State to open COVID-19 alternative care facility in Gallup

As COVID-19 cases in McKinley County continue to skyrocket, the state announced that its alternative care facility in Gallup will accept its first patients on Saturday. The facility, in a converted high school gymnasium, will be able to handle 60 patients. As of the numbers on Thursday, the state has found 573 cases in McKinley County, the second-most in the state, only behind Bernalillo County which has nearly ten times the population of the largely rural western New Mexico county. According to the Albuquerque Journal, this translates to 777.86 infections per 100,000 residents. The Navajo Nation, which includes portions of McKinley County, is one of the hardest-hit parts of the country when it comes to COVID-19 infections.

Out of state workers for border construction not subject to Governor’s self-quarantine order

Residents in the tiny town of Columbus, New Mexico, along the U.S.-Mexico border, raised the alarm about a border wall construction contractor that seemed to be preparing to move in workers from outside the area. Locals are concerned that out-of-state workers may inadvertently spread COVID-19 to residents. State officials are also concerned about out-of-state travelers entering New Mexico. Last month, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a stay-at-home order for residents and called for those who traveled to the state by air to self-quarantine for 14 days upon entering the state. 

But the order does not apply to federal workers or contractors working on federal projects, which includes border wall construction, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

The appearance of the housing project in Columbus, referred to as a “man camp” by some, sparked concerns among residents that Galveston, Texas based construction firm SLS Co, which was awarded a contract to construct nearly 50 miles of border wall near the Columbus Port of Entry, was preparing to move in more workers, possibly from out of state, to continue construction on the border wall in southwestern New Mexico’s bootheel. “They set up these man camps, they’re like FEMA trailers.

Border agency set to jumpstart Trump’s wall in a Texas wildlife refuge

U.S. Customs and Border Protection will begin constructing the first segment of President Trump’s border wall in November through a national wildlife refuge, using money it’s already received from Congress. That’s what a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official recently told a nonprofit group that raises money to support two national wildlife refuges in South Texas, according to the group’s vice president. “I was alarmed,” said Jim Chapman of Friends of the Wildlife Corridor. “It was not good news.” For the past six months, CBP has been quietly preparing a site to build a nearly 3-mile border barrier through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, according to The Texas Observer.

Rio Grande still running high, officials keep an eye on levees

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.

Heinrich, Udall praise Obama admin Standing Rock decision

Both U.S. Senators from New Mexico were quick to react to the Sunday news that President Obama’s administration would not approve an easement that would allow the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline to move forward in its current proposed route. The Standing Rock Sioux Nation said while the proposed path did not cross their land, it would have brought the oil pipeline too close to the tribe’s lone source of water. The fight over placement of the pipeline led to members of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and other supporters holding high-profile protests for months. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall praised the decision, which requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to consider alternate routes for this portion of the pipeline.

Heinrich concerned over violence against Standing Rock protesters

For the second time this month, a U.S. Senator from New Mexico addressed President Barack Obama regarding the growing contention in Standing Rock, North Dakota over an oil pipeline. This time Sen. Martin Heinrich criticized the Obama administration for allowing federal officials to close down the protesters’ campsite and asked that the federal government deescalate the situation. Related: Heinrich calls on Obama to move Dakota Access Pipeline

“In particular, I question the decision to close the area to demonstrators on December 5, 2016,” Heinrich wrote in a letter to the president Wednesday. “This arbitrary date is certain to escalate an already volatile situation and I would urge you to overturn this decision by the Corps of Engineers.”

Heinrich praised Obama for halting the controversial pipeline project after the senator raised his concerns for the safety of protesters earlier this year, but said he is still worried about the situation getting worse. “The brutality we’ve seen in recent days involving rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons, has increasingly put the health and lives of the demonstrators at real risk,” Heinrich wrote.

Heinrich calls on Obama to move Dakota Access Pipeline

On Thanksgiving, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich called on President Barack Obama to reroute the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline and condemned the response by police to protests. Native Americans and others have protested pipeline over recent weeks over a fear that it would imperil the Standing Rock Sioux Nation’s only water source. The pipeline’s path was already moved once, from near Bismarck. Part of the reason was the risk to the city’s water supply. Update: Heinrich concerned over violence against Standing Rock protesters

“Today is Thanksgiving and I cannot help but reflect on our history in these United States and how often it has not lived up to the rosy picture of Pilgrims and Indians sharing a meal in friendly company that I saw in textbooks as a child,” Heinrich said in a statement.

Obama admin finalizes sweeping water protection rule

The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finalized a rule that environmental groups say restores protections to streams and headwaters while Republicans called it another example of President Barack Obama’s executive overreach. Obama said that the action will help protect streams, lakes and other smaller bodies of water with connections to rivers and larger bodies of water that are already covered by the Clean Water Act. “This rule will provide the clarity and certainty businesses and industry need about which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act, and it will ensure polluters who knowingly threaten our waters can be held accountable,” Obama said in a statement released on Tuesday. “My Administration has made historic commitments to clean water, from restoring iconic watersheds like the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes to preserving more than a thousand miles of rivers and other waters for future generations,” he continued. Essentially the Waters of the United States rule, as it is known, formalizes what the Clean Water Act means for “navigable waters.”