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Health Risks of Dust Storms in Doña Ana and Luna Counties

March 30, 2015 Non-Local News Releases
Santa Fe – Officials at the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), the cities of Las Cruces and Deming, and at Luna and Doña Ana and Counties advise citizens of Doña Ana and Luna Counties of the potential risks associated with dust storms. A combination of weather conditions, features of the natural environment, and human activity can contribute to high levels of windblown dust, or dust…

GRMC Board of Trustees hears mixed news on finances

By Mary Alice Murphy

At the Gila Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees meeting on Friday, March 27, one of the first items of business is often to recognize long-serving employees of the hospital. Karla Hall received recognition for her 15 years in health information management.

Reports began with that of the Chief Executive Officer Brian Cunningham, who announced the resignation "for personal reasons" of Omaira Heakin from her position as chief executive officer for the past ten months. A search for a new CFO began immediately. Read more...

The Farm Bureau holds monthly meeting and hears from law enforcement personnel

By Mary Alice Murphy

The first announcement of the Thursday evening Farm Bureau meeting on March 26, came from retired teacher, Martha Stewart, talking about the program being developed for teachers in the Silver Schools elementary classes, including answer keys for the teachers.

Farm Bureau volunteers will help with a planting unit at Stout Elementary School for Mother's Day. The organization will supply the watermelon and sunflower seeds for the students to take home with them.

Also under discussion was a sunflower growing contest for the tallest plant and largest flower. Also being considered is a pumpkin contest for ages 12 and under, with the pumpkins being judged at the Grant County Fair.

Stewart Rooks, president, said the group's food link is working with grocery stores to help adults know about how food gets to their plate.

An assistant coach of the Western New Mexico University football team entered the room and announced the April 25 annual clean up day. "Members of the team help anyone who needs help with moving trash and cleaning up yards that day. " Call Coach Adam Clark for more information.

Rooks said Farm Bureau scholarship applications had been delivered to the schools.

"I talked to Clay Allred, and he said the area is not doing as good at controlling trichomoniasis in cattle in the area. Catron County has had 8 out of 10 tests positive," Rooks said. "Buddy Eby got the idea last year to have meetings in Silver City, Reserve and Cliff. We had a good attendance. It's good to get the information out. Ranches bordering those with positive tests are required to test their cattle."

Eby said bringing in cattle from out-of-state without a permit and health certificate is illegal. "We need to educate people. For instance, if you loan a bull to a neighbor, it should have a trich test before you bring it back into your herd."

A member of the audience said ranchers should ride the fences and keep the wire tight to prevent cattle from other ranches getting through.

Rooks also said the Clean Water Act is wanting to redefine its definitions. "The Environmental Protection Administration is trying to expand the water they control. They are trying to take navigable out of the definition. They want to control where water has ever run or where water gathers naturally—every dry creek bed and every crevice. It doesn't matter if it's public or private property. If you disturb that water, you have to file for an EPA 404 permit. If you violate, it costs you $37,000 per day per offense. This affects everybody in the U.S. The bar ditch in front of your house, you're liable. It will dribble down to the consumers, who will pay for the costs, and property owners will lose control of their private property."

Scott Terry, Silver City resident, noted that a retention pond would require a permit, and the EPA might not let you do anything to it.

"We have to pay attention, get loud and stay loud to keep it from getting passed," Rooks said.

Eby noted the new State Engineer is supposed to visit the area to discuss the metering process. "Basically, the OSE wants a meter at the head of a ditch. We think the water should be measured at the first turnout. Conveyance is different on a dirt ditch from a concrete one. If you meter only at the head, how do you know how much each user uses? It will cause a fight among users."

An audience member said the OSE asked for keys to his property. "I told them they could have access to my property, but not keys. As law enforcement has to have a reason to go on my property, except to render aid, I think the statute is unconstitutional to give them access to my property."

