Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. MST

Jan 14, 2020

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's largest water utility has started operating its first aquifer storage well. Testing of the new direct injection system began Monday on Albuquerque's north side. The well will allow excess surface water to be stored underground for later use, keeping it safe from any losses due to evaporation. Officials say the $1 million well is part of a larger water management strategy that also includes conservation and re-use. The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority says the new well is the first of several planned wells to come online in the utility's service area. 


LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — The National Science Foundation has awarded two New Mexico universities and the New Mexico Forest and Watershed Restoration Institute a $5 million grant to establish a comprehensive forestry research center for the Southwest. The five-year grant will fund the development of a Center of Excellence in Forest Restoration. The center will be charged with advancing the understanding of the effects of restoration activities on forested areas through a combination of research, education and stakeholder collaborations. It also will provide options for land managers and landowners who face the threat of catastrophic fires due to overgrown forests.


HOBBS, N.M. (AP) — Democratic New Mexico House Speaker Brian Egolf has visited the heart of the state's oil and gas region in advance of the legislative session. The Hobbs News-Sun reports Brian Egolf stopped in Hobbs on Friday as part of his Jobs Listening Tour in advance of the Jan. 21 opening of the 2020 session. Airports, roads, housing, education, broadband access and the oil and gas industry topped issues discussed. Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, alerted Egolf to a bill she is introducing to create a $60 million urgent needs fund for roads. The region is in dire need of new roads amid the high traffic from the oil boom.


RENO, Nev. (AP) — U.S. government lawyers say the state of Nevada continues to intentionally misrepresent the facts in an ongoing legal battle over the Energy Department's shipment of weapons-grade plutonium to a site near Las Vegas. The state wants a judge in Reno to order the removal of the highly radioactive material. It says the shipment was illegal because the Energy Department refused to conduct the necessary environmental reviews. Lawyers for both sides said last week they've agreed on a process to determine what if any classified information will be released to the state while a judge considers the government's motion to dismiss the case.


SAN DIEGO (AP) — A U.S. judge has ruled that the Trump administration is operating within its authority when separating families stopped at the Mexico border, rejecting arguments that it was quietly returning to widespread practices that drew international condemnation. The judge indicated he was uncomfortable second-guessing decisions to separate children on grounds that the parents were considered unfit or dangerous, or in other limited circumstances like criminal history, communicable diseases and doubts about parentage. He found no evidence that the government was abusing its discretion. In a partial victory for the ACLU, the judge said the government must settle any doubts about parentage with DNA tests. 


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Republicans say they will embark on an aggressive strategy to win over Hispanic and Native American voters in 2020 as the party experiences its most diverse primary races in recent history. State GOP Chair Steve Pearce said Republicans will appoint Hispanic and Native American outreach coordinators in all of the state's 33 counties. Native Americans and Latinos are running in two GOP primaries for U.S. House seats and for the U.S. Senate in New Mexico. The Democratic Party of New Mexico has faced criticism for not reaching out to Hispanic voters enough and for maintaining largely white leadership.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Members of New Mexico's congressional delegation are finding themselves in an awkward position as watchdog groups claim the U.S. government is skirting one of the nation's key environmental laws. Critics say the government is refusing to take a bigger look at the consequences of ramping up production of key plutonium components for the nation's nuclear arsenal. As supporters of bringing more defense spending to the state, the Democratic lawmakers have been reticent to speak about on whether there should be a more in-depth review of the plutonium core project follows their intense criticism just days earlier of the Trump administration's plans to roll back environmental oversight of other federal projects.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico man serving a house arrest sentence for drunken driving is suing to be allowed to use medical marijuana. KOAT-TV reports attorney Jacob Candelaria recently filed a lawsuit in state district court on behalf of Joe Montano, who said authorities recently seized his medical cannabis. According to court documents, correctional officers searched Montano's home while he was on house arrest, found the marijuana, and put him in jail for a month as punishment. The petition is seeking a judge to order the jail to allow him to possess and use his medical marijuana. Metropolitan Detention Center Chief of Corrections Ralph Fernadez says medical marijuana use is prohibited in the detention center and by those in house arrest.