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District Attorney Urges Lawmakers To Act On Justice Reform, CO River Preservation Underway

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
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Colorado River

District Attorney To New Mexico Lawmakers: You Must Act NowThe Associated Press

The top prosecutor in New Mexico's busiest judicial district is telling legislators that the situation is growing dire and that the state's troubled criminal justice system needs to be reformed urgently.

District Attorney Raul Torrez presented a series of charts outlining crime rates nationally, across New Mexico and in the Albuquerque area. When it came to the rates of auto thefts, property crimes, violent crimes and murder, Albuquerque far outpaced other areas between 2013 and 2016.

Torrez spokes Wednesday to members of a special legislative panel that is studying New Mexico's criminal justice system.

Torrez says the patterns that have developed in recent years indicate New Mexico's most populous area is headed in the wrong direction. He blamed the crime wave, a lack of resources and court rules that mandate how his office must manage its caseload.

US, Mexico Forge Preservation Effort For Colorado RiverThe Associated Press

The U.S. and Mexico are seeking to preserve water supplies to millions of households and farms amid drought and climate change under a conservation agreement for the overused waters of the Colorado River.

Officials with the International Boundary and Water Commission were gathering in Santa Fe on Wednesday to announce new details of the management agreement for the Colorado River.

The agreement calls for the U.S. to invest $31.5 million in conservation improvements in Mexico's water infrastructure to reduce losses to leaks and other problems. Water saved by the improvements would be shared by users in both nations.

The deal calls on Mexico to develop a specific plan for reducing consumption if the river runs too low. River consumers in the U.S. also must devise a shortage plan.

University To Establish Center To Work On Behavioral HealthThe Associated Press

The University of New Mexico will use a $7 million federal grant to establish a new center to develop ways to improve delivery of behavioral health services in areas where services need to be bolstered.

University officials say the research funded by the five-year grant from a branch of the National Institutes of Health will initially focus on populations of Native Americans and immigrant Hispanics in the Southwest.

Associate Professor Lisa Cacari Stone will direct the new center. She says a team of researchers in multiple disciplines will study how historical trauma, adverse childhood experiences and the combined effects of poverty and discrimination affect behavioral health.

Cacari Stone says successful research could help reduce youth suicide, substance abuse and depression in vulnerable populations.

New Mexico Governor Wants Politicians Off Investment CouncilAssociated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez says she supports removing elected officials — including the state governor — from a council overseeing the investment of $21 billion in state funds amid concerns about political donations from investment firms hired by the state.

Martinez announced her support Tuesday for changes to the composition of the New Mexico State Investment Council that would remove any appearance of impropriety when it comes to campaign or political donations from private firms that are paid to invest state money.

Martinez previously vetoed a bill that would have removed her from the investment council while keeping two other elected officials in place — the state treasurer and land commissioner.

The 11-member council oversees an endowment derived from oil and natural gas production that supplements the state budget.

New Mexico Gets $1.1M For Outdoor Recreation ProjectsAssociated Press

More than $1.1 million in federal grants will be distributed to New Mexico for outdoor recreation and conservation projects.

The funding, recently announced by the U.S. Interior Department, comes from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is financed through revenues from offshore oil and natural gas leasing. In all, more than $93 million from the fund is being distributed to all 50 states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.

Members of New Mexico's congressional delegation said Tuesday that the grants help fuel jobs in the state and an outdoor recreation industry that contributes billions of dollars nationwide.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich said the fund in the past has protected places such as Ute Mountain near New Mexico's northern border and Valles Caldera in the Jemez Mountains.

Child Abuse, Neglect Strain New Mexico Protection ProgramAssociated Press

State analysts say New Mexico's child protection system is straining to keep pace with an increase in abuse and neglect cases, despite more public spending.

An analysis published Tuesday by the nonpartisan Legislative Finance Committee shows the protective services program for children in state custody has failed to meet seven out of eight performance goals.

For the fiscal year ending in June, the program missed benchmarks for reunifying children with parents in under a year, the number of children returning to foster care and the speed of adoptions.

The number of children placed in protective care in New Mexico increased by 6 percent to 2,674 during the one-year period ending in June.

The state spends 21 percent more on protective programs for children than it did four years ago.

