New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas earlier this week requesting assistance for New Mexico families affected by the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fires who are seeking financial relief from the federal government. “I write to you regarding the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s current rulemaking under the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act,” the letter dated Dec. 6 states. “I am also very concerned with the lack of progress we have made recovering our environment and cultural heritage for our communities.”
The Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire burned 341,735 acres. The wildfire began as a prescribed fire in April near Las Vegas.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is seeking public comment on the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act interim final rule. The public comment period runs until January 13, 2023. The Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act provides compensation for victims of the fire that the U.S. Forest Service began as a prescribed burn in the Sante Fe National Forest in San Miguel County. This compensation may cover eligible losses, including personal injury, property loss, business loss or financial loss. “FEMA’s Interim Final Rule guides the claims process and describes necessary documentation, evaluation criteria and compensation available for those impacted by the fire and subsequent flooding,” A FEMA news release states.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said during an online press conference on Thursday that the state is in “an extreme crisis” for the respiratory illness that has claimed the lives of over 235,000 nationwide and 1,082 in the state. And she said it is already too late to “prevent the pain that is coming to our first responders and our health care workers,” later this month. During Lujan Grisham’s press conference, state Human Services Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase likened the situation to what happened in Italy in March, when the hospital system in that country was so overwhelmed, hospital workers had to limit care. “We’re preparing institutions for an Italy-like situation over the next couple of weeks,” Scrase said. Lujan Grisham did not declare any new public health orders limiting travel or businesses, saying she wanted more time to look at the data.
Another audit turned in months after it was due reveals the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management still has problems with finances and management—some of which date back years—but is showing some signs of improvement. The 2016 audit was publicly released in late October when State Auditor Tim Keller sent a letter back to the department’s secretary, M. Jay Mitchell. The independent audit reveals 14 significant problems, some of which were also found in previous years’ audits. NM Political Report requested an interview with Mitchell or the department’s Chief Financial Officer, Sarah Peterson. The public information officer could not make either available for an interview, but Mitchell did respond via email.
David Silver thinks about the bad things: floods, fires, nuclear meltdowns, zombie apocalypses. As the city of Santa Fe’s emergency management director, it’s his job and, though that last one might sound goofy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a few years ago created a graphic novel about a zombie pandemic moving across the country. Silver chuckles at the campaign. It was a great way to get people thinking about emergency preparedness, he says. Whether preparing for roving bands of the recently reanimated or a natural or human-caused disaster, the steps are the same: have a communication plan, keep an emergency pack on hand and know who to trust.
It doesn’t take an expert to see that the Rio Grande is swelling over its channel, spreading water into the bosque and nurturing the next generation of cottonwood trees. That overbanking is good for endangered species like the Rio Grande silvery minnow and other more prominent species like cottonwood, said David Gensler, the hydrologist for the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD), which delivers water to farmers and the six pueblos in the valley. “On the other hand, it makes us nervous about the levees,” he said. For more than 40 miles in the Middle Rio Grande Valley, the river is up against its levees. And the Rio Grande is still rising.
An overdue audit from a troubled state agency has finally been released to the public. But it raises nearly as many questions as it was supposed to answer. The New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) submitted its 2015 audit to the Office of the State Auditor (OSA) nearly a year after it was due. The audit, conducted by an independent contractor, was reviewed and then posted on OSA’s website earlier this week. In a letter to DHSEM Secretary M. Jay Mitchell, State Auditor Tim Keller noted that the accountants identified 19 problems, most of which are related to grant management and financial controls.