio Abajo and Rio Arriba regions of New Mexico--the lower and upper lands with their distinct ecologies and climates. ...." --NMHPA, 2003.

La Bajada Mesa, Photo by Patrick Allen Mohn © 2004

  Reducing [La Bajada Mesa] to crushed basalt for road base would be a travesty in its own right. Overdrawing the regional water budget - which is already over-committed - for such a destructive purpose would be a double travesty. --RCA Protest witness, Kim Sorvig, Professor, UNM School of Architecture and Planning

Most Endangered? See Maps

RCA Archives concerning the water protest, 2012-7:

RCA News, Jan. 13, 2017: Since 2012-3, Buena Vista (BV) has repeatedly postponed or stayed action by the NM Office of the State Engineer on an application to acquire and transfer water rights from the Albuquerque area for mining at La Bajada Mesa. The RCA has long protested their application. Buena Vista's attorneys have stayed movement on their application as explained in the last request "so that the Applicant may determine how it intends to proceed." They were involved in legal entanglements with Santa Fe County and those suits have all been resolved. As of the 6th of January, 2017, a new Buena Vista Status Report was due. However Buena Vista has apparently let that due date pass without comment or taking any action. The RCA is keeping a close eye on this, should there be any forthcoming actions.


--The application, if approved, would change the purpose of use of water from "irrigation" to "sand and gravel washing" for mining anywhere on over five thousand acres including the eastern gateway of La Bajada Mesa, a NM cultural landscape.

--This could not only lead to the loss of the geological integrity--the grandeur of this oceanic Gateway landmark from I-25 & Waldo Canyon Road, but would result in environmental and cultural degradation of land that has been historically, culturally and environmentally significant to New Mexico for hundreds of years.

--Furthermore, it also could severely impact 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.

--Development of such an industry poorly sited here would result in new roads, heavy industrial traffic, increased pollution from carbon emissions and fugitive dust.

--It would not only negatively impact the Gateway vista from I-25, and Waldo Canyon Road--the western access to the Cerrillos Hills State Park--but would be a blight from the higher elevations of the Park and adjacent BLM lands and from other recognized scenic vistas from the south and east.

--The arts, including paintings, drawings, pottery, photographs and films attest to the profound significance of La Bajada Mesa to New Mexico's cultural economy.

--Three acre feet of water is woefully insufficient to accomplish the intended uses on a tract of land over 5000 acres

--There is no need for another gravel mining operation as there are several existing gravel mines within reasonable proximity that can provide these materials.

--Speculation? The move-to land is for sale. They are marketing it as a mining area, as if they think the current Santa Fe County staff and commissioners would oblige and ignore New Mexico's heritage.


The Water Protest:


( Map of Study Area )

     PROTESTANTS are opposing the use of ground water resources, as described by Buena Vista "for sand and gravel washing and dust control purposes on approximately 5217 acres of land". The land includes a large part of La Bajada Mesa, of what's known to New Mexicans as the (physical, historical, cultural) "Gateway" to Santa Fe. For more see RCA Letter to the NM Office of the State Engineer (OSE).

From a 9/30/2015--JOINT STATUS REPORT

The Center for Educational Initiatives and Buena Vista, the Rural Conservation Alliance, and the Water Rights Division of the Office of the State Engineer (collectively the "Parties"), by and through their counsel of record, and hereby provide the Hearing Examiner with this Joint Status Report.

On April 9, 2014, the Hearing Examiner held a telephonic status conference where the parties jointly recommended that [this] mater be stayed to accommodate a determination by the Santa Fe County Commission as to the approval [disapproval] of the underlying project for which this application would provide water. On April 10, 2014, the Hearing Examiner stayed [this] matter.... On September 16, 2014, Santa Fe County approved a one year moratorium on Mining, landfill, and junkyard development proposals, eff6ctively halting the underlying project. On October 16, 2014, separate counsel for Buena Vista filed a lawsuit against Santa Fe County in the First Judicial District Court seeking to lift the moratorium or a county commission vote on the approval of the underlying project. On October 29, 2014, the Hearing Examiner issued his Order Continuing Stay finding that is was reasonable to continue the stay pending resolution of the action in the First Judicial District Court. On August 11, 2015, Santa Fe County formally adopted new rules related to sand and gravel operations. After the adoption of the rules, Buena Vista filed an additional lawsuit in State District Court. As of October 2, 2015, the two cases in the First Judicial District Court are ongoing and an additional case is pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico.

Therefore, the Parties recommend continuing the stay in this matter until all the pending litigation is resolved and the Courts have made a determination as to the approval of the underlying project. The Parties further propose that they will jointly or separately file another Status Report by April 1, 2016.


     More Background: having received the protests to the Buena Vista application for the transfer of [paper] water rights from Albuquerque to the ~2 mile-long Mesa Gateway area, the NM State Engineer's designated Hearing Examiner, Andrew B. Core, was to postpone the schedule 4 times at the request of Buena Vista. The reason Buena Vista gave for the requested extensions was that they were continuing to explore an alternate source of water which they claimed would obviate the need for this Application. The alternative water source turned out to be water sold by the gallon and hauled from the County Water Utility!


