The 2018 noncompliance of the city of Santa Fe with the District Court-ordered Settlement Annexation Agreement of 2012 was discussed at the Sept. 28 Santa Fe County Commission meeting. Here are some of the issues.

Some people in the newly annexed areas don’t get regular garbage service. The various city departments refuse to provide services over the phone when someone in a newly annexed area calls; they simply say, “Call the county.” Customer service is bad. City police officers refuse to respond to calls because they don’t believe the property is annexed.

The city’s cancellation of the building of the new fire station and police substation on the N.M. 599 frontage road will not help these issues. Public health and safety issues are ignored by the city. This affects 13,000 people (2012 count; it may be 20,000 to 40,000 now) in the newly annexed areas.

The agreement covered 18 separate areas, in three phases, so this piecemealing has made it difficult for city and county staffs to know what was happening. It set up a system where areas not yet annexed but soon to be were referred to as the “presumptive city limits.” People in the presumptive city limits since 2012 are in a state of limbo. Coyote Ridge Subdivision residents now call the state police for services because the city has refused to respond to calls.

Human needs of this area are being ignored: Schools are overcapacity; the roads are full at peak times; there are few parks; there is homelessness and areas labeled as food deserts. In 2020, Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center labeled Agua Fría Village and the 87507 ZIP code in 2020 as health crisis areas.

These forgotten promises by city officials and inattention to the settlement provisions also include the open space at South Meadows/Rufina and the improvement of West Alameda. There are dozens of these instances. Lack of communication between city and county officials isn’t helping.

The last city-county public meeting was on June 15, 2017. The meeting was inconclusive, and the city and county retreated from communications after it — even now.

The idea that private landowners would develop land in newly annexed areas and the city would benefit from the increased density through taxation is a fallacy, because the underlying infrastructure of water, sewer and roads has not been constructed. Some lots are “landlocked.” Since the 2008 Great Recession/housing crisis, banks have been hesitant to grant construction loans on raw land. The city needs to plan these areas out and offer Community Development Block Grants or federal funding like Opportunity Zones. These are some of the county’s poorest areas.

The whole promise of annexation is that the services offered to new residents will be better than what they had (this is not happening). There is a total lack of planning in the area, and in this regard, its residents are being held hostage.

Other issues: The 1999 City General Plan has not been updated; the city’s long-term planning office disbanded in 2019; the 2006 Arterial Roads Taskforce stopped; the Regional Planning Authority last met in 2009; the 2006 City-County Southwest Sector Plan is not updated; the Extraterritorial Zoning Area, Extraterritorial Zoning Authority and Extraterritorial Zoning Commission were disbanded in 2008, even though state law “suggests” them; the city manager and county manager have not had their one-hour-a-week meetings in more than three years. The joint city-county water planning talks stopped nearly three years ago.

All these things indicate a breakdown in city-county communications and an inability to produce results for citizens. Reinstatement of the Settlement Annexation Agreement would force the apple cart back on the road.

William Henry Mee is president of the Agua Fría Village Association.

(5) comments

William Mee

This issue is scheduled to be printed in the Journal and the Reporter. Yesterday, the County Commission passed a Resolution to have Commissioners Anna Hansen and Hank Hughes to negotiate the completion of the Settlement Annexation Agreement with City Councilors Jaime Cast and Sig Lindell. I gave public testimony supporting this process. The City Resolution hearing this City-County agreement will be on December 8th at the City Council meeting. The background to this is the Mayor stated that he didn't realize so much was undone.

William Mee

The root cause is in this op-ed:

William Mee

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

c/o EMPSi, 54½ Lincoln St., Santa Fe, NM 87501

To Whom It May Concern:

We in Agua Fria Village stand in solidarity with our downstream sister communities in opposing the pipeline proposal as presented. Under the principles of the acequia culture, we believe in repartmiento, which in this case might translate as: "all for one and one for all."

First off, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation must immediately change the process from an Environmental Assessment to the more proper Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). An EIS allows for the consultation of specific populations of people whose rights are now being ignored. Additionally, an EIS handles the existing biosphere much more carefully. An EIS would do a much more comprehensive analysis that is required when wastewater is directly entered into a riparian area. [Andrea DLC can phrase this EIS stuff all better here].

We find that the City of Santa Fe's presentations on November 2nd and 3rd, had the wastewater operators and management suspiciously absent from the panel presenting the proposal. It is their product that we are talking about transporting in this pipeline. If they are not willing to face the public, how can we ever trust the quality of that water that is proposed to be put back into the Rio Grandé? In fact, there is an alarming track history of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violations that the City of Santa Fe has incurred, that we will talk about later. If we were a very cynical people, we would say that the City is just trying to get rid of its sewerage problems by dumping them into the Rio Grandé.

