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NM Forest Officials Says No To Drilling, State's Jobless Rate Lower

Jun 15, 2018

New Mexico National Forest Says No To Geothermal DrillingThe Associated Press

Underground pockets of boiling water and steam that could have been tapped to produce electricity are now off limits as one national forest in northern New Mexico has said no to the prospect of geothermal development.

The decision by the Santa Fe National Forest follows years of study and public testimony after a Nevada-based company and others had shown interest in part of the Jemez Mountains — a tourist draw that includes a national preserve and a neighboring monument.

Forest Supervisor James Melonas wrote in a decision made public Thursday that the area also includes places held sacred by Native American tribes.

While there was interest in leasing only 36,000 acres, Melonas' decision covers an area more than five times that. He said geothermal development could have potential effects on forest resources and tribal cultural and spiritual interests.

New Mexico's Monthly Jobless Rate Trends Downward – The Associated Press

There are more jobs in New Mexico than there were last year as the state's unemployment rate showed improvement for the sixth straight month.

State labor officials say the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.1 percent in May. That's down from 5.4 percent in April and 6.2 percent a year ago.

Nationally, steady hiring has shrunk unemployment to 3.8 percent — the lowest since the 1960s.

While New Mexico still sits among those states with the highest jobless rates, the numbers released Friday show total nonagricultural payroll employment grew 1.7 percent over the past year. Most gains came from the private sector, which was up 13,600 jobs, or 2.1 percent.

The biggest winners include professional and business services — up by 3,800 jobs. Leisure and hospitality as well as mining and construction also saw gains.

New Mexico Lawmakers Challenge Navajo Water CompactThe Associated Press

Republican New Mexico lawmakers say the state Legislature never signed off on an agreement awarding water rights from the San Juan River to the Navajo Nation.

Ten lawmakers from districts stretching from the northwest of the state to Albuquerque on Friday asked the New Mexico Supreme Court to suspend the water settlement until the Legislature can enact, reject or modify the pact. They assert that former Gov. Bill Richardson signed off on the idea without giving the Legislature a say in the matter.

Congress approved the Navajo water rights settlement in 2009 but final approval from the state did not come until 2013. Water districts in New Mexico's San Juan River basin have unsuccessfully opposed it, arguing the resources are not needed for a troubled Navajo irrigation system.

Lawsuit Accuses New Mexico Police Chief Of Lewd ConductAssociated Press

A New Mexico sergeant and two former colleagues have filed a lawsuit against State Police Chief Pete Kassetas, accusing him of discrimination, lewd behavior and "malice" toward women.

The lawsuit filed this week and first reported by the Santa Fe New Mexican on Wednesday seeks a jury trial, and compensation for damages.

It also describes a culture in which the Department of Public safety under Gov. Susana Martinez refused to address the chief's "discriminatory and retaliatory treatment" of employees.

A spokesman for the Martinez administration says the lawsuit complaint contains "ridiculous allegations that are completely removed from the truth."

The plaintiffs are Sgt. Monica Martinez-Jones, former Lt. Julia Armendariz, and former Deputy Chief Michael Ryan Suggs.

They allege Kassetas mooned staff in one instance, and used a derogatory term in reference to women within the department.

New Mexico National Forest Says No To Geothermal Drilling - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Underground pockets of boiling water and steam that could have been tapped to produce electricity are now off limits as one national forest in northern New Mexico has said no to the prospect of geothermal development.

The decision by the Santa Fe National Forest follows years of study and public testimony after a Nevada-based company and others had shown interest in part of the Jemez Mountains — a tourist draw that includes a national preserve and a neighboring monument.

Forest Supervisor James Melonas wrote in a decision made public Thursday that the area also includes places held sacred by Native American tribes.

While there was interest in leasing only 36,000 acres, Melonas' decision covers an area more than five times that. He said geothermal development could have potential effects on forest resources and tribal cultural and spiritual interests.

Colorado Wildfire Forces Nearly 2,000 Evacuations - Associated Press

National Forest Service officials told residents of 163 more homes near the fire in the southwestern Colorado to be ready to leave Thursday — as well as residents who had been allowed to return to 180 homes on Wednesday.

Dry thunderstorms and gusty winds have expanded a San Juan National Forest wildfire that has forced evacuations of more than 1,900 homes.

