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220 Mile Procession For Fallen NM Police Officer; Navajo Nation Plans To Sue Over Mine Spill

Aug 15, 2016

220 Mile Procession For Fallen NM Police Officer Travels From ABQ To Las Cruces - The Associated Press

Dozens of people gathered in Albuquerque to pay their respects to a police officer who was shot and killed in a small New Mexico village.

Authorities say the body of 33-year-old Jose Chavez was transported today to his hometown of Las Cruces from Albuquerque, where the fallen officer's body was taken over the weekend for an autopsy at the state Office of the Medical Examiner.

The procession began this afternoon with a 220 mile motorcade traveling along Interstate 25.

Near a stretch of the highway that runs close to the Albuquerque airport, cars pulled over to the shoulder, and people held up American flags. The group also included members of law enforcement agencies and fire crews.

Navajo Nation Plans To Sue Over Massive Mine Waste SpillThe Associated Press 

One of the nation's largest American Indian tribes is planning to sue over damages caused by a massive mine waste spill in southwestern Colorado.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, Navajo Attorney General Ethel Branch and other tribal officials will announce Tuesday that they have directed their attorneys to file a lawsuit over what they describe as an "unprecedented environmental disaster."

Begaye recently renewed the call for the federal government to reimburse Navajo farmers, saying the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's actions in the wake of the 2015 spill have created a culture of distrust.

An EPA-led crew triggered the spill during preliminary cleanup work. Three million gallons of wastewater carrying arsenic, lead and other heavy metals tainted rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

The EPA has said it takes responsibility for the spill.

New Mexico Officials Investigate College's Finances The Associated Press & The Las Vegas Optic

New Mexico is investigating a community college after receiving complaints about administrative misconduct there.

The Las Vegas Optic reports that the state Higher Education Department has started a special audit into Luna Community College after a preliminary view raised enough concerns that the college was placed under a fiscal oversight program.

The state has asked the school's president and finance vice president to attend monthly meetings with the Higher Education Department's finance director, institutional auditor and senior financial specialist. Staff from the department will also attend all Board of Trustee meetings.

It's not clear what allegations led to the special audit or what auditors discovered during the preliminary review that prompted the intense scrutiny.

Luna President Leroy "Huero" Sanchez was unavailable for comment Friday.

New Mexico Team Makes High-Tech Tool To Prevent Landslides – The Associated Press

A University of New Mexico professor is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop a device to create three-dimensional images of canyons and washes in real-time.

The device would attach to airplanes deployed to fight fires. So far, one has been attached to aircraft.

UNM says the device's infrared imaging system takes high-resolution photographs of the landscape, and then processes them into images that resemble three-dimensional models.

Those models help engineers and emergency crews decide where to reinforce slopes to prevent landslides, which can damage property, and in a worst-case scenario, threaten lives, in a fire's aftermath.

Assistant professor Chris Lippett and his research group, GIScience for Environmental Management, have been working on the project with the Army Corp of Engineers and the New Mexico Wing Civil Air Patrol.

Computer Problem Hits Taxation, Motor Vehicle DivisionThe Associated Press

Computer-based transactions at the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division and state taxation offices were unavailable for several hours Monday as computer technicians worked to resolve an agency-wide problem.

The Taxation and Revenue Department said Monday that it was unable to perform tax-program functions and was experiencing difficulties across all agency computer systems.

The agency oversees driver's licenses and motor vehicle registration. The Motor Vehicle Division was able to conduct road tests and vehicle inspections as computer technicians attempted to fix the computer issues into the afternoon on Monday.

The cause of the difficulties was unclear.

Forest Officials Issue Closure Order Over Endangered MouseThe Associated Press

Federal officials are closing off sections of national forest land in southern New Mexico to protect an endangered mouse.

They say campers are tearing down barbed wire and electric fences that had been put in place to protect the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse and that disbursed camping is damaging the rodent's habitat.

The special closure order marks the latest development in the dispute over access to public land and water that has pitted ranchers and some state lawmakers against the U.S. Forest Service.

The agency initially began ordering closures and installing fences in the Lincoln and Santa Fe forests in 2014 after the mouse was listed as endangered.

Federal officials say the latest order is aimed at protecting habitat as well as public safety since some of the fences are electric.

Group Says Rio Grande Silvery Minnow Population In Decline – The Associated Press

A New Mexico conservation group says the Rio Grande's silvery minnow population has declined each year since 1994, the year the fish was deemed an endangered species.

The organization WildEarth Guardians blames a 2003 policy that allows for the river to run dry below a dam near Isleta Pueblo between June 15 and Oct. 31. During that time, the group says, tens of thousands of young silvery minnow die.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials this year decided that 1,109 adult fish can die due to natural causes or legal projects, like irrigation, without impacting the species' overall population. That number is based off the prior year's fish population.

The agency recently found 46 dead adult silvery minnow and 10,000 dead young ones in the stretch of dry riverbed below the Isleta Diversion Dam.

Veterans Court Plans Move Forward In Dona Ana County – The Associated Press

A years-long effort to create a veterans court in Dona Ana County is nearing fruition.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports the court would allow veterans or active-duty military members who are charged with crimes to choose treatment programs rather than jail time.

County commissioners unanimously voted to support the court's development.

Volunteer judges and resources need to be lined up, among other tasks.

No new employees or public funding will be used to set up the court.

District Attorney's Office spokesman Patrick Hayes says the court will be modeled after the El Paso Veterans Court and could be running within a year.

El Paso Veterans Court Judge Angie Juarez Barill says the recidivism rate is about 6 percent.

She said veterans' courts typically have lower rates of repeat offenders.

Trip Expenses For Gov. Martinez's Security Surpasses $22K – The Associated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez's personal expenses for political trips cost New Mexico less than $3,500 during the first five months of this year.

But records show taxpayers paid more than six times that amount to cover the cost of her security detail on the trips.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the state spent $22,863 for the transportation, hotels and food of state police officers assigned to protect the governor.

The newspaper tallied the costs of the trips based off documents obtained through a public records request.

Martinez, the nation's only Latina governor, remains a high-profile figure within the GOP. As RGA chairwoman, she traveled to Washington, New York, Florida and other states this year.

She also stumped for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in Kansas before he dropped out of GOP presidential primary in March.

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