Who Owns the Rio Chama? Plus Good News From the PRC & the Polls!

Today, we offer mostly good news: plummeting polls for Trump, a welcome ruling from the PRC and an interesting exploration of the idea of owning water. But before we move to the good news, some scary news on the COVID front.

Trump Should Be Charged with Criminal Negligence

Long ago, Trump’s bungling of the COVID pandemic, along with the sheep-like compliance of the GOP and even the CDC, has offered America enough evidence to turn its back on this nightmare. According to Real Politic’s rolling average, Trump’s favorability polling has now reached the lowest level since Feb 10, 2020 with 55.4% of Americans see Trump unfavorably while 40.1% continue to view Trump favorably, for a +15.3% unfavorable score. For context, on April 5 his unfavorable score was but +6.8%.

Only ignorance and Fox News can explain how 40% of Americans can view this disaster favorably. But before getting too excited, it is worth reflecting that on Nov 8, 2016 Trump’s unfavorability was resting at +21, significantly worse than today. And he won. So we have work to do.

I do not think the best line of argument with Trump supporters is to argue policy or point to how crass, shameless and egotistical he is. It is clear that his supporters will swallow their pride and their principles in order to ensure more reactionary judges and complete judicial protection of conservative priorities, no matter how crassly he behaves.

But COVID is now starting to spike again and it is sweeping through the south and midwest, while Trump calls on thousands to pack arenas and other venues to see him, defying the guidelines published by his own administration. Some of those people will become infected, will spread the virus in their community’s and, as a result, many more will suffer grave illness and death…because of Trump. A few trends:

  • California is reeling as COVID begins to spike there again;
  • New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are contemplating forcing anyone coming to their states to undergo a 14-day quarantine if they come to their states from other states experiencing spikes;
  • The European Union is considering banning all Americans from coming to the EU until we have this under control.
  • Virtually every other nation on earth has addressed the pandemic quickly and has used a coordinated national strategy of isolation, social distancing, masks and testing and it has worked. Trump has forced states to compete with each other for equipment, has undermined local and state efforts to implement his administration’s own guidelines and when more COVID spikes are experienced and more stay at home methods result, he will not be able to blame China. He will be forced to defend why the US was unable to replicate proven practices in other nations. It is hard to find a credible defense and the news of Trump’s culpability will be news every day until the election, even on Fox.

I am not a Constitutional lawyer, but it seems to me that the complete absence of any national strategy, indeed Trump’s intentionally undermining, even repudiating the use of masks and social distancing appears a lot like criminal negligence. Trump’s continuous assertion that our numbers are only bad because of our great testing system (not) and that he is considering slowing testing, is yet another manifestation of what amounts to criminal negligence. Indeed, Trump followed through on his threat to curb testing by withdrawing Federal funding for drive-in testing. His claims that the virus was China’s fault and that he saved thousands of lives with his travel ban will sound hollow when he is forced to face all of Europe banning American entry due to our singular lack of a COVID national strategy.

Trump supporters can deny facts but they can’t long deny death and how there is only one subhuman being on this earth responsible for these deaths: Trump.

What do you think? Is this the kind of argument we want to focus on in swing states? Do you think it might be possible to charge him with criminal negligence once he exits office? He doesn’t need to just lose; he needs to spend years in prison, not golfing at Mar a Lago.

Good news from the Public Regulation Commission

A host of environmental organizations, deploying different tactics but unified in their opposition to natural gas, has achieved a very important step in forcing PNM to replace San Juan power with 100% renewables and two battery storage facilities, one in Rio Arriba county and one in McKinley county. The key elements of the Hearing Examiner’s recommendation include:

  • The proposal favored by the hearing examiner would provide 520 MW and more than $430 million of investment in McKinley and Jicarilla Apache of Rio Arriba County.
  • The hearing examiner also ruled that was ruled Enchant’s plan to use carbon capture to replace San Juan power is not flexible enough to meet NM’s energy needs. A very good thing.
  • The favored proposal would provide more than 1,000 construction jobs, including at least 500 construction jobs for the Arroyo project and at least 500 construction jobs for the Jicarilla project alone, welcome news on the economic front.

This is a big step forward. It is time for environmental groups who agree on the long-term objective, to unify and accept that different groups will pursue different strategies and may differ over whether to accept or reject mid-course compromise. We have too much at stake and too much to do to allow our differences to overshadow all upon which we agree.