New Mexico Receives Road Money As Part Of SettlementAssociated Press

New Mexico has received almost $27 million from the U.S. Energy Department as part of a settlement reached over a radiation release that forced a nearly three-year shutdown at the federal government's only underground nuclear waste repository.

State officials and the agency inked the agreement in early 2016 over dozens of permit violations stemming from the mishap at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad two years earlier. At the time, the total $74 million settlement was the largest ever negotiated between a state and the Energy Department. It followed months of negotiations.

Gov. Susana Martinez says the settlement was meant to hold the federal government accountable and she's pleased some of the funds will go toward improving the waste transportation routes that lead to the repository.

US, Mexico Expand Pact On Managing Overused Colorado RiverAssociated Press

The U.S. and Mexico have agreed to expand a far-reaching conservation agreement that governs how they manage the overused Colorado River, which supplies water to millions of people and farms in both nations.

U.S. water district officials say the agreement to be signed Wednesday calls for the United States to invest $31.5 million to improve Mexico's water infrastructure and reduce waste. The water saved would be shared by users in both nations and by environmental projects.

The officials also say Mexico will develop plans for reducing consumption in the event of a river water shortage. That would happen after major U.S. river users finish their own shortage plan.

The International Boundary and Water Commission declined to release a copy of the agreement before Wednesday's signing in New Mexico.

Xcel Seeks Approval For Wind Farms In Texas, New MexicoAssociated Press

Xcel is seeking approval for two new wind farms that would serve customers in eastern New Mexico and West Texas.

Company officials say if regulators approve the wind farms planned for Roosevelt County in New Mexico and Texas' Hale County, wind-generated electricity would end up meeting about 40 percent of the region's annual needs by 2021.

Xcel spokesman Wes Reeves says the company also is seeking to finalize a contract to buy additional wind energy from two facilities being built in Texas.

The company says as more wind power is added to the portfolio, that helps displace the higher cost of generating electricity at older fossil fuel plants. Xcel is estimating that customers could save $2.8 billion over the next three decades as energy production costs are reduced.

Xcel is anticipating regulatory approval next year.

New Special Shapes To Debut At International Balloon FiestaAssociated Press

Organizers of the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta say nearly 100 special shaped hot air balloons have registered for this year's event, including more than a dozen that will be making their first appearance for the festivities.

The fiesta begins Oct. 7 and will continue through the following weekend. It attracts hundreds of pilots from around the world and tens of thousands of spectators.

Organizers say special shaped balloons have held a distinct honor at the fiesta since the premiere of the so-called Special Shape Rodeo in 1989, the first event of its kind devoted exclusively to the special balloons.

This year, the category includes balloons in the shape of a queen's guard from the United Kingdom, a cat and mouse from the U.S. and an armadillo from Brazil.

New Mexico School Seeks Funds For Domenici PapersAssociated Press

The library at New Mexico State University has embarked on a fundraising campaign to support the processing of a massive collection of political papers, photographs, videotapes and other documents from the decades-long career of former U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici.

New Mexico's longest serving senator, Domenici died earlier this month of complications from abdominal surgery. He was 85.

More than 2,000 boxes of Domenici's papers were brought to the university's library in 2007 before his retirement. University officials say the processing of the collection has been ongoing since then to ensure the documents are available to the public for research.

Adrian Bautista, the development officer for NMSU Alumni Relations, says the goal is to raise $13,140 — a dollar for every day Domenici was in office.

The campaign ends Saturday.

New Mexico Authorities To Investigate Livestock Killings Carlsbad Current-Argus, Associated Press

Authorities in southeastern New Mexico are teaming up to investigate a string of livestock killings.

Eddy County Sheriff Mark Cage says his jurisdiction covers more than 5,000 square miles and his deputies can't be everywhere at once so a task force is being formed to help with the problem.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports that several cattle were killed on a local ranch in August, resulting in an estimated $20,000 loss. Several cattle also were shot the previous summer.

Investigators said both instances amounted to extreme animal cruelty and that anyone arrested in connection with the shootings could face felony charges.

Cage has deputized a Bureau of Land Management ranger to help with the case and is working with other local and federal agencies and organizations.