We participated in the 2017 planning process with the City of Santa Fe and we don’t know that the 7 different scenarios were vetted with complete information. This particular alternative rose to the top, basically out of nowhere. The Siler Road or Frenchy’s Field Scenario was done with improper cost information. We proposed a Right of Way (ROW) corridor that belongs to Santa Fe County under the Algodones to Baca Street High Power-line that would be free and not part of a $20 million ROW cost along the Santa Fe River, which was included in the City’s proposal. The Agua Fria Village wrote a letter supporting the Siler Road outlet proposal as a way to recharge our wells and maintain our Bosque (biosphere). However, given the horror stories from the Paseo Real Wastewater Plant, we are formally withdrawing that endorsement. Especially after hearing presentations on pharmaceuticals that are retained in the water at the Paseo Real Wastewater Plant, by Patrick Longmire of the N.M. Environment Department.

We are inherently aware of the dire consequences of Climate Change facing New Mexico and the need for the City of Santa Fe to continue the diversification of its water resources. For example, Sarah Moore, of the U.S Army Corps of Engineers, who is helping staff the New Mexico 50 Year Water Plan, spoke about the dire state of affairs: overall moisture will decrease from shifting jet stream patterns (going north of New Mexico), this will result in a loss of trees across ALL high mountain areas, this will increase soil erosion clogging water sources (like the Buckman Direct Diversion). This will occur to a point where the mountains are down to bedrock. Concurrently, there will be an increase in wildfires and more dramatic flood events. Also, wildfire impacted soils are sealed from moisture retention. There will also be an albedo effect on snowpack where it will be just evaporated without tree cover. So this is not our basis for opposing the City’s proposal. We just believe there are better alternatives.

We are in an active Adjudication of Henry Anaya, et. al. versus City of Santa Fe, so I don’t see how this radical approach would be accepted under that litigation. Wouldn’t any out of basin transfer of water be required to be approved by the judge in that case?

Neil Williams, hydrologist and engineer, spoke at the November 2nd presentation and spoke about this point: Los Alamos National Lab’s (LANL) Legacy Nuclear Pollution and other contaminants in White Rock Canyon and Los Alamos Canyon, that are above the Buckman Direct Diversion (BDD) Inlet. A really huge rain event could flow over the top of the check dams and remediation efforts that LANL is doing, and go right into the Rio Grande, and the BDD inlet itself. Therefore, this money would be better spent to extend the pipeline for the BDD above the deadly waste and utilize the San Ildefonso Pueblo easement for the future Aamodt Water Plant.

Paul White, President of the Santa Fe Basin Water Association, says: why isn't the City of Santa Fe proposed pipeline from the Paseo Real Wastewater plant sent direct (through the Purple Pipe) to the Buckman Direct Diversion Inlet where it can get 100% purification and it isn’t silty water to begin with, instead of into the Rio Grande, where there is a possibility of pollution? We are told by Wastewater Plant whistleblowers that the water from the plant will never be suitable for human consumption and this is why it was never considered.

If the goal is to get Return Flow Credits for San Juan-Chama water (which will be increasingly diminishing under Climate Change), why doesn't the City of Santa Fe join the Santa Fe River Traditional Communities Collaborative (SFRTCC) in it's goal for getting Return Flow Credits for the discharge of the Paseo Real Wastewater plant through the Santa Fe River into the Cochiti Lake's Santa Fe River holding dam (that passes through the sand into the Rio Grande), in accordance with the mechanisms set out in House Memorial 103 and Senate Memorial 70 of the 2017 N.M. Legislative Session?

NOTE: The whole N.M. Office of State Engineer's determination made by attorney (not a hydrologist) D.L. Saunders in the late 1970's was that the water in the Santa Fe River never made it to the Rio Grande and the water simply evaporated. This has since been disproven by actual hydrologists studying the water flow in the sands of the riverbed (Professor Stacey Timmons, N.M. Institute of Mining and Technology).

If we look at the “History of the Springs” along the Santa Fe River, former State Historian and professor Hilario Romero has documented some 33 springs along the historic 47 mile course of the River. This information coming from the historic journals of Spanish explorers and settlers as they watered their horses. Currently, only six of these regularly flow. With all six with diminished flows. The recharge of these springs and of people’s wells is very important and this proposal jeopardizes that. La Cienega Creek flowed year-round from the Springs probably for the last 400 years as documented by La Cienega residents.

