BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Land in the Rendija Canyon area is again on the table for possible conveyance to Los Alamos County from Los Alamos National Laboratory according to an Oct. 2 letter sent by the Department of Energy to Los Alamos County Council.
The letter notes that the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Los Alamos Field Office continues to be prepared to convey three tracts to the County and that terms and conditions associated with the proposed deed for conveyance have been under negotiation for several years.
Although the letter asks that the County Council advise NNSA in writing if the County remains interested in conveyance of the three tracts with the proposed deed restrictions within 30 days of receipt of the letter, Council Chair Sara Scott said Sunday that the proposed land transfer item is not on the Council agenda at this point and that NNSA will be briefing Council on topics in November.
NNSA, according to the letter, has spent some $12 million preparing Rendija Canyon for transfer to the County. That work has included mitigation of 25 archeological sites through excavation; removal and cleanup of motocross tracks constructed by the public; development of a memorandum of agreement with the County, State Historic Preservation Officer and Advisory Council on Historic Preservation for management of Traditional Cultural Property (TCP) Districts; fencing, rerouting and improvements to trails within TCP Districts; installation of kiosks and signs with unexploded ordnance information and warnings for trail users; and paving of the parking area.
Under the environmental protection provisions of the proposed quit claim deed for the property, it is noted that NNSA has conducted numerous environmental investigations of the property including a surface and near surface clearance in 2014 to a depth of three inches in order to “locate, characterize, and dispose of surface and near surface munitions and explosives of concern” within the tract. NNSA has determined that future use of the land is “limited by unexploded ordnance concerns” meaning that no residential use is permitted without the express written approval of NNSA. Any proposed soil disturbance has to be surveyed by a qualified unexploded ordnance technician.
The NNSA letter to the County indicates that NNSA explored a couple of options with the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) on behalf of the County, including surveying the area at a depth greater than three inches, however a new survey would result in “an unfunded expense of million dollars and based on ACE analysis would still not clear the need for the deed restriction”. The ACE also does not agree that the risk is minimized in the portions of the tract for which the County requested deed restrictions be removed.
The proposed land transfer does not include the area currently occupied by the Los Alamos Sportsmen’s Club.