Retake organized a petition asking the PRC to not include natural gas in its replacement plan and now that the hearing examiner has weighed in, we need Commissioners to understand that the public wants them to follow the Hearing Examiner’s recommendation and choose the 100% renewable option. Click here to sign a petition asking the Commissioners to select 100% renewables. And once done, please share this link with others.

Who Owns the Water?

Impact, in its article “Who Owns A River? The Question Is Tearing This Community Apart” lays out how a NM state regulation is opening the door to private landowners to prohibit the public from accessing waterways running through their property. The wealthy landowners, are making improvements to waterways and rivers running through their land and then are operating exclusive ranches and recreation venues with price tags of $600 a night to enjoy “their” river.

Dan Perry retired and moved to Northern NM from Texas. He purchased a 10,000 acre ranch and invested in environmental improvements in portions of the Rio Chama running through his property. Now he seeks to restrict public access to that portion of the river to allow his wealthy patrons to fish and boat on it, undisturbed by us common folk. Impact quotes Perry:

““The beauty of our lands and species survival is up to private landowners,” Perry told me in a 2018 conversation, back when he was fighting for the option to own a portion of the Chama’s stream bed. “We’re not being selfish rich people. We believe we do the best conservation.”

Impact: “Who Owns A River? The Question Is Tearing This Community Apart”

At least for now, it appears that a 2017 state regulation allows Perry and others to claim river beds on their land as private property and if this regulation is upheld or not reversed, it is highly likely that other wealthy individuals will follow suit. Steve Harris of Far Flung Adventures weighed in on that likelihood.

“It’s the loss of a right that for 50 years of my boating life went unquestioned,” said Steve Harris, a local paddler and CEO of the rafting company Far Flung Adventures. “If this rule remains in place, there will be a landslide of applications from landowners until everything is privatized.”

Impact: “Who Owns A River? The Question Is Tearing This Community Apart”

Apparently others among the ultra rich see the same opportunity and are seeking certification to restrict public access to other rivers in NM. Again from Impact:

“Oil and gas magnate Kenneth Hersh, whom Forbes once named one of the richest people in Texas, has so certified a portion of the Pecos River that runs through his Rio Dulce Ranch. Sections of the Mimbres, Penasco and Alamosa rivers on the grounds of the Z&T Cattle Company have been certified by Zane Kiehne, named one of the largest landowners in the country by USA Today.”

Impact: “Who Owns A River? The Question Is Tearing This Community Apart”

This is yet another manifestation of the hubris and self-serving nature of individualism, neoliberalism and capitalism: “If there is a profit to be made on “my” river, or even if I just want a river for myself, if I can afford it, screw you. It is mine. Get back to work and shut up. I earned this.”

Click here to read the full Impact article. It will piss you off. But that is a good thing.

As we change gears now that the Special Session is behind us, we will be devoting considerable effort to educating and motivating you to become consistently and persistently active in the 2020 election both in NM and in swing states.. We will have more on what you can do in a post in the near future. At the same time, we will be exploring transformational initiatives that can define a new future. The Transformation Study Group is conducting research to examine new strategies, policies and initiatives that can contribute to creating a new future, a future that prioritizes the common good over private profit . And privately owned rivers won’t be part of that.

If you want to be part of this visionary work, join our Transformation Study Group by writing to us at RetakeResponse@gmail.com. Our next zoom meeting is on June 30.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

P.S. As I write this post Wednesday afternoon, the fourth in four days without Roxanne here to inform my choices, revise my wording and shorten my too often wordy styling, Roxanne is on her way home, to arrive by dinner time.

Thanks to all who voiced support. The next post will be shorter, crisper and very Roxanne-like. Stay safe, healthy and hopeful.



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1 reply

  1. I was SO upset to read “who owns a river” that I wrote to both state senators about this outrage. As I stated, having owned a home in upstate NY near the Delaware river, we were able to freely enjoy recreation on the river because it belonged to the PUBLIC! We entered via public landings, public property or on private property operating a rafting company. This ruling must not stand. I did give support to anyone who wishes to buy riverfront property and improve its biodiversity. This effort should even come with a state tax break for those individuals who can prove their efforts positive effects.

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