NM Files Counterclaims In Water Fight With Texas, Nuclear Project Draws Criticism

May 23, 2018

New Mexico Files Counterclaims In Water Fight With TexasThe Associated Press

New Mexico is accusing Texas of mismanaging its share of water from the Rio Grande and failing to plan for drought.

The claims were leveled in court documents filed late Tuesday as the states wrangle over management of the river.

Texas took its case to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 in response to a legal challenge by former New Mexico Attorney General Gary King.

Current Attorney General Hector Balderas says he's ready to move ahead with his own legal strategy, saying Texas and the federal government also bear responsibility to ensure the region has a sustainable water future.

New Mexico says it is meeting water delivery requirements. Texas wants the state to stop pumping groundwater along the southern border, arguing that the pumping depletes the aquifer that would otherwise drain back into the river and flow south.

Nuclear Waste Storage Project In New Mexico Draws CriticismThe Associated Press

Critics say the risks are too great in the plan to temporarily store tons of spent fuel from U.S. commercial nuclear reactors in southeastern New Mexico.

Dozens of people voiced opposition during a meeting with federal regulators Tuesday in Albuquerque on the proposal by Holtec International to build the facility in Lea County.

Opponents of the project expressed concern about the safety of transporting the fuel across the country as well as the project's effects on the environment.

Holtec officials say they have confidence in the technology involved in transporting and storing the spent nuclear fuel.

Holtec is seeking a 40-year license for the facility from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The Albuquerque meeting was the fifth held in recent weeks at locations across the state.

Carlsbad Caverns: More Time Needed For Elevator RepairsThe Associated Press

The primary elevators at Carlsbad Caverns National Park will not be working by Memorial Day despite plans to have renovations done ahead of the holiday weekend.

Park officials said Wednesday that completion of the work has been pushed back to June 15. The contractor was working 10-hour days, seven days a week in an effort to finish by May 25 but more time was needed.

The primary elevator system was originally installed in 1955 and went out of service in November 2015 when a motor shaft sheared off. Work to repair and modernize the elevators began last December.

Republican Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Steve Pearce says he's disappointed in the continued delay given the park's role in drawing visitors to southeastern New Mexico.

Federal Agency Closes New Mexico Trail After Hiker's DeathThe Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

The Bureau of Land Management has temporarily closed a northern New Mexico trail after a hiker died in a fall last week.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the federal agency closed the La Junta Trail in the Wild Rivers Recreation Area near the village of Questa to address possible safety concerns.

New Mexico State Police say Owen O'Keefe fell about 200 feet while hiking the trail last Wednesday. The 72-year-old was the caretaker of La Junta Campgrounds.

The steep trail descends about 800 feet into the Rio Grande Gorge.

The bureau says visitors can still access the gorge area by the Little Arsenic Springs Trail.

The bureau did not specify what the potential safety concerns are or when the trail will reopen.

Drought On Tap To Intensify Over US SouthwestThe Associated Press

Rivers are drying up, popular mountain recreation spots are closing and water restrictions are in full swing as a persistent drought intensifies its grip on pockets of the American Southwest.

Climatologists and other experts are scheduled Wednesday to provide an update on the situation in the Four Corners region — where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah meet.

The area is dealing with the worst category of drought.

The head of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation also resumed pressure this week on states in the Southwest to wrap up long-delayed emergency plans for potential shortages on the Colorado River, which serves 40 million people in the U.S. and Mexico.

In New Mexico, stretches of the Rio Grande have gone dry.

Navajo Presidential Race Draws Several Candidates So FarAssociated Press

Navajo President Russell Begaye has joined a handful of others in submitting paperwork for the tribe's top elected post.

Begaye filed late Tuesday but says he's not made a final decision to enter the presidential race.

The race typically is crowded with candidates touting plans to improve the economy, infrastructure and roads, and focus on veterans and the youth.

Emily Ellison, Nicholas Taylor and tribal lawmaker Tom Chee were the first to file.

Ellison works for the University of New Mexico in Gallup. Taylor is an investment adviser from Klagetoh, Arizona.

Former Chief Justice Tom Tso and former vice presidential candidate Dineh Benally also are seeking the post.

The deadline to file is May 30.

The top two vote-getters in the Aug. 28 primary advance to the Nov. 6 general election.

Video Shows Officer Telling Lawmaker He Can Smell AlcoholAssociated Press

A New Mexico state lawmaker insists in video released by police that she hasn't consumed alcohol, but the officer who stops her says he can smell it.

Police on Tuesday released lapel video of the arrest of Republican Rep. Monica Youngblood of Albuquerque on aggravated drunken driving charge. She was detained early Sunday at a DWI checkpoint.

In the video, Youngblood complies with the officer's requests to balance on one leg and count forward and backward. She declines a breathalyzer test.

When the officer asks her education level, she tells him she has a high school diploma and real estate license. She also says she's a state lawmaker.

Later, she says she fights for police every chance she gets.

Police say Youngblood performed badly on a field sobriety test.

Dry Conditions Force Fire Rules On Carson National ForestSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Carson National Forest officials have implemented harsher fire-prevention restrictions ahead of Memorial Day weekend.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the Stage II rules, which take effect at 8 a.m. Wednesday, prohibit forest visitors from lighting or attending campfires, limit smoking to enclosed vehicles or buildings, and ban the use of fireworks.

The restrictions come as conditions throughout the region remain dry.

U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Denise Ottaviano says the forest is in "very high fire danger."

The federal agency says the restrictions "will remain in effect across the forest until conditions allow forest officials to change or lift" them.

Violating the restrictions is punishable by fines of up to $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization. A violator also can be sentenced to up to six months in jail.

Teen Charged In Deadly Library Shooting Undergoes TreatmentEastern New Mexico News, Associated Press

The teenager charged in the Clovis library shooting is receiving mental health evaluations and therapy as attorneys prepare for his trial next year.

The Eastern New Mexico News reports 17-year-old Nathaniel Jouett had a few "behavioral outbursts" while in custody as treatment continues.

Prosecutor Brian Stover told that court at a status conference Monday that the outbursts were anticipated and they're being managed.

Defense attorney Stephen Taylor says it is not clear yet if the trial date will need to be altered.

Jouett is accused of killing two people and injuring four at the Clovis-Carver Public Library in late August.

The Associated Press generally does not identify juveniles accused of crimes. It is identifying Jouett, however, because of the seriousness of the crime and because authorities are seeking adult sanctions.

Opponents Speak Out Against Nuclear Waste PlanAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Opponents of a proposed storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in southeast New Mexico turned out in force Tuesday night for a public meeting in Albuquerque.

The Albuquerque Journal reports more than 100 people attended the meeting, which was the fifth held by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission around the state. Most spoke against the plan.

Holtec International has proposed an interim underground facility that would accept spent fuel from nuclear reactors around the country. Opponents raised concerns about radiation exposure and the safety of transporting the nuclear material across the country. They also questioned why New Mexico is being considered when it has no nuclear power plants.

Holtec officials told the Journal the company’s storage containers are already being used around the country to store spent nuclear fuel. It built a smaller, similar storage facility at a nuclear plant in California.

Holtec is seeking an initial 40-year license, but critics that include members of New Mexico's congressional delegation have concerns that the federal government has no plans for permanent disposal and the waste could end up marooned in the state indefinitely.