By Chantel Chavez and Antonio Maestas, Southwest Organizing Project
The residents of Bernalillo County are wrestling with questions about the well-being of New Mexico after the Bernalillo County Commission approved the Santolina development master plan on June 16.
In this time of drought, residents are worried about how the lack of water will affect their everyday quality of life. Even before the proposed mega-development, the drought made many question the longevity of our agricultural livelihoods, as well as the health impacts on our residents.
The effect of the drought plaguing New Mexico are evident by clear observation of our rivers, acequias and the condition of our land. Our state is dry, threatening the livelihood of our local farmers and businesses.
According to recent reports, farmers are borrowing water from the city of Albuquerque to irrigate their fields due to the lack of water in the acequias. This creates an increase in the use of the city’s sacred water and leaves everyone, not just the farmers, in a rut. In this time of need, we need to focus on preserving our state’s water.
Not only will we see the effects of Santolina in our water but we will also see it play out with the community’s health.
The construction of the Santolina development will cause an increase in blowing sand, which will lead to respiratory illnesses and infections directly linked to poor air quality.
If we were to move forward with Santolina’s vision, our water shortage will only worsen. The developers project that Santolina will use at least 20 million gallons of water per day.
Santolina has left the people of New Mexico worrying about the future of their agriculture and livelihood. Perhaps worst of all, the Santolina development has caused the community to fear that they lack the support of our elected officials.
During the last Santolina hearing it was evident that commissioners Wayne Johnson, Lonnie Talbert and Art De La Cruz had already set their minds to approve the Santolina Development master plan. These commissioners voted to not allow public comment at the start of the hearing, choosing to leave it until the end. Because of this, these commissioners passed the master plan before listening to the public’s concerns that day. The hundreds of comments in opposition over the past two years also seemed to have no impact on their votes.
The long-term effects of Santolina are detrimental to New Mexico’s well being and will leave the Southwest region without the critical resources we need to survive. We call upon the people of New Mexico to stand with us to reject this development and preserve our culture and heritage.
It is clear that some of our elected officials do not stand for us, but if we stand together our voices will be heard and we will make a difference in our community.