Office of the State Engineer Protest Processes

     State Engineer schedules consist of the following: a Status Conference, Exhibits due, Rebuttal witnesses and exhibits due, Close of Discovery, Motions, Objections dates, and Hearing dates.

WITNESSES (For Protestants, Applicants, & the Water Rights Division)

PROTESTANTS: The Rural Conservation Alliance (RCA) list 4 Expert &/or Fact Witnesses including:

--Reid Bandeen, hydrologist on hydrologic issues raised by the applications,
--Kim Sorvig, Research Associate Professor, UNM, Architecture and Planning, on geologic, biodiversity, historical & cultural importance of La Bajada, the move-to place of use, and the negative impacts, from a community planning perspective, that would arise from non-renewable extractive industry entailing ground water withdrawals in the area.
--Arnold Valdez, MArch, Principle of Valdez & Associates, Adjunct Associate Professor UNM School of Architecture and Planning. Mr. Valdez may testify on the cultural and historical importance of La Bajada cultural landscape.
--Paul Williams, Archaeologist, on the cultural, historical, archeological and environmental landmarks/view sheds of land worthy of a designation as a national monument, La Bajada Mesa National Monument, and the detrimental [possible consequential] impacts to the area should the application be approved.
     The RCA has also listed FACT Witnesses who may testify against the Buena Vista application. They include: Ross Lockridge as to concerns of the Rural Conservation Alliance whose mission includes the preservation and protection of the natural resources and rural character of the Galisteo Basin area of Santa Fe County including the lack of zoning permits for the uses proposed in the application. Thomas A. Romero, Director, Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area, Inc. regarding the concerns of the affects of the application, if approved would have on La Bajada Mesa and its escarpment, which are in the Northern Rio Grande Heritage Area. Dianne Elise Strauss, Executive Director, Coalition to Protect the Gateway, regarding the ongoing efforts to protect and preserve La Bajada Mesa including its probable designation as a National Monument, and the effects that approval of the application would have on that process. William Clift regarding the ongoing efforts to protect and preserve La Bajada Mesa, and as a National Monument. Pierre Werbrouck, regarding his personal knowledge of groundwater diversions from his well.
     Special thanks to the RCA witnesses, and attorneys Mary Humphrey & Connie Odé.

APPLICANTS: Buena Vista (Peter Naumburg & Hugh J. Graham Jr., owners) & the "move from" party (Center for Educational Initiatives), list 4 Expert Witnesses including:

--Steve Hooper, Buildology Inc., Materials Inc., AVI Inc. to the nature and scope of the Waldo Canyon Quarry Project to the use of the proposed amount of water [sufficient} for dust suppression and . . . is not contrary to the conservation of water . . . or detrimental to the public welfare of the state.
--Greg Gates, CH2MHill, that the proposed transfer will not impair existing water rights, is not contrary to the conservation of water . . . and is not detrimental to the public welfare of the state.
--William Reich, CH2MHill, to the scope of the Project, that the use of the water is not contrary to conservation . . . not detrimental . . . .
--James Siebert, to the scope of the Project, that the use of the water is not contrary to conservation . . . not detrimental . . . .
     Applicants' attorneys Jay Stein & Seth Fullerton.

WATER RIGHTS DIVISION: The Division (of the OSE) list 3 Expert &/or Fact Witnesses:

--Joseph Fields, Water Resource Specialist with the OSE, may testify regarding any water rights issues that arise in the consideration of this application. The specifics of his opinions will be disclosed when completed.
--Bruce Richardson, Water Resource Specialist, OSE, may testify regarding any water rights issues that arise . . . . The specifics . . . disclosed when completed.
--Laura Petronis, Hydrologist with the OSE, may testify as an expert witness regarding hydrology issues that arise in the consideration of this application. The specifics . . . disclosed when completed.

Support the RCA
so the RCA can continue action to Save the Mesa.

     Know that this effort in the conservation of New Mexico's heritage is possible only with your support & encouragement. It's with great appreciation to those of you who responded to our Winter requests for financial donations. Many thanks!

    The RCA is an all volunteer organization. Please give tax-deductible donations on line HERE or write check to:
    Concerned Citizens of Cerrillos, & put "For RCA Fund" in the memo. And send to: CCC, P.O. Box 245, Cerrillos, NM 87010. 

Questions, thoughts? Email: & put "La Bajada Mesa Threatened" in the Subject. Thank you for your interest and support to preserve La Bajada Mesa & Escarpment.

--Ross, for the RCA

See also Save La Bajada Mesa--RCA News 2017

Rural Conservation Alliance Archives

To: New Mexico Heritage Preservation Alliance: La Bajada Mesa and Escarpment: Most Endangered Places

Posted for the public by the Rural Conservation Alliance, an alliance of community organizations and individuals
dedicated to the preservation and protection of the natural resources and rural character
of the Galisteo Basin area of Santa Fe County, New Mexico.

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

Contact RCA: Questions, thoughts? Email: & please put "La Bajada Mesa Threatened" in the Subject.

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Page Updated Dec. January 17, 2017