Xcel Says Solar Eclipse Won't Affect Operations, Shipment To NM Nuke Dump Marks Milestone

Aug 18, 2017

Xcel Energy Says Solar Eclipse Won't Affect Operations – The Associated Press

A big provider of solar energy in Minnesota and other states says next week's solar eclipse will have no impact on its electric service.

Xcel Energy manages more than 1,000 megawatts of solar in Minnesota, Colorado and New Mexico. The three states will see only a partial eclipse on Monday.

Xcel says it is planning for Monday's solar eclipse the same way it does for a storm or cloud cover, but it's actually easier to prepare for the eclipse since the timing is known.

The company simply shifts to other power sources for its needs.

Tennessee Site Marks Milestone With Shipment To US Nuke DumpThe Associated Press

A processing center for radioactive waste in Tennessee has made its first shipment in five years to the federal government's only underground nuclear waste repository, marking another milestone as the U.S. gets its multibillion-dollar cleanup program back on track.

The cleanup of contaminated tools and other debris from decades of nuclear research and bomb-making at sites around the nation was sidelined in 2014 when a radiation release forced the closure of the southern New Mexico repository.

Shipments to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant resumed in April following an expensive recovery effort and a major policy overhaul. Officials warned that the pace to start off would be slow and methodical.

Officials at the repository confirmed Friday they are now receiving between three and four shipments a week, most of them coming from the Idaho National Laboratory.

Accreditor Calls For UNM To Explain Audit Into Sports Funds – Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

University of New Mexico's accreditation agency wants an explanation for why the university is under a special audit by the state Auditor's Office.

The Albuquerque Journal reports State Auditor Tim Keller's office started the audit May 31 amid questions about athletic fundraising and expenses.

Higher Learning Commission coordinator Robert Rucker on Tuesday said the agency has "concerns regarding the university's financial oversight."

Rucker says the audit raised questions about the university's compliance with accreditation criteria. He requested a response by Sept. 14.

The university released a statement saying it "considers a response to this request to be of utmost importance to clarify that the university is financially sound."

The university has acknowledged in the past that it used about $25,000 in public funds to pay booster expenses on a 2015 golf junket in Scotland.

Albuquerque On The Path To Lighting City With LEDsAssociated Press

Officials in New Mexico's largest city say they are on the path to lighting Albuquerque's streets with LED street lights in an effort to save money and protect the night sky from light pollution.

A City Council committee this week approved a project that calls for converting more than 20,000 city-owned lights. The $20 million project still needs approval from the full council.

Mayor Richard Berry says over the last 12 months, the city has been working with a contractor to develop a master plan for lighting.

That included a complete inventory of the city's 32,600 street lights. Each light was inspected, measured for output and then cataloged into a citywide database.

Officials say the conversion to LED lights will be paid for through electrical savings and reduced maintenance costs.

Organizers Set Dates For Annual Gathering Of Nations Powwow  - Associated Press

Organizers of one of North America's most prominent American Indian powwows say they're already gearing up for next year's event.

They are kicking off their promotional campaign for the 2018 Gathering of Nations on Friday with the release of the event's official poster.

The 35th annual event takes place April 26-28 at the state fairgrounds in Albuquerque. The Miss Indian World Talent Competition will be held downtown at the city's convention center.

New for next year will be a parade featuring Native American riders in full regalia. Organizers say the parade is meant to recognize the importance that the horse culture holds for some tribes.

The gathering usually draws tens of thousands of people, including dancers, singers and drummers representing tribes from across the United States, Canada and elsewhere.

Man Who Assaulted Doña Ana County Deputy Gets Prison TermAssociated Press

A Chaparral man has been sentenced to nearly 2 ½ years in prison for assaulting a Doña Ana County Sheriff's deputy in 2015.

Prosecutors say 23-year-old Zachary Cadena was convicted four months ago by a Las Cruces jury of battery upon a peace officer and resisting, evading or obstructing an officer.

They say battery upon a peace officer is a fourth-degree felony while the resisting charge is a misdemeanor.

However, a judge imposed the maximum prison sentence on both counts.

The sheriff's deputy says Cadena resisted arrest when he was trying to handcuff him for disorderly conduct in September 2015.

The deputy was struck several times during the scuffle and had to deploy his stun gun to subdue Cadena.

The incident was partially captured on video from the deputy's vehicle.

New Mexico Governor Travels To Mexico Border On BusinessAssociated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is traveling to the Mexican state of Sonora for discussions with officials there about economic development and public safety.