Benjamin Segovia, New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau regional director out of Las Cruces, gave a report on membership. "Let me know your county's needs. I can gather information. I'm here to serve you. It's great to see you invite law enforcement to the meeting."

He said on national issues, the American Farm Bureau Federation is addressing U.S. agricultural labor needs. Water has also been discussed. "The AFBF wants to give freedom to growers to decide whether to grow genetically modified-organism or biotech seeds," Segovia said. "The Endangered Species Act has created trouble for everyone. Preserving wildlife is good. It's the rules that cause the problems for producers. The annual Agriculture in the Classroom Conference will take place in Phoenix this year. It would be good for you to attend."

He said efforts at this year's legislative session were not productive. "Exercise your voting rights. We had three individuals working at the session, but it was hard to predict when a bill would be heard. They had to stay of top of everything. We ask you to call your representatives and let them know where you stand on issues."

Segovia said the Gila National Forest Plan was undergoing revision. "I hope the Forest Service is working to make trust better. Producers have the opportunity to voice what needs to be changed." He announced the state leadership program would take place April 29 in Socorro. In outreach, he attended the New Mexico Organic Conference, which is the largest conference in the state, with more than 800 attending.

Rooks invited the law enforcement guests to give members an update and to open lines of communication in case of concerns.

Grant County Undersheriff Kevin Flamm said the community is having a lot of issues with burglary and larceny, as well as drug use. "You are our eyes and ears. Call us. Some people think little things are not important. For instance, you lose your rake, and next door they lose a riding lawn mower. In Indian Hills, people don't lock their vehicles, and now criminals are breaking out windows. We have to catch them."

An audience member asked if camera systems help to which Flamm replied: "Camera systems help a lot. Call us if you hear a car alarm, for instance. We can't be everywhere."

Rooks said he had heard the Truck Bypass would be under construction at the same time as the Hudson Street Bridge being replaced.

"You were given erroneous information," Flamm said. "Trucks have to use the Bypass to get back around to town. Likely Cooper Street will be the choice for cars. God forbid we have any bad accidents."

Rooks suggested keeping the weeds on the sides of the roads mowed.

Terry said the Bypass Road would be repaved after the Hudson Street Bridge is replaced, because of the wear and tear it would take as the official detour.

Gerald Schultz said the Bypass was the only detour the NM Department of Transportation was taking responsibility for. "They are backing off from responsibility for Cooper."

Flamm said the NMDOT was trying to divert all traffic to the Bypass Road. The NMDOT removed the stop sign on Broadway, with a yield and yields on Cooper. He cautioned people to be careful, because drivers do not stop.

Orlando Valles, Gila National Forest law enforcement officer, said he covers anything on the Gila. "Right now, people need fire awareness. The fuel moisture levels are low and prone to fire. When I'm on patrol, I come across irresponsible users, who don't put fires out entirely. An ember can travel a long way. Be responsible with fires."

He said he is also seeing resource damage with user-created roads and trails, a lot by woodcutters. The damage also lends itself to sanitation issues, with littering and dumping. "I see residential and construction debris. We're stretched thin, so it takes away from my being proactive. There is some illegal woodcutting. It's good to reduce dead wood, but it's harmful, when they knock down illegal trees. No green cutting of alligator juniper or standing oak is allowed. If you see anything, give us a call."

Rooks asked what Valles sees in the way of pot growth.

"We are not seeing large, organized pot growing, but we do see personal use gardens," Valles said. "They are still illegal and are taking away public use of the land. We do a lot of interagency networking to keep a handle on things."

Schultz asked what enforcement is done with grazing allotments.

"We have dealt with trespass issues," Valles replied. "People bring livestock out of allotments or they are overgrazing, but they are few and far between."

Eby said a rancher had a cow shot on LS Mesa, and cattle were stolen in the Deming area. "We also have a big locoweed problem this year. We need to educate people on how to identify it and the dangers of locoweed. We need especially to educate horse owners. Locoweed can be fatal to horses that eat it."

