Officials Open To Limiting Leases Near Chaco, State Engineer Warns Of Dam Risks After Wet Winter

Jun 5, 2019

US Land Managers Shift Position On Chaco Protection BillAssociated Press

U.S. land managers are open to legislation that would limit federal leases for oil and natural gas development near a national park in New Mexico held sacred by Native Americans.

Bureau of Land Management Deputy Director of Operations Michael Nedd told members of a congressional subcommittee Wednesday that the agency had no objection to the bill.

The agency shifted its stance following a recent visit by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

Bernhardt said the agency will defer leases within 10 miles of the park over the next year while regulators prepare a new management plan for the region's resources.

Bernalillo Police Officers Involved In A Fatal ShootingAssociated Press

New Mexico State Police say they are investigating a fatal shooting involving police officers from the town of Bernalillo.

They say Bernalillo police were dispatched about a shots-fired call at an apartment around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

When officers arrived, they reported seeing a man with a gun.

He was later identified as 28-year-old Fabian Rivera of Bernalillo.

Two Bernalillo police officers fired shots at Rivera, who was transported to a trauma center where he was pronounced dead.

State Police say details about the incident including what led up to the shooting is under investigation.

12 Firefighters Injured In Fireworks Explosion In New MexicoAssociated Press

A dozen firefighters were injured in an explosion at a fireworks storage area in eastern New Mexico.

State police and officials with the city of Roswell say the blast happened around noon Wednesday at the Roswell International Air Center as firefighters were boxing fireworks for an upcoming Fourth of July show.

Police say two of the firefighters suffered critical injuries and were taken via air ambulance to a trauma center. The others were treated at the scene for minor injuries.

Authorities do not know what caused the blast.

Federal and local authorities are assisting state police in the investigation. The state fire marshal also was en route to the scene.

Images from the scene showed a black plume of smoke rising from the area. Crews continued to work hotspots Wednesday afternoon.

2 Firefighters Injured In Fireworks Explosion In RoswellAssociated Press

New Mexico State Police say a fireworks explosion has critically injured at least two firefighters south of Roswell.

City officials say the explosion occurred around noon Wednesday in a fireworks storage area on the west side of the Roswell International Air Center.

State Police say firefighters were packing fireworks for the Fourth of July when the explosion occurred.

They say two firefighters were taken to a hospital.

It's unclear what caused the explosion and authorities say it took about 20 minutes to get the fire under control.

Authorities Accuse Teen Of Peddling Drugs, Guns On SnapchatAssociated Press

Authorities say they have arrested a New Mexico teenager accused of using social media to peddle fentanyl, assault weapons and other firearms.

Bernalillo District Attorney Raul Torrez on Wednesday announced the 17-year-old's arrest. Authorities said it came after a multi-agency investigation that involved the FBI and state police.

The teen is expected to make an appearance Thursday in Children's Court on drug-related charges and unlawful possession of a firearm. The Associated Press is not naming the teen because of his age.

An FBI search warrant showed the teen was arrested early Tuesday morning at a house in southwest Albuquerque.

FBI and state police agents' list of items seized included 60 tablets they suspected to be the powerful opioid fentanyl and a loaded AR-15 pistol with a 30-round magazine.

Record Number Of Migrant Families Detained At Border In MayAssociated Press

The Border Patrol says a new record was set in May for the number of migrant families apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Agents apprehended 132,887 people in May, the largest figure in more than a decade. It set a record with 84,542 adults and children apprehended. Another 11,507 people were children traveling alone, and 36,838 were single adults.

Border Patrol officials warned on Wednesday they didn't have the money or facilities to care for the surge in migration.

Most families are from Central America and expected to request asylum. Photos of families waiting in jam-packed cells and in outdoor enclosures have sparked outrage. Six children have died after being detained in the last year.

Officials said they don't expect a traditional decline in migration due to hotter summer weather this year.

English Classes, Legal Services Cut For Immigrant Kids – Associated Press

The government has stopped reimbursing some contracted shelters for the cost of teaching immigrant children English-language courses and providing legal services and recreational activities.

The Health and Human Services department notified shelters around the country last week that it was not going to reimburse them for teachers' pay or other costs. The move appears to violate a legal settlement known as the Flores agreement that mandates how the government must treat immigrant children in its care.

But the agency says it doesn't have the funding to provide those services as it deals with a soaring number of children in its care.

The Border Patrol says over 56,200 children without a parent have crossed the border since October, including 11,500 just last month.

HHS is seeking nearly $3 million in emergency funding to cover more beds and provide basic care.

Fugitive Mistakenly Released After Capture In New MexicoAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Authorities say an escaped Arkansas inmate who was arrested in New Mexico is on the lam again after he was mistakenly released.

State police say 47-year-old Geronimo Espericueta had not yet been detained Wednesday after a Doña Ana County magistrate judge released him a day earlier.  State Police spokesman Dusty Francisco tells the Albuquerque Journal that Espericueta was released because an officer put his paperwork in the wrong box, which sent it to the wrong judge.

Authorities say Espericueta and another inmate escaped from a Little Rock jail last week by apparently crawling through a bathroom ceiling. They were captured in southern New Mexico.

