Local News

  • Council votes to exit coal-fire agreement

    The Los Alamos County Council, acting on the Department of Public Utilities’ recent recommendation to the Board of Public Utilities, voted Tuesday night to authorize the utilities manager to notify the San Juan Project participants of the county’s intentions to exit the station at the end of the current project participation agreement in 2022.

    In the mid-1980s Los Alamos County entered into a plant participation agreement with eight other owners of the San Juan Generating Station, a coal-fired plant in the Farmington area.

    Four of the owners voluntarily exited the plant with a penalty in December 2017, after an agreement was reached with the State of New Mexico and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to shut down two of the four units to meet a regional haze rule.

    The remaining owners, one of which is Los Alamos, negotiated a new coal supply agreement with San Juan Coal Company, the fuel provider to the plant. As part of the new coal supply agreement, San Juan Coal requires notice by June 30 from the owners of their intent to either exit or remain in the plant after the 2022 expiration of the plant participation agreement.

    During the BPU’s May 16 meeting, the DPU recommended letting the county’s contract for a three-percent ownership share expire in 2022.

  • Morrison brings practicality to county council race

    Tim Morrison is a big fan of Los Alamos and has been since moving with his family from Idaho to the Secret City when he was 5 years old.

    “It is a nice community. It’s a safe place,” he said. “It’s got good amenities and good access to nature. It’s friendly and it’s fun.”

    But Morrison, 40, has seen some negative trends within Los Alamos County over the years, trends he hopes to reverse as a member of the county council.

    “The reason I decided to run for county council is because the business community in Los Alamos is smaller than it was 40 years ago, and I think that’s a fixable problem,” he said. “Back then we weren’t getting as much tax revenue because of the lab and there were more businesses. I think we’re just not working at the right things.”

    Morrison, who is running as a Democrat, is a graduate of Los Alamos High School and then the University of New Mexico. He currently is the general manager of the Los Alamos Co-op. He previously worked at La Montañita Coop in Albuquerque before coming back to Los Alamos in 2011 as the front-end manager for the co-op.

    Near the end of 2014 he moved overseas for about a year, returning to Los Alamos to help the co-op.

  • Misaligned drum prompts brief evacuation at WIPP

    CARLSBAD (AP) — The U.S. government's only underground nuclear waste repository was briefly evacuated after a drum of waste was found to be misaligned inside its packaging.

    The contractor that runs the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southern New Mexico activated its emergency operations center after the discovery was made Thursday night.

    The Carlsbad Current Argus reported that officials determined conditions were stable and no radiation was released. The emergency operations center was deactivated three hours later.

    Shipments to the repository resumed in 2017 following a nearly three-year closure that stemmed from a radiation release by a container of waste that was improperly treated at Los Alamos National Laboratory before being shipped to the repository.

    That previous incident highlighted safety and security concerns at both the lab and repository and resulted in a costly recovery.

  • Big Horn sheep population increases in LA County

    A herd of big horn sheep in Cochiti Canyon is expanding into Bandelier National Monument and other parts of Los Alamos County, according to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.

    The sheep were originally part of a herd transferred from Wheeler Peak in 2014.

    The Game and Fish Department started the project with 45 sheep. The sheep were moved because the 2011 Las Conchas Fire severely damaged the herd’s habitat.

    The herd started with 35 females and 10 males, and through the years sheep from other herds in New Mexico were added to vary the DNA. The herd now numbers between 105 and 115.

    “We have ewes in Bandelier National Monument, ewes on Los Alamos National Laboratory property as well, so we’re getting expansion of the population like we hoped, the department’s Wildlife Division Chief Steven Liley reported to the department’s Game Commission Tuesday.

    The commission held its meeting at the Holiday Express Inn at Entrada Business Park in Los Alamos.

    According to Liley, even though ewes have been spotted near Bandelier, most of the population is preferring the bordering Santa Fe National forest, which could be good news for hunters in a few years.

  • Tourism group mulls move of Los Alamos Visitors Center

    The newly-formed Tourism Implementation Task Force wasted no time Wednesday picking out its first project – relocating the Los Alamos Visitors Center from it’s present location, the Central Park Square Shopping Center.

    The relocation of the visitors center will ultimately be up to Los Alamos County Council, but it will be the task force’s job to present the council with a scope of options and locations.

    Acting Chairwoman Linda Matteson said Design Workshop, the consultancy the county had worked with to revamp its tourism and economic development program, strongly suggested relocating the center.

    “Almost from day one, they said that’s not a good spot,” Matteson told the commission. “It’s a perfectly lovely building, a perfectly lovely space, but they said it was in a place where people don’t expect to see a visitor’s center.”

