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Today's News

  • Drought expands across SW US

    BY SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN
    Associated Press

    ALBUQUERQUE — Drought is tightening its grip across a wide swath of the American Southwest as farmers, ranchers and water managers throughout the region brace for what’s expected to be more warm and dry weather through the spring.

    A federal drought map released Thursday shows dry conditions intensifying across northern New Mexico and into southwestern Arizona. Every square mile of Nevada and Utah also are affected by at least some level of dryness.

    On the southern high plains, Oklahoma is ground zero for the worst drought conditions in the United States.

    The exceptional drought in the Panhandle — an area dominated by agriculture — has more than doubled in size. Many farmers rely on precipitation to help water their crops as pumping groundwater is the only other option.

    “We’re in the irrigation period and it really would be fantastic to get some precipitation out in those areas,” said Cole Perryman of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.

    Crop conditions around the region are declining as extreme drought spans from Kansas and Oklahoma to California. In New Mexico, about three-quarters of the winter wheat crop is in poor to very poor condition as meaningful moisture has been scarce since last fall.

  • Barranca Mesa construction expected to begin in June

    Construction on Barranca Mesa Elementary School is scheduled to begin June 4 whether the state’s Public School Capital Outlay Council decides to give the Los Alamos Public School any additional funding or not.

    District representatives traveled to Santa Fe on March 15 to make an out-of-cycle request for an award of funds to help finance the construction. Even though their request was turned down, the PSCOC apparently left the door open for an award during its April meeting.

    “We got on the agenda, they read our letter and the council is not looking to award an out-of-cycle request at this time,” said LAPS Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Lisa Montoya, who was among those attending the PSCOC meeting in Santa Fe. “But they did encourage us to apply for the funding in the regular cycle. The PSCOC indicated they may come alongside us and fund us in tandem.”

    Later this month the PSCOC will set funding eligibility for the disbursement of the $82.3 million it will be awarding in November to districts in the state.

    LAPS isn’t waiting to see if it will receive any financial help for this project.

  • IN THE LAB: Overcoming the ‘space factor’

    With Erin Quinn, Los Alamos National Laboratory

    Whenever an instrument is sent into space, worries abound. As if the launch were not risky enough (with the threat of explosion on the launch pad or the extreme vibrations shaking parts loose), a host of other threats emerge once the spacecraft safely reaches orbit. Extreme temperatures and high radiation levels can easily damage parts and result in malfunction. Then there is the satellite’s great distance from Earth. If there is a problem, it cannot be recalled for a quick fix. So, it is critical that everything work properly before it makes its dramatic ascension into space.

    That is where software developers like Erin Quinn come in. Quinn works in Space Data Science and Systems group on the ground support equipment for the Space and Atmospheric Burst Reporting System (SABRS), one of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s satellite-borne treaty-monitoring payloads. More than 50 years ago, Los Alamos and the forerunner to the Department of Energy supported the first satellites to detect nuclear explosions in the atmosphere or space. This early capability was an essential element in the first treaty that regulated nuclear weapons tests. The first SABRS payload was launched in 2012 and SABRS-2 was successfully launched after that.

  • LAFD preps for fire season

    An above average performance in any field is a good thing, unless it’s in the field of fire season.
    In that case it is most definitely cause for extra concern.

    “Due to the severe lack of moisture, according to what we normally get, and just the early fire season we’ve seen here in New Mexico it’s shaping up to be a pretty above-average season for us,” said Los Alamos Fire Department Wildland

    Deputy Chief Kelly Sterna. “Last year we were one of the few regions in the country that burned normal averages, which are based on 10-year averages.”

    Sterna said the fire season typically rides in on the winds of April, which dry up anything that’s not dry already.
    “Usually you get a lot of rain and snow in March and April and that greens everything up,” he said. “Then the winds come and dry it all out and cures it, which basically makes it more easy to burn.”

    Humans generally start fires early in the season while lightening strikes are responsible for most late-season fires

  • Officials set April date for New Mexico border wall work

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Officials are hoping to break ground on a project replacing 20 miles of border wall in Santa Teresa, New Mexico in early April.

    That's according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Deputy Commissioner Ronald D. Vitiello.

    Vitiello briefed reporters Friday on how the administration plans to spend the $1.6 billion Congress authorized for border wall construction this year.

    It's much less than the $25 billion Trump wanted. But officials are eager to show they're nonetheless making progress.

    Vitiello says the money will provide for about 100 miles of new and replacement wall, including replacing 14 miles of steel landing mat in densely populated San Diego with a bollard-style wall.

    Barriers currently blanket 654 miles of the 1,954-mile southern Mexico.
     

  • Health agency reports case of plague in Santa Fe County dog

    SANTA FE (AP) — State health officials report a case of plague in a dog from Santa Fe County, making it the first diagnosed case of plague in New Mexico this year.