Espericueta was being held on drug charges in Arkansas before he escaped. The other inmate — 31-year-old Jason Michael Brown — was being held on robbery, burglary and theft charges.

New Mexico Engineer Warns Of Dam Risks After Wet WinterSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

New Mexico's engineer says dams are at risk of overflowing or bursting following the wet winter and strong spring runoff.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports state engineer John D'Antonio told lawmakers Tuesday that one or more of the approximately 300 dams in the state could have problems that could lead to flooding.

D'Antonio says 170 dams are considered "high hazard," meaning a failure at one of these dams would likely result in at least one death.

He says 33% of these dams are in satisfactory shape and 30% are in poor or unsatisfactory condition.

He says the state is working to repair some of the most at-risk dams, but there is not a state fund dedicated to address the problem.

Tests Show Elevated Lead Levels At Some Albuquerque SchoolsAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Testing results show elevated levels of lead were found in some fountains and sinks at Albuquerque elementary schools.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Wednesday that Albuquerque Public Schools started receiving test results last month after submitting water samples from 69 schools to state agencies beginning in April.

District Chief Operations Officer Scott Elder said about 5% of the more than 800 sinks and water fountains tested were above the federal threshold for lead.

He says the district replaced the faucets or fixtures where high lead was found. The district is waiting for results after retesting these sites.

Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority spokesman David Morris says the lead problem is with the school fixtures and not the water supply.

The 69 schools tested were built before 1990.

Report Finds Black and Latino Populations At Risk Of Undercount In 2020 Census By Mike Schneider, Associated Press

With the 2020 census count less than a year away, a new report says minority populations and small children are especially vulnerable to being undercounted.

The report released Tuesday by the Urban Institute says anywhere from 900,000 to 4 million people living in the U.S. could be undercounted, with Black and Hispanic communities, and children younger than 5, most likely to be overlooked.

States most at risk include New Mexico, Florida, California, Georgia, New York, Nevada and Texas.

Power and money are at stake because the 2020 census determines the allocation of more than $675 billion in federal spending. The once-in-a-decade count also will determine which states gain or lose U.S. congressional seats.

The prospect of a citizenship question could further chill people's willingness to be counted. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently weighing its constitutionality.

Experts: New Mexico Is Enjoying Bounty Of Wet Winter - Associated Press

Temperatures have been cooler than average and more precipitation over the last several months have combined to reverse New Mexico's fortunes when it comes to drought.

State climatologist Dave DuBois and New Mexico's top water manager, State Engineer John D'Antonio, testified Tuesday before lawmakers on the status of the drought and reservoir levels.

DuBois described it as "a total flip of the coin" from last year, when dismal snowpack resulted in low flows along the Rio Grande and deepening drought around the state.

Now, he said nearly all of the state's river basins are reporting precipitation levels well over 100% of average.

The extra moisture means New Mexico is again storing water in upstream reservoirs on the Rio Grande, but officials still have concerns about the ongoing legal battle with Texas over management of the river.

New Mexico City Gets State Funding For Migrant Aid - Associated Press

The city of Las Cruces has been awarded a $250,000 grant from the state to offset costs that the border city has incurred as it provides temporary shelter and food for migrants.

About 8,200 migrants have been brought to Las Cruces since mid-April as shelters in El Paso, Texas, have been overwhelmed by the surge of asylum seekers.

The funding awarded to Las Cruces is a one-time allotment provided through a grant from New Mexico's homeland security agency.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the grant program in May, saying it would help reimburse local government agencies that are providing humanitarian aid.

State lawmakers recently set aside $2.5 million for border security, but the governor's office did not specify how much money is available as part of the grant program.

3rd Trial Delayed For Ex-Santa Fe Deputy In Fatal Shooting - KVIA-TV, Associated Press

A third trial for a former Santa Fe County sheriff's deputy accused in the 2014 shooting death of a fellow deputy has been postponed.

KVIA-TV in El Paso, Texas, reports the New Mexico Third District Court District Attorney's office says scheduling issues for witnesses were the primary reason for the delay.

The voluntary manslaughter trial against Tai Chan was originally slated to begin June 24 in Las Cruces.

Chan has been tried twice on a first-degree murder charge in the death of Santa Fe County Sheriff's Deputy Jeremy Martin. Both of those ended in mistrials.

He is accused of shooting Martin in the back as Martin fled during an argument at the hotel where they had stopped on a trip to transport a prisoner to Arizona.

Chan has claimed self-defense.

Court Rejects Coal Company's Chemical Claim For Tax Refund - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The New Mexico Court of Appeals has rejected a tax protest from a coal company that sought a more than $6.4 million refund by claiming its coal was a chemical.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the court last week upheld the hearing officer's decision against Delaware-based Peabody Coalsales Co.

The company sought the refund in 2015 under a 1966 state tax deduction that allows companies to be reimbursed for receipts from selling chemicals.

The state Taxation and Revenue Department disputed the claim. An administrative hearing officer ruled that coal sales were not intended to be covered by this tax incentive.

Attorneys for Peabody did not respond to the newspaper's questions Monday.

The state Legislature this year approved a bill that tightens the tax deduction's language.