BY KATHLEENE PARKER
My hope for the new County Council is that it will return to the fundamentals. End the endless silly projects and get back to basics!
First, we must focus on the Southwest’s ongoing drought, which might not be drought at all but merely a return to far drier climate norms like those of much of the last 2,000 years. Los Alamos County, wisely, did not build a costly diversion to claim “our” San Juan-Chama water, or water diverted under the Continental Divide north of Chama and into the Rio Grande from the Colorado River, a river in such crisis that iconic Hoover Dam hovers at the edge of a first-ever Federal water emergency. There is no San Juan-Chama water, and if you doubt it, look at the Rio!
We are solely dependent on an aquifer—based on interviews from “the lab” and a story I wrote for the New Mexican way back in the 1990s—that was being drawn down then, or mined, by about 3-feet a year!
That was before two “mega” fires swept the Jemez Mountains and before a prolonged drought. It is irresponsible for the county and LANL to continue to advocate for growth absent a new study to determine what recharge—if any—to our aquifer and its exact status, because in a drought-ravaged Southwest—with or without climate change—there will be no Plan B!
Second, our dying downtown. When I moved here in 1991, downtown was dying. Here we are years later and things have only worsened. If we want a sound tax base, our leaders can’t keep watching businesses close and do nothing. Just because we’re paying a planning firm—of whatever merit—for a new downtown plan, doesn’t mean it won’t require more than I have ever seen from county leadership to make that plan equal help for businesses. We could take our cue from Durango, Colorado, where a merchants association and city government not only saved Main Avenue but created a downtown that received national recognition.
Third, when I moved here in 1991, we had a housing shortage, and here we are all these years later with little improvement. The lab must NOT grow without adequate housing for employees, but again, that goes back to how much water we have. I hope instead of irresponsibly spreading out onto surrounding virgin lands that we focus on high-density housing—which needs less water—placed in a dying downtown and a dying downtown White Rock in combination with the county council leading—as it has not in the past—to FINALLY give us more than block after block of empty buildings.