The fire 13 miles north of Durango has blackened more than 45 square miles and forced officials to close the San Juan National Forest in the Four Corners Region.

The Four Corners region where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah meet is in the middle of a large swath of exceptional drought, the worst category of drought.

GOP Candidate Would Replace Teacher Evaluations - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

New Mexico's Republican candidate for governor is calling for an immediate suspension of the state's embattled teacher evaluation system that he describes as badly broken.

U.S. Congressman and GOP nominee Steve Pearce told The Associated Press on Thursday that the current system for rating teacher performance has crushed the spirit of many talented educators and contributed to the state's teacher shortage.

Pearce says that if elected, he would bring together teachers and other stakeholders to devise a new plan.

Outgoing two-term Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has consistently pushed to incorporate teacher evaluations and students' standardized test results into a system aimed at greater accountability.

That system has been the focus of protests and legal challenges as New Mexico lags behind most states in rates of student academic proficiency.

Male Black Bear Captured In Albuquerque CommunityAssociated Press

New Mexico wildlife officers have captured a male bear that had been wandering in an Albuquerque community.

The bear was hiding in a cottonwood tree Wednesday when New Mexico Game and Fish officers darted it.

Game and Fish Department Sgt. Rick Castell says the 200-pound male bear kept climbing the tree before falling from about 40 feet onto a large air-filled pillow.

He says the bear didn't have any ear tags, but it was tagged after officers captured him.

Castell says the bear will be released in a forest.

He says bears occasionally are spotted in Albuquerque and expects to see more foraging for food this summer.

EPA Lays Out 1st Steps To Clean Up Southwest Colorado MinesAssociated Press

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has come up with an interim plan to hold back toxic heavy metals that spill into rivers from old southwestern Colorado mining sites.

The proposal released Thursday calls for taking short-term cleanup steps while the EPA searches for a more permanent solution under the Superfund program.

The interim plan focuses on controlling or removing contaminants at 26 sites including mine waste piles, ponds and rivers. The cleanup will eventually cover 48 mining sites.

The cleanup was prompted by a massive 2015 spill at the Gold King mine near Silverton. An EPA-led contractor crew inadvertently triggered a blowout of 3 million gallons of wastewater contaminated with arsenic, lead and other toxic metals.

The yellow-orange waste stream polluted rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

New Mexico Weekend Weather To Produce Risk Of Flash FloodsAssociated Press

The National Weather Service says parts of New Mexico may see heavy rain late Friday through late Saturday, creating a risk of flash floods, particularly in terrain recently scarred by wildfires.

Forecasters say "a deep surge of moisture" from a tropical storm will move northward and eastward into and across the state, producing showers and thunderstorms.

According to the weather service, storms are expected to be widespread and have "near-record to record moisture values."

The weather service says as little as a quarter-inch (.64 centimeter) of rainfall in 15 minutes on a burn scar can produce a significant flash flood or debris flow with little or no advance notice.

Work Begins To Boost Airflow At US Nuclear RepositoryAssociated Press

Work has started on a new ventilation system that will clear the way for more radioactive waste to be hauled underground and disposed of at the U.S. government's nuclear repository in southern New Mexico.

U.S. Energy Department officials celebrated with a groundbreaking event Thursday, saying the system is key for ramping up work at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

The repository restarted operations in 2017 following a nearly three-year shutdown that resulted from a radiation release from an inappropriately packaged drum of waste that was shipped from Los Alamos National Laboratory.

After the 2014 release, limited ventilation underground due to contamination issues slowed disposal operations as well as mining and maintenance work.

The new system is expected to cost more than a quarter-billion dollars and take until 2021 to complete.

New Mexico County Closes Open Space Due To Fire Danger Associated Press

New Mexico's most populous county is closing open space areas on the east side of the Sandia Mountains due to high fire danger.

The closures in Bernalillo County mark the latest as national forests and state parks in New Mexico and elsewhere across the West have been put off limits as dry conditions and the threat of wildfire persist.

The Bernalillo County closures will take effect Friday and will remain in place until the area receives a significant amount of moisture and the danger decreases.

County Fire Marshal Keith Clark says the idea is to reduce the likelihood of a human-caused fire.

The federal drought map released Thursday shows extreme and exceptional drought — the two worst categories — have a solid footing throughout the American Southwest.

Some rain is expected in the coming days, but forecasters warn that it won't be enough to erase the drought.

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