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Local News

  • Gov considers checks on gun sellers

    BY MORGAN LEE
    The Associated Press

    SANTA FE — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has suggested that New Mexico keep closer track of hate groups and consider extending background checks on private gun sales to sellers of firearms, as the state grapples with concerns about the Aug. 3 shootings in the neighboring city of El Paso, Texas.

    The first-year Democratic governor is convening a summit of public safety experts today at the state Capitol building to come up with precautions against domestic terrorism in response to the El Paso shootings that killed 22.

    State law enforcement officials and leading lawmakers in the Democrat-led state House and Senate were scheduled to meet behind closed doors today for the discussions and a briefing from an FBI representative.

    “In these horrific, horrific situations, I’m seeing members of our state and folks around the country talk about background checks that could apply to sellers,” Lujan Grisham said Monday. “Then we can track the movement of firearms.”

    The summit is closed to news media because it involves sensitive law enforcement discussions, Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki said. “It’s an internal discussion,” he said in an email.

  • Experts to review mine design at US nuclear waste dump

    CARLSBAD (AP) — The contractor that manages the federal government's nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico has assembled a panel of experts to review the effectiveness of ground control and mine design at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

    Officials with Nuclear Waste Partnership say the experts' recommendations will help ensure worker safety and that the repository is compliant with state and federal regulations.

    The experts have experience in geotechnical engineering, geophysics, rock mechanics and imaging and sensing technologies.

    The repository is licensed to take Cold War-era waste generated by decades of bomb-making and defense-related nuclear research. The waste includes gloves, clothing, tools and other materials contaminated with radioactive elements.

    The waste is entombed in disposal rooms carved out of an ancient salt formation about half a mile (0.8 kilometers) down.
     

  • WIPP’s Nuclear Waste Partnership announces new manager

    Sean Dunagan, a recognized nuclear expert with almost 20 years of experience in the management and operation of deep geological repositories for the U.S. Department of Energy will replace Bruce Covert as president and project manager of Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP), the management and operating contractor at DOE’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

    Dunagan will officially take the reins at NWP in September. He will spend the next two weeks with Covert to ensure a smooth transition, according to a release from the company Tuesday.

    “Bruce has done a tremendous job leading the return to transuranic waste operations at WIPP since his arrival in May 2017,” said Mark Whitney, executive vice president of AECOM’s Nuclear and Environment Group. “Under Bruce’s steady hand, NWP returned to steady state operations at the nation’s only deep geologic repository for transuranic waste.

    Dunagan has been associated with WIPP since 2002. He served as a manager in research and development, science and engineering in Special Projects and Remote Site Support for SNL-C.

    During the WIPP recovery effort following the 2014 fire and radiological events, Dunagan was detailed for more than two years from SNL-C as the DOE Carlsbad Field Office Senior WIPP Recovery Manager. In this position, he successfully led the restart of operations at the WIPP facility following a three-year shutdown.

  • New Family Orientation Wednesday at Aspen Elementary

    Those who are new to Los Alamos or have a student attending one of the Los Alamos Public Schools for the first time are invited to attend the New Family Orientation from noon-2 p.m. Wednesday at Aspen Elementary School gymnasium.

    Attendees will get a chance to learn more about the schools, the community and local organizations. They will also get the opportunity to meet school district leaders and community partners.

    The orientation will include time for a Q&A session.

    Lunch will be provided beginning at 11:30 a.m.

    Call 663-2222 or email d.larson@laschools.net for more information.

  • Republican businessman to run for US Senate in New Mexico

    STAFF AND WIRE REPORT

    ALBUQUERQUE — Republican construction contractor Mick Rich is making a second run for the U.S. Senate in New Mexico.

    The Mick Rich 2020 campaign committee filed paperwork Aug. 1 with the Federal Election Commission, opening the door for the Albuquerque resident to seek the GOP nomination.

    Rich, who lost to Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich last year, confirmed late Monday that he will run for an open Senate seat in 2020, though he has not made an official announcement.

    Rich told the Los Alamos Monitor Tuesday New Mexico needed an advocate for the state’s national labs in Washington, D.C.

    “We need a senator in Washington that’s going to be an advocate for our national labs, both Los Alamos and Sandia,” Rich said. “It tore me up that Los Alamos was going to take the lead for pit production and lost that lead to South Carolina. That wouldn’t have happened if Sen. Bingaman or Sen. Dominici were in office.”

    Rich said there is always a chance Los Alamos could lose pit production altogether in the future and he hoped to advocate for the program if elected.

    Democratic Sen. Tom Udall is retiring.

