Rancho Viejo detours begin
Beginning today, drivers who live in Rancho Viejo must make an indirect journey back and forth into Santa Fe using a detour that will be in place for two months during construction of long-planned “connector” roads. Santa Fe County says the closure of Richards Avenue and Avenida del Sur just south of the Santa Fe Community College is necessary as it rebuilds the intersection at the entrance of the Rancho Viejo subdivision into a roundabout. That means drivers may only access the subdivision via Hwy. 14. When completed, the 3.88-mile connector road will run from the intersection north to Rabbit Road and Dinosaur Trail, providing additional circulation for drivers in the community college district. Access to the Spur Trail, which has been cut off for some weeks, will resume at the project’s conclusion. Find more information, including the full construction schedule, on the project’s dedicated website here. On the other side of town, residents can learn about the latest plans to fix the collapsed culvert on Alameda at a meeting the city plans on May 30. That roadway has been closed since March and a city news release says “the current rough estimate for reopening is August 2023.”
Glowing in the wind
The US Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management has finalized permission for an electricity transmission project that originates in New Mexico and terminates in central Arizona, providing renewable energy for markets there and further west to California. “We are pleased to announce this exciting milestone for the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project,” said BLM New Mexico State Director Melanie Barnes in a statement. “This effort represents an important step in the development of our country’s renewable energy and transmission infrastructure.” The project includes two planned 500-kV transmission lines located across approximately 520 miles of federal, state and private lands, carrying power generated by the associated SunZia Wind farms in Torrance, Lincoln and San Miguel counties. Pattern Energy Group LP announced it has signed long-term power purchase agreements with Shell Energy North America and the Regents of the University of California for a portion of the power from the project. Plans call for construction of the transmission lines to start later this year and be completed in 2026. “This is a historic day for the advancement of America’s clean energy goals as SunZia receives its major federal routing permit, clearing the way to bring online enough renewable power for 3 million Americans,” Pattern CEO Hunter Armistead said in a statement Thursday. “We’re proud that SunZia is the culmination of over a decade of collaboration with communities, residents, landowners, environmental groups, wildlife organizations, and federal agencies.”
“Forever chemicals” in fracking
A new report compiled by Physicians for Social Responsibility has identified the use of per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, or “forever chemicals,” in 260 of oil and gas fracking operations in New Mexico and says the substances have likely been used at other sites under the protection of trade secrets for the contents of fracking fluid. “Previously unpublicized information unearthed by Physicians for Social Responsibility shows that since at least 2013, oil and gas companies used in New Mexico’s oil and gas wells a class of extremely toxic and persistent chemicals known as PFAS. However, gaps in New Mexico’s disclosure rules prevent the public from knowing how widely PFAS–or other toxic chemicals–have been used,” reads its executive summary. View an interactive map showing the locations of wells injected with PFAS and trade secret chemicals here. Joe Vigil, a New Mexico Oil & Gas Association spokesman, told the Santa Fe New Mexican his group agrees PFAS should not be used in fracking, and the report “wrongly insinuates” these chemicals are part of such operations in the state.
Help develop alcohol policy
Volunteers who want to help address one of the region’s most pressing topics via the Santa Fe County DWI Planning Council should submit a letter of interest and resume by June 3 to LeAnne Rodriguez, DWI program manager, firstname.lastname@example.org. The council’s primary focus, an announcement says, “is to produce comprehensive evidence-based plans that impact DWI, underage drinking, alcohol misuse, and substance related issues.” Members may be Santa Fe County residents with experience in the law enforcement, legal, medical, education, substance use treatment, elected office, public health, traffic safety or media spheres. Advocates and legislators who backed a bill in the last legislative session to raise the tax on alcohol and direct that money for treatment and other related programs expressed disappointment that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham vetoed both efforts. New Mexico In Depth reporter Ted Alcorn provides an analysis.
Wall Street Journal Editor-in-Chief Emma Tucker addressed students graduating Saturday with international baccalaureate degrees from United World College in Montezuma, New Mexico and discussed, among other topics, the continued Russian imprisonment of her colleague, journalist Evan Gershkovich, on what she called “a totally bogus charge of spying.” Tucker, who graduated from the school herself in 1985, accepted an alumni award at the same ceremony. Watch a video of her speech here, in which she said, “an independent press, the right to report freely, to hold those in power to account, is a cornerstone of democracy. At the same time, the advent of digital technology and the spread of social media have given rise to and emboldened the spread of fake news, conspiracy theories and deep fakes. Never has there been a more important time for independent, verified, trusted information.”
Portrait of an astronaut
This week’s planned launch of the Virgin Galactic VSS Unity rockets expects to send a crew of “mission specialists” into suborbit, including a 34-year-old New Mexico State University graduate. Astronaut 007 Jamila Gilbert, who serves as a communications officer for the company, spent her early career as a watercolorist who painted portraits of people, pets and even yachts. The Albuquerque Journal interviews Gilbert ahead of the launch. “I’m actually not from a technical background as so many folks from our company—or people who have flown to space before—have been. But as someone who studied linguistics, and as an artist, I like to think that my creative brain is actually my superpower. So experiencing spaceflight might allow me to look past the mechanics while we’re going through all the pieces of it from end-to-end. It’s not just the actual spaceflight on the day itself. It’s the training leading up to it, the ground-based training with our astronauts and training crew, the medical consultations and the moments with our hospitality team,” she says. The flight window for the mission opens Thursday and the crew will enter its final training period today.
Local homes and businesses can deck out landscaping areas with free new plants and benefit pollinators at the same time by applying for the third year of pollinator habitat kits on offer in Santa Fe by the Xerces Society. Each kit requires about 300 square feet of planting area and includes 32 small transplants of native perennial wildflowers and one native shrub/small tree—plants intended to help create habitat connectivity for insects such as bees and butterflies. “There are a lot of groups that do wildlife conservation with birds and mammals and other big, charismatic kinds of things, but invertebrates are so critical to the function of our planet,” Kaitlin Haase, southwest pollinator conservation specialist with the Xerces Society, told SFR last year. See a map of where the kits have been planted in the area so far here and apply for kits here.
The National Weather Service forecasts the “Maysoon” to continue today with a 50% chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly after noon. The rest of the day will be mostly sunny, with a high near 72 and north wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west in the afternoon.
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