As NM’s water boss, D’Antonio is back on the job

This week, John D’Antonio will take the helm at the Office of the State Engineer, the agency that oversees water rights and applications in New Mexico, for the second time. D’Antonio served as State Engineer beginning in 2003, through the administration of Gov. Bill Richardson, and for almost a year under Gov. Susana Martinez. After leaving the state position in 2011, D’Antonio returned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and was named deputy district engineer for the agency’s Albuquerque district. Asked why, at this stage in his career, he’d want to head the state agency again, especially given New Mexico’s water challenges, D’Antonio said he didn’t initially apply for the position. “But as I spoke to the transition team…and noting how much of a challenge we have as a state, I thought it was important to have someone coming back in that could pull a lot of things together,” he said.

Bill would shine a light on state’s water situation

What do ranchers, environmentalists, counties, scientists and state regulators have in common? They all want to know what’s happening with New Mexico’s rivers, springs, aquifers and reservoirs. The Water Data Act, which unanimously passed the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee Thursday morning, would help various agencies organize and share their water data. The bill’s sponsors include Rep. Melanie Stansbury, an Albuquerque Democrat, and Rep. Gail Armstrong, a Republican who lives in Magdalena and represents one of the most rural parts of the state. Rep. Melanie Stansbury

Environment-related bills have been moving through the Roundhouse this year, addressing issues ranging from climate change to renewable energy.

NM Environment Review: snowpack and water edition

All week, we look for stories that help New Mexicans better understand what’s happening with water, climate, energy, landscapes and communities around the region. Thursday morning, that news goes out via email. To subscribe to that weekly email, click here. Here’s some of what subscribers read this week:

Snowpack in the Upper Rio Grande Basin is looking good, at 112 percent of normal. There’s a  caveat, however, said Royce Fontenot, senior service hydrologist at the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, at the monthly drought monitoring working group meeting.

CDC identifies communities to test for PFAS. But none are in New Mexico.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) identified communities in five states, where they plan to test for human exposure to per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Those are the same chemicals that contaminated the groundwater below Cannon and Holloman Air Force bases. PFAS was found within foams used to extinguish petroleum-based fires, and also used in products like non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain-resistant fabrics and other products.  

But New Mexico isn’t on the list of five states where testing will occur.  

Starting this year, ATSDR will test eight communities near military bases, including:

Berkeley County, WV near Shepherd Field Air National Guard BaseEl Paso County, CO near Peterson Air Force BaseFairbanks North Star Borough, AK near Eielson Air Force BaseHampden County, MA near Barnes Air National Guard BaseLubbock County, TX near Reese Technology CenterOrange County, NY near Stewart Air National Guard BaseNew Castle County, DE near New Castle Air National Guard BaseSpokane County, WA near Fairchild Air Force Base

In 2018, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that activities at 126 military bases had contaminated groundwater with PFAS.

NM Environment Review: Water management, water issues + the news

All week, we look for stories that help New Mexicans better understand what’s happening with water, climate, energy, landscapes and communities around the region. Thursday morning, that news goes out via email. To subscribe to that weekly email, click here. Here’s a snippet of what subscribers read this week:

On Monday, NM Political Report published a story looking back at the history of the Office of the State Engineer. Within that story—reported and published prior to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham naming a new state engineer—we noted that in 114 years, 20 men have held that powerful position.

New administration opens up on lead data

In 2017, Reuters published a map on lead poisoning among children across the nation. The story examined where children were tested for lead and how many had high levels of the toxic metal in their blood. At that time, NM Political Report spent months trying to speak directly with experts at the New Mexico Department of Health (DOH) about that exact issue. But Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration wouldn’t allow that. And we never got a complete picture of how state officials were handling childhood lead exposure.

Guv picks D’Antonio to return as state water chief

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham tapped John D’Antonio on Tuesday to serve as state engineer, appointing a water policy veteran to manage what is one of the most valuable and fought-over resources in New Mexico. D’Antonio was state engineer from 2003-11 and most recently worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He takes over his old post amid a high-stakes court case over the Rio Grande and as New Mexico faces the effects of climate change. “Our most precious resource has to be protected and managed in altogether new ways,” Lujan Grisham told reporters in announcing her pick. It is a big job, particularly for a governor who has already sought to make climate change a priority during her first months in office.

Guv’s office close to announcing choice for powerful water position

The search for a new state engineer has been ongoing since the transition team convened in December, but Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has yet to say who will carry out her policy as the state’s top water boss. But Lujan Grisham’s Communications Director Tripp Stelnicki said Friday a candidate is in place and an announcement, forthcoming. “I would say that if it’s not the toughest, it’s absolutely one of the toughest positions across state government to fill simply because of the expertise needed and the level of nuance,” Stelnicki said. Candidates must be registered professional engineers and also have “an understanding of these deeply-entrenched issues that go back decades, centuries—that are even older than the state,” Stelnicki said. The Office of the State Engineer (OSE) administers New Mexico’s water resources, overseeing both surface and groundwater rights.

NM Environment Review: Feds release revised Waters of the US Rule, plus Space Force and angry dairy owners

All week, we look for stories that help New Mexicans better understand what’s happening with water, climate, energy, landscapes and communities around the region. Thursday morning, that news goes out via email. To subscribe to that weekly email, click here. Here’s a snippet of what subscribers read this week:

We’ve got an essay we hope you’ll read this week, “The Wonder of Water.” And as it turns out, early Thursday morning, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released to the Federal Register the official revised definition of the “Waters of the United States.”

• In eastern New Mexico, the owners of Highland Dairy sued the manufacturers of PFAS products that contaminated groundwater below Cannon Air Force Base. According to MyHighPlains.com, the dairy owners “claim they were notified in November that their milk would no longer be purchased” and said prior to that, they sold about 15,000 gallons of milk per day.

The wonder of water

“How’s your day today?” the grocery store cashier asks. “Oh my God,” I can’t stop myself. Even though I know the checker wasn’t expecting anything more than the requisite, “Fine and you?” response. I launch into a hand-waving homage to the day: I just got back from the Sandias, where there’s this little spring, and I learned the coolest thing. Scientists can tell if springs, like that come out of the mountain…they can figure out if that groundwater came from summer monsoons, or from winter snowmelt. Because get this: They study the water’s isotopes.