The governor's office announced Thursday that Martinez is traveling to Hermosillo to attend a meeting of a commission that facilitates collaboration between New Mexico and Sonora on economic and law enforcement matters.

New Mexico's Republican governor also plans to meet during her travels in Mexico with Chihuahua state Gov. Javier Corral Jurado, a former journalist and member of the conservative National Action Party.

Martinez is scheduled to return Monday from a trip paid for by the state of New Mexico.

New Mexico's border with Mexico is one focus of efforts by President Donald Trump to extend border walls to restrict immigration.

New Mexico Pension Managers Contemplate Benefit ReformsAssociated Press

Managers of New Mexico's two major public pension funds say a recent surge in investment earnings will not be enough to address an accumulation of unfunded financial obligations to retirees.

Jan Goodwin, executive director of the New Mexico Educational Retirement Board, told a panel of lawmakers on Thursday that changes to pension benefits and contributions are under consideration to address $7.4 billion in unfunded liabilities.

She said reforms may be proposed ahead of the 2019 legislative session to ensure that enough money is available to pay public school and college employees as they retire.

Double-digit annual investment returns have boosted assets at the state's two public pension funds to record levels and shortened the timeline somewhat for addressing billions of dollars in unfunded obligations to current and future retirees.

Authorities: San Juan County Man Dies From West Nile VirusAssociated Press

A 61-year-old San Juan County man has died from the West Nile virus.

New Mexico Department of Health officials say it is the state's first known West Nile death this year.

They also say four Bernalillo County residents have tested positive for the virus and have been hospitalized.

That brings the total number of lab confirmed cases of West Nile in New Mexico this year to seven.

The four recent cases in Bernalillo County include a 65-year-old woman currently hospitalized as well as a 57-year-old man, a 60-year-old man, and a 75-year-old man.

Health officials say all four have been treated and recently released from hospitals.

West Nile virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and can sometimes be fatal.

New Mexico had six West Nile cases last year and one death.

Army Colonel Suspended From Command Of Unit After DWI ArrestEl Paso Times, Associated Press

An Army colonel has been temporarily suspended from command of a unit stationed in Texas after she was arrested in southern New Mexico and accused of driving while under the influence.

The El Paso Times reports that Col. Shana Peck was arrested Aug. 11 after allegedly driving off a road near an intersection in New Mexico's Otero County.

The 49-year-old Peck is commander of the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade stationed at Fort Bliss, part of which extends across the state line into Otero County.

Peck was released from jail after pleading not guilty Monday.

She didn't immediately return a call seeking comment on the allegations. It could not be determined whether she has an attorney who could comment on her behalf.

New Mexico Well Authority Seeking Federal FundingCarlsbad Current-Argus, Associated Press

Local and state officials are considering applying for federal funding to repair a New Mexico well.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports repairing the I&W Brine Well would prevent a collapse and $1 billion in damages to local infrastructure.

Eddy County Commissioner Stella Davis, who sits on the well authority's finance working group, says state funds for the $25 million remediation efforts were being researched, but federal funding could be the answer.

Davis says members of the authority are planning a trip to Washington, D.C. next month to meet with U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt to attempt to identify available funds.

University Of New Mexico Joins Craft Beer RushAssociated Press

The University of New Mexico is now joining the craft beer craze.

Officials with the athletics department announced Thursday morning that the university has partnered with Kellys Brew Pub to release "Lobo Red." The ale will be packaged in red cans featuring the official Lobos logo.

New Mexico State University had already announced its ale, "Pistol Pete's 88."

The schools are among a handful of universities and colleges in the U.S. to reach branding deals involving alcoholic beverages as fundraising becomes more challenging and as lawmakers cut state financing from their higher education budgets.

Turkey Bones May Help Trace Fate Of Ancient Cliff Dwellers - By Dan Elliott, Associated Press

Archaeologists say DNA from ancient bones of domesticated turkeys provides a clue into the mysterious exodus of cliff dwellers from southwestern Colorado 700 years ago.

A paper in the journal PLoS One says the DNA shows the cliff dwellers raised turkeys similar to turkeys raised by ancient people in northern New Mexico.

The paper, co-authored by University of Colorado archaeologist Scott Ortman, says that kind of turkey became more common in New Mexico about the time the Colorado dwellings were emptied.

He says that supports the hypothesis that the cliff dwellers migrated to New Mexico during a late 1200s drought.

The researchers believe Native Americans there today are the cliff dwellers' descendants.

Some archaeologists question that explanation. Ortman acknowledges the turkey DNA alone isn't conclusive.