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Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and Entertainment at 3:20 a.m. MST

  • Motorists to get break from traffic delays on westbound I-40

LAGUNA PUEBLO, N.M. (AP) — Travelers on Interstate 40 in northwestern New Mexico will get a break from construction delays this week. The state Department of Transportation will suspend work on a 5.5-mile project on the interstate near Laguna Pueblo from Wednesday through Sunday. Transportation Secretary Mike Sandoval says he understands drivers are frustrated by the often lengthy delays as westbound traffic was reduced to one lane and merging vehicles faced an uphill climb. The department says the work should be finished in mid-December, ahead of schedule. Other phases of the project will wrap up in the spring.

  • El Vado Dam to undergo extensive repairs to prevent leaks

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Major repairs to a northern New Mexico dam will mean irrigation water will have to be stored elsewhere. Repairs on El Vado Dam are slated to start next spring. That will leave the lake in Rio Arriba County far below capacity and unusable for at least a year. Page Pegram of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission says Abiquiu Lake is the most likely backup for irrigation in the Middle Rio Grande Valley. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation plans to fix the dam's foundation and spillway, among other things. The dam was built in the 1930s.

  • Interior head: Chaco protections 'millennia in the making'

CHACO CULTURE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK, N.M. (AP) — U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland met with state and tribal leaders Monday in northwestern New Mexico where a battle has waged for decades over oil and gas development. Haaland reflected on actions her agency took last week to curb new leasing around Chaco Culture National Historic Park. She says the celebration was "millennia in the making." While Navajo leaders support preserving parts of the area, they say individual Navajos stand to lose a source of income if a proposed buffer is created. The area holds significance for many Indigenous people in the Southwest. Haaland is a member of Laguna Pueblo.

  • New Mexico recoups $24 million in mortgage-crisis settlement

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — State prosecutors say New Mexico's public pension and investment funds will receive $24 million from several major financial institutions to resolve a lawsuit over mortgage-backed securities and the financial crisis more than a decade ago. New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas on Monday announced the settlement with seven financial institutions, including Barclays Capital, Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch. The settlement resolves allegations of inadequate disclosures about mortgage-backed securities that were purchased by the public pension and investment funds. Claims were dismissed with no admission of liability.

  • 2 New Mexico school districts close down, citing COVID surge

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — At least two New Mexico school districts are sending all of their students home early this week because of a coronavirus infection surge. Santa Fe Public Schools says students will go to remote learning starting Tuesday. That represents the the largest closure of K-12 schools since the spring. The smaller Los Lunas school district outside Albuquerque is closed to in-person learning on Monday and Tuesday ahead of the Thanksgiving break. While some schools had to close their doors in the past because of virus outbreaks, remote learning for an entire school district has been rare this semester. Online school comes at a cost, including parental child care struggles.

  • New Mexico foresees robust growth in state government income

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Forecasts for state government income have increased slightly as New Mexico legislators prepare to meet in January to craft a general fund budget. State finance officials on Monday told a panel of lawmakers that state income is likely to exceed already robust expectations by at least $28 million for the fiscal year starting July 2022. That adds slightly to a forecasted $1.4 billion surplus in state general fund income over current annual spending obligations. The estimates hold implications amid the coronavirus pandemic for public school finances, health care subsidies, public worker salaries, public safety and more.

  • Navajo officials urge COVID-19 safety as holiday nears

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — Navajo Nation officials are urging residents on the vast reservation to limit in-person gatherings to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus around the holidays. The tribe reported 35 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and five more coronavirus-related deaths. The figures bring the total number of cases to 38,898, including 11 cases that belatedly were reported. The death toll is 1,527. Navajo Vice President Myron Lizer says far too many people have contracted COVID-19 because they gather in-person and do not adhere to social distance guidelines or wear a mask. Tribal officials are urging everyone to get vaccinated.

  • Risk of quakes caused by oil, gas in New Mexico rising

CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — Multiple earthquakes were felt earlier this fall in West Texas, leading regulators in that state to designate a seismic response area and call for less wastewater from oil and gas development to be injected in disposal wells. As more seismic activity was reported closer to the state line, officials in New Mexico have been watching closely and gathering data. While Texas limits the injection of produced water, some officials are concerned that could have affects in New Mexico. The Oil Conservation Division in New Mexico is encouraging operators to recycle and reuse water instead of injecting it.