The Rio Grande is the lifeblood of most of New Mexico, and the thought that full effluent dumps, as have occurred in June 2021 and before, would devastate that water is sort of horrifying. No public agency should enable this. The Paseo Real Wastewater Plant does not filter out pharmaceuticals, and there are no plans to do so, so dumping it in the Rio Grande is not helpful to downstream users or wildlife. Studies in other parts of the country have shown where the sexes of amphibians are changed by living in water with too many pharmaceuticals.

The “Artificial Wetlands” on the City of Santa Fe’s Airport and State Land Office lands, below the Paseo Real Wastewater Plant need to be reworked before any such Pipeline proposal is acted on. There are wetland applications proposed by Erin English of Biohabits, that describe natural environment that filter wastewater. So now that we have “Habitat” established by both the historic flows and the City’s flow of water and the possible 50% of water flow (and it has endangered species in it like the N.M. Willow Flycatcher), a whole new Management Plan must be established by Federal law. Where is this being considered?

QUESTION TO THE BOR: Is this water from the Paseo Real Wastewater Plant safe to put back into the Rio Grande?

BACKGROUND: A City of Santa Fe whistleblower alerted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Dallas (Anthony Loston; to do a surprise inspection in June 2021 and a number violations were found that resulted in citations and two follow-up inspections were done that resulted in two more citations. To date a response has not been made to my knowledge and the corrective action was never disclosed to the public.

SPECIFICS: Excessive Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSO), the sand filters (tertiary treatment) often blow out or are bypassed which leaves large amount of suspended sediment in effluent prior to Ultra Violet (UV) disinfection. The suspended particles mean that the water won’t meet discharge limits, as bacteria are shielded from UV light by particulate. Delays in construction projects caused detention times in aeration basins to be too low, which causes excessive foaming. This means ammonia in Wastewater can’t be stabilized, leading to exceedances in discharges. The headworks are close to failing. Debris is making it into plant and causing problems with equipment and throughout process. Fats, oils and greases aren’t being well regulated in City, so it’s making it to the plant & wreaking havoc. There are electrical code violations throughout plant. Waste Water (WW) Director Mike Dozier is never on site, which violates EPA rules for operators. He had ~2 years experience in WW before Shannon Jones promoted him.

WW Collections has 4 employees remaining, out of 19 FTEs on the books. This means they can’t clean lines or do maintenance with this few people, so we have excessive Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSO). Dozier & Jones are pushing staff not to report SSO’s to EPA within the mandatory 24 hour period as required by Federal law.

Look at an aerial of the Waste Water plant and see five different types of lagoon structures, I mean to the City of Santa Fe’s credit, they have tried every approach to fix the problems that have spanned across decades. But there is now a sense of complete “hopelessness” that has set into the City Staff and officials. They often say the only way to change this is to build a new $350 million dollar wastewater plant. But they know the cost to the City would bankrupt it and the EPA approvals would take a minimum of three years. Frankly, this BOR Application is the very easy way out. Just Do It and then beg forgiveness later when pollution occurs in the Rio Grande.

The following actions of the BOR are necessary under the City of Santa Fe’s Environmental Assessment Application:

1. Change it to an Environmental Impact Statement.

2. Explore more alternatives to the application, such as: moving the BDD Outlet above the Legacy Nuclear Waste; or using the Pipeline to filter the water direct into the BDD Outlet.

3. Give citizens more opportunities for input.

Thank you for your attention to these comments.


William H. Mee, President of:

County-Designated Community Organization of the Traditional Historic Community of Agua Fria Village

Agua Fria Village Association

Acequia Agua Fria

Agua Fria Wellowners' Association

William Mee

This is an op-ed that I did and I had to edit from about 950 words to the 600 words to fit the column. The problem is much worse than I have written about here. Each point takes a little bit more to explain. For Example, the cancellation of the Fire Station on the NM 599 Frontage Road costs 20-40,000 City residents more in their home insurance. The status of a lot that is landlocked causes a person to be unable to get Title Insurance on their property. This is turn causes them to not be able to get a Mortgage loan, or perhaps sell the property. School over capacity can affect a child's learning. The lack of grocery stores in the area prohibit better health care if people aren't eating right in accordance with St. Vincent/Christis' study of the 87507 ZIP code as the most health challenged in Santa Fe County.

We need to collect the stories of people that have been adversely impacted by the City's blotched Annexation: Commissioner Hansen is going to introduce a Resolution on this topic on December 14th. The Mayor told her he is introducing a Resolution on December 8th to "study" it---like he hasn't had four years to do so.

William Mee

Yesterday, officers from the Coyote Ridge and the Sol y Lomas Subdivisions wrote to me echoing my concerns and bemoaning how the City refuses to treat newly annexed areas with the respect they deserve.

Welcome to the discussion.

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