    The Department of Health says it's checking the home of the dog's owner for risks to others and sending personnel around the neighborhood to inform residents and provide information on reducing risks.

    Plague is a bacterial disease of wildlife and is generally transmitted to humans and pets through the bites of infected fleas.

    Pet animals also can be exposed after eating an infected animal. Plague can be transmitted to humans by direct contact with infected animals, including rodents, wildlife and pets.

    The department says New Mexico had four human cases of plague in 2017 and that those people all survived the illness.
     

  • Wildfire Day puts emphasis on safety, but it’s fun too

    Kelly Sterna believes Saturday’s Wildfire Day celebration at Ashley Pond Park is not only an important educational event, but also just a lot of fun too.

    “It’s essential to provide the public outreach through events like this,” the Los Alamos Fire Department’s Wildland Division chief said Wednesday. “It’s vital to give the knowledge of fire prevention we have and share it with the community. That’s the first part of preparedness is to educate people, to get them aware of the hazards that are around their homes and community.”

    Wildfire Day begins at 10 a.m. and wraps up at around 2 p.m.
    Sterna said others participating in the enjoyment and educational aspects of the day include the National Parks Service, with their pal Smokey the Bear, as well as the Los Alamos National Lab’s Fire Management team, a helicopter and crew from Classic Air and members of the Los Alamos Police Department among others.

    “We’ll have a lot of public outreach things centering around defensible space and Wildland fire preparedness.”

    Sterna also said LAFD will conduct a bicycle helmet giveaway for young cyclists.

  • School board renews three leases

    The Los Alamos School Board approved the renewal of three of the leases it holds during its recent work session at the Los Alamos High School library.

    Strategic Assets Coordinator Connie Clark and Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Lisa Montoya presented the leases for board approval at the March 22 meeting.

    Two of the leases were for the Little Valley (L Wing) location on Orange Street, while the third was for a location at the Pueblo Complex on Diamond Drive.

    The two leases on Orange Street — LV1 and LV2 — are leased to Biodidact Community Lab with Los Alamos Makers occupying the space. The two leases will be combined into one lease upon their expiration.

    “Those two were leased separately, so we extended the LV1 lease two months in order to accommodate for when LV2 expires so the district can combine the two leases into one,” Montoya said.

    The Pueblo Complex location is currently a government lease with the Los Alamos National Lab, but will convert to a United States lease to be used for office and related space to support the Department of Energy’s Environment Management Los Alamos Mission.

    In total, the district has four land parcels and nine properties it currently leases with those agreements coming up for renewal at differing times.

  • Maid allegedly assaulted by clerk

    A maid who works at the Holiday Inn Express in Los Alamos is accusing a desk clerk of raping her when she was cleaning a room at the hotel March 10.

    Bryce W. Delano, 30, was arrested March 21 and released that day. The victim picked him out of a photo lineup March 15. Los Alamos Police charged with him criminal sexual penetration in the first degree and false imprisonment. Delano’s preliminary hearing, which will determine if his case is filed in district court, is scheduled for April 27.

    The victim reported the crime to the Los Alamos Police March 13. She claimed that on March 10, Delano allegedly came to talk to her, and asked her questions about sex and her sex life. She allegedly said she had a boyfriend and Delano left, and then came back to the room 15 minutes later.

    She then told police he came in, locked the door and forced her onto a bed. The victim told police that at one point during the encounter, he allegedly put a pillow over her face because he didn’t want to hear her cry.

    After the alleged attack, Delano allegedly said, “We’re both adults, and we know what we were doing, you shouldn’t feel bad about it.”

  • Search yields waste lost by lab staff

    For about a week in February, personnel in charge of tracking the movement of hazardous waste inside the Los Alamos National Laboratory lost track of two one-gallon containers with hazardous waste in them. None of the materials were radiological.

    The missing materials included a substance that protects electronics and wiring from extreme fluctuations in temperature. According to classification by the Environmental Protection Agency, one of the materials, toluene diisocyanate, has reactive properties, and is known to cause skin and lung damage to humans if exposure exceeds a certain level or is handled improperly. The lab reported the materials were missing Feb. 2 to the New Mexico Environment Department, two days after they were found missing.

    The containers were discovered missing Jan. 30 through a routine records check of a storage unit in Technical Area 54, Area L. LANL personnel reported the NMED’s Hazardous Waste Bureau about the missing materials Feb. 2.

    The waste was found packed into a 55-gallon waste container Feb. 5 in Technical Area 54, Area L.

    The lab’s Environmental Protection and Compliance Division described the incident and what the EPC Division is going to do about it in a March 19 letter addressed to the New Mexico Environment Department’s Hazardous Waste Bureau.