Thursday News Roundup: Crews Find Damaged Material In Nuke Dump

May 1, 2014

Crews Find Damaged Material In Nuke Dump The Associated Press

Crews searching for the source of a radiation release from the government's underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico have found damaged bags of minerals in the mine, but officials say they have yet to identify what caused the radiation leak.

The U.S. Department of Energy said Thursday that workers at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant found several huge bags of magnesium chloride that are placed on top of waste containers to absorb moisture and carbon dioxide have been "grossly disturbed." It's not clear, however, what damaged the bags. And officials say they haven't found any structural damage in the waste-storage area of the repository near Carlsbad.

The dump has been shuttered since a Feb. 14 leak sent low levels of radiation into the air, contaminating 21 workers with radiation  

ACLU, Roswell Settle In Street Preachers LawsuitThe Associated Press

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico has announced it has settled a lawsuit with the city of Roswell involving two brothers arrested for preaching in public.

The ACLU announced Thursday that under the terms of the settlement, Roswell will pay $97,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

Two years ago, the group filed suit on behalf of Joshua and Jeremy De Los Santos, two brothers who are members of Roswell's Old Paths Baptist Church.

Joshua De Los Santos was arrested twice and Jeremy De Los Santos five times in two years for preaching in public. The ACLU says charges were dismissed but the arrests were violations of their First Amendment free speech rights.

Roswell City Manager Larry Fry did not immediately return an email message from The Associated Press.

Court Rules Some Felons Can Hold Public Office The Associated PressThe state Supreme Court has ruled that convicted felons in New Mexico can hold public office if they received a deferred sentence and charges are dismissed.

The court issued the decision Thursday in answering a state law question from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver in a New Mexico man's appeal over a federal charge of being a felon in possession of firearms.

Judges can defer sentencing until an offender completes a period of probation, and charges are dismissed if the individual complies with the probation conditions. The conviction remains in court records, but the justices said a person's civil rights are restored, including the ability to hold public office.

The court said the Legislature "established the deferred sentence as a means of judicial clemency."

Tribe, Robert Redford Group OK Wild Horses Plan The Associated Press

The Navajo Nation and a group founded by former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and actor Robert Redford have agreed on a plan to manage thousands of wild horses on the reservation.

Richardson says the agreement is a first step in trying to find a long-term, humane alternative to sending horses to slaughter houses.

The agreement announced Thursday calls for adoptions, triages, veterinarian services and sanctuaries. A formal signing is planned later this year.

Navajo officials say wild horses have been drinking wells dry and causing ecological damage to the drought-stricken range.

Tribal President Ben Shelly has said the land and the animals must be managed responsibly.

Richardson and Redford created the Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife last year to fight efforts by a Roswell, New Mexico, company and others to slaughter horses.

US Provides Funding For Catwalk Trail Repair WorkThe Associated Press

The federal government is providing $4.4 million in emergency funding for repairs to the Catwalk Trail, a scenic streamside walkway in the Gila National Forest in southwestern New Mexico.

Democratic Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich say the funding is coming from the Federal Highway Administration.

The trail sustained significant damaged as a result of monsoon rain and resulting debris flow in Whitewater Creek last September.

The senators say the federal funding will reimburse the Forest Service for emergency repairs and debris removal already done and pay for repairs and other work to trails, a bridge and viewing platforms.

According to the senators' announcement of the funding, the part of the trail that will undergo restoration is scheduled to reopen during the summer of 2015.


Stepfather Of Slain NM Boy Faces Abuse Charges - The Associated Press

An Albuquerque man has been indicted on numerous charges related to the death of his stepson, who police say was kicked to death by his mother.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg says the nine-count indictment against Stephen Casaus was handed up Wednesday. Casaus is facing six counts of child abuse, two counts of bribery of a witness and one count of tampering with evidence.

Casaus' stepson, 9-year-old Omaree Varela, was found dead at his family's home on Dec. 27. The boy's mother, Synthia Varela-Casaus, is charged with the child's death.

Prosecutors allege Casaus allowed the boy to be placed in a situation that endangered the child's life.

The case sparked outrage and prompted Gov. Susana Martinez to call for major reforms within the state's troubled child welfare system.

Major Crash Stalls First Stage Of NM Race - The Associated Press

Several riders were injured as a crash stalled the first stage of the annual Tour of the Gila in southwestern New Mexico.

Race spokeswoman Rebecca Reza says three riders were sent to a hospital in Tucson, Arizona, and at least six were treated locally.

Officials initially said at least a dozen were injured. Reza said later Wednesday night that while 14 aren't racing Thursday and most of them were injured, she listed nine riders who had so far been confirmed to have injuries.

She says riders sent to Tucson included one with a knee injury and two others whom she only described as "no serious injuries, conscious and coherent."

Some of the injuries to other riders included hand and knee problems.

It's unclear what caused the pileup as the riders raced more than 70 miles from Silver City to the ghost town of Mogollon.

The race continues Thursday with a 75-mile loop through the mountains around Silver City. A time trial and criterium will follow before the last stage on Sunday — the brutal Gila Monster Road Race, which covers more than 100 miles for the pros.

2 NM Communities To Share In Federal Funding - The Associated Press

Two New Mexico communities will share in funds awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for reducing water pollution and using more green infrastructure.

The agency says $860,000 was awarded this week to 14 communities around the country. Those include the city of Albuquerque and Cochiti Pueblo.

In Albuquerque, the EPA will help with the design and specifications for a rooftop vegetable garden that will use captured rainwater for irrigation.

Pueblo officials will use their share of the funding to prepare a plan for integrating green infrastructure into land use planning and storm water management in the northern New Mexico community.

The EPA says green infrastructure decreases pollution to local waterways by treating rain where it falls and keeping polluted runoff from entering sewer systems.

Border Agents Seize Half Million In Drugs - The Associated Press

Border Patrol agents have seized nearly half a million dollars' worth of marijuana being smuggled across the border into southern New Mexico.

Officials say the drugs were found in a five-day span over the last week.

On Monday, Deming Border Patrol Agents using infrared technology caught two men trying to sneak 94 pounds of marijuana through the brush in their backpacks.

Also over the past week, Border Patrol Agents assigned to the Lordsburg station discovered multiple bundles of marijuana in four separate incidents.

In each case, the subjects carrying the marijuana abandoned their attempts and were tracked walking back into Mexico.

Democrat To Air Ad In New Mexico Governor's Race - The Associated Press

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lawrence Rael says he's launching a television ad.

The campaign announced the ad will be broadcast from Thursday to May 11.

Campaign spokesman Kyle Armstrong said Wednesday the ad will be broadcast across the state but not in Las Cruces and other areas covered by the El Paso television market.

Five Democrats are running for governor and Rael is the first to announce a TV ad in advance of the June 3 primary election. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has been airing campaign ads.

The ad doesn't mention Martinez or the other Democratic candidates, but says Rael "sees New Mexico in a very different light." The ad portrays Rael as a leader committed to improving the state.

Rael once was the city of Albuquerque's chief administrative officer.