The Colorado River supplies water for more than 36 million people in two countries and seven states, including New Mexico. As river flows and reservoir levels decline due to drought, warming and over-demand, states are wrangling over how to voluntarily conserve water use—before reservoir levels reach critically low levels and trigger mandatory cutbacks. New Mexico is one of the states most vulnerable to the impacts climate change is wreaking on the river. Yet, it’s unclear what the state is doing when it comes to drought management in the state and basin-wide negotiations on the Colorado. The seven states subject to the Colorado River Compact are divided into Upper Basin states—Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah—and Lower Basin states—Arizona, Nevada and California.
Earlier this month, a trickle of water started flowing back into the Rio Grande near the Pueblo of Isleta. It wasn’t runoff from a thunderstorm or storm drain. Rather, it was part of a deal between Audubon New Mexico, local municipalities and The Club at Las Companas to put water in the river for the benefit of the environment. After a poor snow season in the mountains, the Middle Rio Grande started drying in early April, when it should have been running high with snowmelt. As of Thursday, about 30 miles are dry south of Socorro and another mile is dry where the river flows through Isleta. The Rio Grande will never be what it once was decades, nevermind centuries, ago.
Beneath the gnarled limbs of a sprawling cottonwood tree at the edge of his South Valley farm, Lorenzo Candelaria settles into a circle of lawn chairs. He’s surrounded by staffers from Project Feed the Hood, including Travis McKenzie, Stefany Olivas, Luzero Velasquez and a few student interns. There’s also nine-year old Trayvon, who hops into the (empty) roasting pit, samples blackberries, catches (and frees) a tiny toad and peppers Candelaria with questions about his beehives. “This is the Cottonwood Clinic,” says McKenzie. He’s the co-founder of Project Feed the Hood, which connects communities with healthy food and young people with the land—and a paycheck.
As high winds whipped dust, Siberian elm seeds and recycling bins around Albuquerque Thursday afternoon, dozens of people filed into the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Albuquerque office to hear the agency’s 2018 forecast for water operations on the Rio Grande. “I’ll be the bearer of bad news,” said Reclamation’s Albuquerque Area Manager Jennifer Faler. “This is the most extreme shift we’ve had from one operating plan meeting to another.”
Last year at this time, snowmelt was pouring down the river, flooding riparian restoration projects, filling out farm fields and even pressing against levees. This year, the lack of snowpack throughout the watershed’s mountain ranges has left the Rio Grande low and slow—and dry for 14 miles south of Socorro. Currently, the river is dry through the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.
Possession of small amounts of cannabis is no longer a criminal offense under Albuquerque city code. Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller signed city council legislation Thursday making cannabis possession a civil infraction. City councilors approved the measure earlier this month on a 5-4 vote. In a statement, Keller said the new ordinance will allow city police officers to focus on combating other crimes. “We’re facing real challenges in Albuquerque and this is a step in the right direction to allow our officers the flexibility to better prioritize their time tackling violent crime and property crime in our city,” Keller said.
On Sunday morning, with snow in the Sandias and temperatures in the 30s, thousands of people converged on Civic Plaza in Albuquerque for the Women’s March. The crowd may have been smaller than in January 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, but it was no less defiant of the president’s policies. Speakers called out in support of the #MeToo movement and equality for LGBTQ communities. They rallied to fight racism and economic inequality and reaffirmed the rights of Indigenous women. Many spoke about the pervasive nationwide fear that DREAMers, who had been protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, will be deported.
I hope readers had a restful break from work, school and yes, media, too. To help catch you up on environment news around New Mexico, I have a few links to share. In December, PNM closed two units at its San Juan Generating Station. Now, the utility wants legislative approval to address how it will recover the money it spent on the plant. According to an AP story by Susan Montoya Bryan:
The utility closed two units at the plant in December as part of an agreement to curb haze-causing pollution in the Four Corners region.
ALBUQUERQUE – With cuts and bruises on his face, back and shoulders, Jerome Eskeets frantically told police about the violent assault he barely survived the night before. In his 30s, Eskeets had been sleeping in an empty lot on Albuquerque’s west side with friends and relations, Allison Gorman and Kee Thompson, who like Eskeets were Dine’, as members of the Navajo Nation call themselves. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth. Soon after talking to Eskeets, police found Gorman’s and Thompson’s bludgeoned bodies. The 2014 crime shocked Albuquerque, the state and occasionally made national news as the cases against the three defendants eventually arrested in the brutal killings — youths Alex Rios, Nathaniel Carrillo and Gilbert Tafoya — worked their way through the court system.
Two polls are out on Albuquerque’s mayoral race. And it looks like there will be a runoff, with State Auditor Tim Keller running in the lead. If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote, voters will then decide between the top two candidates in a November runoff election. The first round of voting takes place on October 3. A KRQE-TV poll released earlier this week showed 22 percent of registered voters would support Keller in next month’s mayoral election.
The Trump administration announced Tuesday the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Anticipating a repeal, walk-outs were scheduled and high schools and colleges around the state. Thousands of students walked out of classrooms, and in Albuquerque people of many ages showed up on Civic Plaza. At Highland High School in the southeast part of Albuquerque, about one hundred students left classes and walked to Central Avenue. Later in the day, several hundred people marched on Civic Plaza and watched indigenous dances and heard from people who would be directly affected by the DACA repeal.