A summary of the trial over water on North 14

The trial in the battle for East Mountain water just concluded, but it could take months before a ruling comes down. Nearly a decade ago, Vidler Water—a Nevada corporation—partnered with Campbell Farming to form Aquifer Science. Their objective was to draw water from the Sandia Basin to build a massive development on both sides of Highway 14 across from the upscale Paako development. The new “resort” would include 4,000 homes, two golf courses and commercial properties. East Mountain residents—fearing the negative impact it would have on the already declining water wells in the community—formed a grassroots organization, Deep Well Protest, which later partnered with San Pedro Creek Estates’ Homeowners Association (SPCE) to address the issue.

When the Office of the State Engineer (OSE) denied Aquifer Science’s permit application more than three years ago, stating, “there is no unappropriated groundwater available,” Aquifer Science immediately appealed the OSE decision to the 2nd District Court. Deep Well Protest, SPCE and Bernalillo County opposed the appeal. In the meantime, a new State Engineer was appointed by the Governor and he changed direction by supporting Aquifer Science’s application.

Judge Shannon Bacon presided over the 10-day bench trial that concluded March 19. New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) represented the Deep Well Protest, SPCE and many individual protestants from the East Mountain community. Both Bernalillo County and OSE were represented by contract attorneys and Aquifer Science was represented by a Santa Fe law firm.

During the often complex and technical testimony, Aquifer Science asserted their hydrological model supported a formerly unknown and isolated body of water. New Mexico Environmental Law Center expert witnesses and Bernalillo County disagreed, questioning the assumptions and methodology used to structure the model. Aquifer Science expert witnesses testified that only a dozen existing wells and San Pedro Creek would be impacted, however NMELC emphatically disputed their conclusion.

Throughout the trial, East Mountain residents attended every day. Many of us have taken part in Bernalillo County’s well monitoring program which has shown strong evidence of wells declining. Additionally, SPCE—in Sandoval County—implemented a separate monitoring system with even more dramatic well declines.

On the final trial day, the judge allowed ten community people to make statements regarding their personal experiences with their wells declining. They also testified regarding drought conditions, wildlife impacts, and personal observations of damage to trees and riparian areas. The community’s financial and moral support for the last nine years shows how deeply concerned we are about the impact of this trial’s outcome on water sustainability in the East Mountains. It’s our hope the judge’s ruling will reflect those concerns.

This case has statewide implications. Other New Mexico communities are in similar positions and have been forced to organize to protect their dwindling water supplies, and by extension, their property values. Inevitably when new development is proposed in existing communities with tight water supplies there will be conflict with those already invested in the community. It is not fair that the only recourse for the community is either to surrender or find a way of bearing the enormous financial costs of a court battle.

Kathy McCoy, Deep Well Protest

San Pedro Creek Neighborhood Association

 

Background checks, the political manipulation

Let’s face facts and not fantasies. Background checks will not stop all the gun violence in our country; in fact it won’t stop any of it. Few of these insane killers—“insane” because they did what they did not because they were necessarily diagnosed as such before the fact—would have been stymied in their search for these weapons of mass destruction with a background check. The guy who killed half a hundred in Las Vegas was not a raving maniac, he was a cold-blooded killer for no-one-knows-why. He had no history of “mental illness.”

Short of confiscating every single gun in America, which will never happen, the only way we can at least make it more cumbersome for someone to carry out these mass murders is to make the tools they use less proficient. In short, stop the sale now of all “assault-like” rifles. (By the way, those opposed like to say they are “not really ‘assault weapons’ because they are not fully automatic” and we’re somehow supposed to feel better about that).

The fact is that even if they are not “fully automatic” they can be fired as quickly as anyone can pull the trigger and with high capacity mags. That means that 30 rounds can be fired almost as fast as you can say “Gee! That’s’ awfully fast isn’t it?” Yes, yes I know that someone can load up on standard clips and slap them into a rifle or pistol quickly, so even banning h.c. mags won’t help much, but it’s something, and if we can add it to the idea of background checks, well hooray!

More to the point, ban the sale and manufacture of these weapons and of high capacity magazines and of parts for those weapons—and require that any current owners of such weapons register them, at a high taxation rate, just as any owners of machine guns must. If they won’t pay, confiscate them. Period.

And let’s not get into the stupid argument that gun ownership (of any kind of gun) equals “freedom.” If you want or feel the need of having a gun around then you may have one (or two or a dozen for that matter) but the type of gun will be regulated, and you are free to stand on any street corner and argue about it all day and night—and thus your right to Free Speech will be respected. But there is no right to be armed to the teeth with high firepower for all. That’s why we don’t want anyone to have a howitzer or a bazooka, for that matter.

This “background check” b.s. is nothing more than a political game being used to buy off those of us who want something done about these killing machines in our society. We are offered the sop of background checks in order to turn off the spotlight and call off the dogs, as it were, and make us believe we’re getting somewhere. Yet if and when we finally win that fight we will wind up with nothing. And the gun lobby and NRA supporters will breath a sigh of relief that those who would “take our guns and our freedoms” have gone away.

Meanwhile, potential killers will still be able to roam free with high-powered weapons and we and our children will still be at high risk to those who will remain, until after the killing spree, unidentified.

And “open carry”? What are we teaching our children, mainly young boys? That’s it’s really a good idea, even “manly,” to be walking around with guns on our hips (and shoulders) all over town? Even in Dodge City in the 1800s it was against the law to do that. And that was called the Wild West!

And this crazy idea that “Guns don’t kill, people do.” The fact is, some people with guns kill lots of people, and the only way to at least slow the massacre down is to give them less power and ammunition to do so.

People driving cars kill people too—but at least we have them register their cars, carry insurance, get a driver’s license and require that they be sober. All we do for the open carry people is ask them to get a license to carry a lethal weapon into our malls, parks, public meetings, etc. That’s it!

In response to the marches against gun violence some folks in Montana staged a counter march called, “For our guns.” Montana, the highest death rate for homicide and suicide by guns in the country. This gun worship is one crazy religion.

Dick Prosapio, Cedar Grove