Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m. MDT

Jun 5, 2019

US land managers shift position on Chaco protection billALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — U.S. land managers are open to legislation that would limit federal leases for oil and natural gas development near a national park in New Mexico held sacred by Native Americans.Bureau of Land Management Deputy Director of Operations Michael Nedd told members of a congressional subcommittee Wednesday that the agency had no objection to the bill.The agency shifted its stance following a recent visit by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to Chaco Culture National Historical Park.Bernhardt said the agency will defer leases within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of the park over the next year while regulators prepare a new management plan for the region's resources.


Winds caused scattered damage in Alamogordo area; zoo closedALAMOGORDO, N.M. (AP) — Strong storm winds caused scattered damage in the Alamogordo area on Tuesday, forcing the local zoo to close to the public Wednesday so crews can clear downed trees and limbs.The National Weather Service said it was conducting a damage survey of "isolated damage" from the storm and investigating a report of a "short-lived tornado" north of Alamogordo.Photos posted on Twitter by the weather service shows a snapped-off utility pole, a pole stuck into a trailer, downed trees and a half-flattened mobile home.There were no immediate reports of injuries caused by the storm.


Tests show elevated lead levels at some Albuquerque schools(Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com)ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Testing results show elevated levels of lead were found in some fountains and sinks at Albuquerque elementary schools.The Albuquerque Journal reported Wednesday that Albuquerque Public Schools started receiving test results last month after submitting water samples from 69 schools to state agencies beginning in April.District Chief Operations Officer Scott Elder said about 5% of the more than 800 sinks and water fountains tested were above the federal threshold for lead.He says the district replaced the faucets or fixtures where high lead was found. The district is waiting for results after retesting these sites.Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority spokesman David Morris says the lead problem is with the school fixtures and not the water supply.The 69 schools tested were built before 1990.___


3rd trial delayed for ex-Santa Fe deputy in fatal shootingLAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — A third trial for a former Santa Fe County sheriff's deputy accused in the 2014 shooting death of a fellow deputy has been postponed.KVIA-TV in El Paso, Texas, reports the New Mexico Third District Court District Attorney's office says scheduling issues for witnesses were the primary reason for the delay.The voluntary manslaughter trial against Tai Chan was originally slated to begin June 24 in Las Cruces.Chan has been tried twice on a first-degree murder charge in the death of Santa Fe County Sheriff's Deputy Jeremy Martin. Both of those ended in mistrials.He is accused of shooting Martin in the back as Martin fled during an argument at the hotel where they had stopped on a trip to transport a prisoner to Arizona.Chan has claimed self-defense.


1st Mexican gray wolf litter born at Phoenix Zoo in 20 yearsPHOENIX (AP) — Phoenix Zoo officials say the first litter of endangered Mexican gray wolf pups has been born there in 20 years.Zoo spokeswoman Linda Hardwick says a wolf named Tazanna delivered a litter of six pups in early May. Tazanna and the pups' father Tulio are both 3 years old and arrived at the zoo the same day in 2017.Zoo carnivore collection manager Angela Comedy says the wolves are caring well for the pups and veterinarians are leaving them alone for now.A cooperative breeding program operated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service aims to restore the wolves to their native U.S. Southwest territory.The wolves are endangered. Officials in April said there are at least 131 in Arizona and New Mexico.


Experts: New Mexico is enjoying bounty of wet winterALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Temperatures have been cooler than average and more precipitation over the last several months have combined to reverse New Mexico's fortunes when it comes to drought.State climatologist Dave DuBois and New Mexico's top water manager, State Engineer John D'Antonio, testified Tuesday before lawmakers on the status of the drought and reservoir levels.DuBois described it as "a total flip of the coin" from last year, when dismal snowpack resulted in low flows along the Rio Grande and deepening drought around the state.Now, he said nearly all of the state's river basins are reporting precipitation levels well over 100% of average.The extra moisture means New Mexico is again storing water in upstream reservoirs on the Rio Grande, but officials still have concerns about the ongoing legal battle with Texas over management of the river.


New Mexico city gets state funding for migrant aidLAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — The city of Las Cruces has been awarded a $250,000 grant from the state to offset costs that the border city has incurred as it provides temporary shelter and food for migrants.About 8,200 migrants have been brought to Las Cruces since mid-April as shelters in El Paso, Texas, have been overwhelmed by the surge of asylum seekers .The funding awarded to Las Cruces is a one-time allotment provided through a grant from New Mexico's homeland security agency.Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the grant program in May , saying it would help reimburse local government agencies that are providing humanitarian aid.State lawmakers recently set aside $2.5 million for border security, but the governor's office did not specify how much money is available as part of the grant program.


Court rejects coal company's chemical claim for tax refund(Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com)SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Court of Appeals has rejected a tax protest from coal company that sought a more than $6.4 million refund by claiming its coal was a chemical.The Albuquerque Journal reports the court last week upheld the hearing officer's decision against Delaware-based Peabody Coalsales Co.The company sought the refund in 2015 under a 1966 state tax deduction that allows companies to be reimbursed for receipts from selling chemicals.The state Taxation and Revenue Department disputed the claim. An administrative hearing officer ruled that coal sales were not intended to be covered by this tax incentive.Attorneys for Peabody did not respond to the newspaper's questions Monday.The state Legislature this year approved a bill that tightens the tax deduction's language.___