The man whose cow was shot said he had talked to the law enforcement officials since the issue arose. "We had two dead cows. One was definitely shot. It was a tough loss for us. They get to be our pets."

Another audience member asked about blister beetle problems. Eby said he had had personal problems last year and the year before with the beetles. "They get in the hay. You cut it and bale it and it will kill horses if they eat it. The beetles will eat your garden, and will eat all the leaves off alfalfa."

Rooks asked if there were any way to deter livestock getting shot. "Beer and guns are usually involved. Farmers and ranchers have their things scattered out. Solar cameras work pretty well. Some have cell service and put it through Wi-Fi to storage. Could we get a grant to sign up for cameras and couple it with bold metal signs? How about remote visual surveillance? Is there any grant money that could help?"

Valles noted that another element in all these problems is that the charge can be brought to the District Attorney's office, but "we have to realize if we catch them once, we will see them again. It's one thing to make evidence and a case, but it has to stick in court. We can only present the case."

Rooks noted the camera surveillance could be used only on private property, not on state or federal property.

Flamm said the Sheriff's Office has cameras it can loan, but they can get stolen. "There are grants for all kinds of things, but you have to get it through the process and get the money. You have to meet all the obligations, if you apply online."

The undersheriff also said cameras and signs can be deterrents, but if a person wants something, they'll get it.

John York said the Farm Bureau was looking for a closer working relationship with law enforcement.

Eby said if a crime occurs, he would like someone to let the neighborhood know.

Valles pointed out the agencies work together in the area, which "is kind of unique. We're like one big law enforcement agent. You don't always find the level of cooperation we have here."

Rooks said the Farm Bureau would also like to meet with a Border Patrol agent, and the group's main focus is agriculture.

Eby said he has participated in the annual law enforcement exercises in Socorro and would like to determine how they can all work together.

"We do use the media to get information out," Flamm said. "But a lot of people don't read a paper or listen to the radio."

Rooks encouraged people to notify their neighbors in case of crime. Discussion was held on having a representative in each area to notify others.

Schultz asked whether when someone calls in about a crime or suspicious activity, if that person can remain anonymous.

Flamm explained that the reason for requesting a name and number is so if a deputy cannot find anything, he can call the person back. "Ask that the dispatcher not call the officer over the radio, so scanners don't hear it."

Terry said he worked with CrimeStoppers for nine years, using social media to get the word out and to make things happen.

"We don't ever want any citizen put in harm's way," Flamm said. "Leave the event to us. I love Neighborhood Watch, because those residents are paying attention."

NM Forestry Wildland Fire Information-Salado- all resources released from fire-032915 6:30 pm

Fire Information

Situation: All resources have been released from the fire.


Incident Name: Salado

Start Date & Time: 3/26/2015 @ 6:55PM/ Latest Update 3/29/15 @ 6:30 p.m.

Start Location: Guadalupe and DeBaca County Line ( Salado Draw area) North of Yeso NM Read more...

PRC holds hearing on closure of two San Juan Power Plant units and energy replacement plan

By Mary Alice Murphy

Sandy Jones, Public Regulation Commissioner for the region that includes Grant County, came to Silver City to hear input on a case before the PRC. The governor, PNM and the New Mexico Environment Department had signed an agreement to shut down two coal-powered towers, Nos. 2 and 3, leaving 1 and 4 still operating at the San Juan Power Plant.

The PRC continues to hold hearings on the issue before making its decision. Read more...

North Star Fire near containment-032815 9pm

At last report, Saturday night at 9 p.m., the fire on the Gila Wilderness almost contained

Firefighters close to 100% containment on the North Star Fire, estimated 24 acres.

Grant County Radio Beat KOOT 88.1FM

Local Weather

Mostly Cloudy


Silver City

Mostly Cloudy

Humidity: 33%

Wind: 9 mph

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