Valencia County declared a federal drought area; boundary line questioned

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The Valencia County manager brought commissioners up to speed on recent developments in state and federal decisions that have an impact on county residents.

County manager Eric Zamora said the county had recently been declared a federal drought area, so farmers are able to apply for assistance.

In a press release dated July 13, U.S. Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall announced that the Obama administration has declared 16 northern and central New Mexico counties disaster areas due to severe drought.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the following 16 counties are now eligible to apply for drought disaster assistance: Bernalillo, Harding, Rio Arriba, Taos, Cibola, Lincoln, San Miguel, Torrance, Colfax, McKinley, Sandoval, Union, Guadalupe, Mora, Santa Fe, and Valencia.

In June, the USDA declared more than a dozen other counties drought disaster areas. As a result, all New Mexico counties are eligible for assistance.

A secretarial disaster designation makes farm operators in both primary and contiguous counties eligible to be considered for assistance from the Farm Service Agency, provided eligibility requirements are met.

This assistance includes FSA emergency loans and the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program.

Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of a secretarial disaster declaration to apply for emergency loan assistance.

FSA will consider each emergency loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of production losses, security available, and repayment ability. SURE program applications for 2011 crop losses will be accepted in 2012, when the 2011 farm revenue data required by statute becomes available.

Farmers seeking assistance should contact the New Mexico FSA office at 505-761-4900. The office is at 6200 Jefferson NE, Ste. 211 in Albuquerque.

Zamora also reported that during a recent meeting with the New Mexico Partnership, the official business recruiting arm for the state, he discovered that the organization had no information about commercial property available in the unincorporated areas of the county.

"We gave them a tour of available properties and are working to build a list of properties and their current zoning for commercial and industrial," Zamora said. "We also learned that New Mexico has budgeted nothing, zero dollars, for economic development. I'm not sure the state is taking it seriously."

According to its website, the New Mexico Partnership is a private non-profit organization created in 2003 at the behest of local leaders and industry across New Mexico to attract business and create jobs in New Mexico.

The partnership is a 501(c) 6 non-profit organization and its funding comes through a joint powers agreement with the New Mexico Economic Development Department.

In an interview following the meeting, Zamora said he wasn't aware of the New Mexico Partnership group until the recent meeting, hosted by the village of Los Lunas. He said the county has dealt with Fred Mondragon, former cabinet secretary of the New Mexico Economic Development Department, in the past when there were companies interested in locating in the county.

"That there was another project with Fred was news to us. They were wanting to gather information from Los Lunas on available properties and to find out what kind of economic development opportunities Valencia County and Los Lunas were looking for," he said. "The answer is 'anything' if it's places in the proper area. They had no information on the zoning in the county."

Zamora said the partnership was looking at what neighboring states such as Arizona and Texas were doing to attract business, such as cash incentives. Right now, Arizona has such a plethora of warehouse space, companies are able to rent space for pennies on the dollar, he said, until business picks up and they can pay fair market value on the space.

"To make the statement that there are zero dollars allocated for this state does not bode well," he said.

And a debate that has been going on for decades is back for another round, Zamora said. Surveys done by Isleta Pueblo in the 1980s, show a possible encroachment onto its land by the county. The boundary line between Valencia County and Isleta runs along the northern edge of the community of Meadow Lake.

Isleta has always contended that the county line was too far north, by about 30 feet.

Zamora said he met with representatives from Isleta, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the county GIS/mapping department out at the boundary and looked at the boundary markers.

"They're there. This is something we've actually been working on since Commissioner Lynette Pinkston was in office, but then it got back-burnered," he said. "About a year ago, the pueblo approached us from the position that we need to correct this. They are willing to work with us, but they are being firm."

The end result of moving the boundary will most likely be the county cutting a new east-west road on the north side of Meadow Lake to replace Mesa Estates Road, more commonly known as Fence Line Road.

"We will probably end up putting in new roads, doing new surveys, or else some property could end up land-locked. Basically, we will take the road as it is and 'flip' it to create a mirror image," Zamora said. "We've met with property owners a couple of weeks ago and gathered information that we will be taking back to Isleta."


Contact Julia M. Dendinger