  • New Mexico taps nonprofit leader to carry out school reforms

    By MORGAN LEE Associated Press

    SANTA FE (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Monday tapped a Philadelphia-based executive at a nonprofit devoted to improving opportunities for poor, minority students to lead the state's Public Education Department.

    Ryan Stewart, a regional executive director at Partners in School Innovation, took control of the state agency as it redraws its student testing, teacher-evaluation and school ratings systems and rolls out investments to extend classroom learning time for a heavily Latino and Native American population.

    Lujan Grisham, a first-year Democrat, has made improvements in public education a priority. Last month, she shook up the education department by firing Education Secretary Karen Trujillo.

    Stewart said at a press conference he was persuaded to take the job by Lujan Grisham's description of a state poised for critical changes.

    "There is an opportunity to take a state that to-date hasn't yet fulfilled its potential, but that's investing in it, where the Legislature, the governor's office, the stakeholder community are all aligned," Stewart said. "You're going to have strong investment; you're going to have strong support to make a difference ... for kids who traditionally the system hasn't served well."

  • N.M. Department of Health reports first human case of West Nile Virus

    The state Department of Health reported the first confirmed human case of West Nile virus in New Mexico Monday.

    A 42-year-old woman from Dona Ana County was hospitalized and is recovering from the virus, according to the health department.

    West Nile virus is a disease transmitted by mosquitoes that can sometimes be fatal.

    New Mexico has seen human cases of West Nile virus every year since the virus migrated to New Mexico in 2003.

    Last year there were seven confirmed cases in New Mexico, including one fatal case, and in 2017, there were 33 confirmed West Nile virus cases in New Mexico, with one reported death.

    Mosquito populations tend to rise all over the state of New Mexico following the increased precipitation originating from the monsoon rains. It only takes one bite from an infected mosquito for a person to get sick, the health department reported Monday.

    The health department urged New Mexicans to take precautions to protect themselves against West Nile virus.

  • 1 of the missing 'moon trees' in New Mexico believed found

    SANTA FE (AP) — Officials believe they may have found one of the missing trees planted in New Mexico from seeds taken to the moon during the Apollo 14 mission.

    KOAT-TV reports former New Mexico first lady Clara Apodaca and a naturalist identified last week a tree they believe to be one of those planted in the state four decades ago.

    Apodaca and the naturalist say a Douglas Fir located in a grassy area north of the state capitol in Santa Fe is a moon tree. Apodaca helped plant it.

    The discovery comes after the Albuquerque station reported that officials where the trees were planted decades ago said they have lost track of the trees.

    Moon trees were grown from 500 seeds taken into orbit around the moon by former U.S. Forest Service smokejumper Stuart Roosa during the 1971 mission.

     

  • Group finds a way to make cave less deadly

    Two deaths and one serious injury at a popular cave in White Rock over the past 12 years were enough to convince Los Alamos County to make Hell’s Hole safer for climbers.

    A group of cave explorers is headed to Los Alamos in September to block one entrance in a way that will also maintain the natural beauty and habitat area of the White Rock cave.

    The county will host the Southwestern Region of the National Speleological Society sometime in September. During that time, a local chapter of the society, the Pajarito Grotto, plans to construct a wall using rebar, cement and stones from the cave over a particular exit in the back of the cave that leads out to a canyon edge in “Hell’s Hole,” a popular cave in White Rock.

    Over the past 12 years, two cave explorers lost their lives falling of the ledge outside the exit and one explorer was seriously injured. The latest incident involved Trevor Matuszak, who, while exploring the cave with his friends, exited out the hole and fell off the narrow ledge to his death in 2017.

    The other victim, David Dickens died in 2002.

    In 2013, a 15-year-old girl was seriously injured when she fell from the same exit.

  • State, road company to meet about flooding

    Engineers from the New Mexico Department of Transportation will meet and talk with officials next week from Star Paving about how they can prevent future flooding on Verde Ridge Road.

    “The existing storm drain system is overwhelmed and does not have the capacity to handle these recent unusual heavy rains. The necessary construction phasing as designed, further reduces the capacity to carry these heavy runoffs,” NMDOT District Five Public Information Officer Rosanne Rodriguez said. “Star Paving will work with DOT to install interim measures to address flooding until the new storm drain system is fully operational.”

    Residents living in townhomes on Verde Ridge Road were hit twice in as many weeks by flooding, which were attributed to ongoing construction of a nearby traffic circle by Star Paving.

    The construction abuts an embankment that leads directly into the backyards of a row of townhomes on Verde Ridge Road.  

    For about two weeks, heavy storms have brought water over the berms designed to catch the water and down the embankment and into their homes.

    However, according to Rodriguez, it has been the weather that’s the problem, that Star Paving has built interim drainage according to state specifications.