    The members of the task force agreed to put the project on the next meeting’s agenda, which will be at noon June 5 in Room 330 of the County Municipal Building.

    Task force member and Los Alamos History Museum Executive Director Heather McClenahan thought the visitors center should be graded on such factors as visibility, accessibility and parking.

  • Democratic candidate for governor wants pay for lawmakers

    SANTA FE (AP) — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Apodaca says he wants New Mexico lawmakers to become paid politicians to help eliminate financial conflicts of interest between their legislative duties and outside careers.

    Apodaca said Thursday that he supports reforms to provide state legislators with a full-time salary and lengthen legislative sessions that currently last 60 days or less.

    Limited safeguards against self-enrichment in the nation's only unsalaried legislature are under scrutiny in the wake of a corruption trial against a former state Sen. Phil Griego.

    Apodaca is calling attention to state contracts for a high-risk insurance pool that went to a consulting company co-founded by primary election opponent Michelle Lujan Grisham and her campaign treasure, state Rep. Deborah Armstrong. Lujan Grisham, a U.S. congresswoman, says she divested from Delta Consulting last year.

  • Candidate for governor seeks changes for driver's licenses

    SANTA FE (AP) — A Democratic candidate for New Mexico governor wants to ensure state residents are not wrongfully denied a driving credential and also make it possible to renew driver's licenses by mail.

    Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham on Thursday announced plans if elected to reform the state's two-tier system of driver's licenses.

    New Mexico adopted new driver identification standards to meet tougher U.S. ID requirements aimed at safeguarding commercial airlines, military bases and other federal facilities. But the system has prompted a discrimination lawsuit and widespread complaints of inconveniences since implementation in 2016 by the administration of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

    Lujan Grisham says applicants for driving credentials should be able to identify themselves using proof-of-residency documents from a homeless shelter or specified medical records.

  • Crews fight lightning-caused blaze near Bandelier

    Forest Service officials are reporting that a small lightning-caused fire in the Jemez Ranger District at Forest Road 289 near Bandelier National Monument.

    The fire started Wednesday was last reported to be 15 acres.

    Fire crews had three engines and a 12-person hand crew on the scene and one helicopter.
    Winds were blowing in 10-mph gusts.

    “Local communities may be impacted by smoke because of prevailing winds. Smoke-sensitive individuals and people with respiratory or heart disease are encouraged to take precautionary measures,” according to a release issued by the Forest Service.

    Information on air quality and protecting your health can be found online at the New Mexico Department of Health’s website at https://nmtracking.org/fire.

  • NFL owners adopt new policy to address anthem protests

    By PAUL NEWBERRY, AP Sports Writer

    ATLANTA (AP) — NFL owners approved a new policy Thursday aimed at addressing the firestorm over national anthem protests sparked by Colin Kaepernick and polarized by President Trump, permitting players to stay in the locker room during the "The Star-Spangled Banner" but requiring them to stand if they come to the field.

    Commissioner Roger Goodell said the change was approved unanimously by the owners at their spring meeting in Atlanta, but it was met with immediate skepticism by the players' union.

    "We want people to be respectful of the national anthem. We want people to stand," Goodell said. "That's all personnel, and to make sure they treat this moment in a respectful fashion. That's something that we think we owe. We've been very sensitive on making sure that we give players choices, but we do believe that moment is an important moment and one that we are going to focus on."

    In a sign that players were not part of the discussions, any violations of the policy would result in fines against the team — not the players.

    The NFL Players Association said it will challenge any part of the new policy that violates the collective bargaining agreement.

  • Drought on tap to intensify over US Southwest

    By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN, Associated Press

    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Rivers are drying up, popular mountain recreation spots are closing and water restrictions are in full swing as a persistent drought intensifies its grip on pockets of the American Southwest.

    Climatologists and other experts are scheduled Wednesday to provide an update on the situation in the Four Corners region — where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah meet.

    The area is dealing with exceptional drought — the worst category. That has left farmers, ranchers and water planners bracing for a much different situation than just a year ago when only a fraction of the region was experiencing low levels of dryness.

    With the region's water resources strained, a top federal official has resumed pressure on states in the Southwest to wrap up long-delayed emergency plans for potential shortages on the Colorado River, which serves 40 million people in the U.S. and Mexico.

    "We face an overwhelming risk on the system, and the time for action is now," Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner

    Brenda Burman said Tuesday. She spoke before the Imperial Irrigation District in Southern California, one of the biggest single users of the Colorado River.