August 30th, 1993

~ I went to a meeting tonight, a few friends talking about water.A neighbor has a friend who wants to run for the MRGCD.  The first court that heard the name remarked, “so-called middle Rio Grande.”   The Rio Grande is a fairly long river with little water, the “grand” part is not because there is a lot of water, but because water itself is scarce in a desert; a little water (Rio Poquito) meant a lot, a little water in those days could go far in feeding a couple of thousand and satisfying their basic thirst.

The map of the Rio Grande (river) from the source to the end (where it dumps into the Gulf of Mexico) is here.   As you can easily see the “middle” of the river is someplace in Texas or Mexico (meaning ‘old’ Mexico, not new).  In Texas the county would be Presidio or Brewster – the real area of the real middle of the Rio Grande.

Elaine Hebard thinks the MRGCD should be adjudicated.  I listened to “her story” and her story about the MRGCD for much of the evening.

The MRGCD sued me, ruined the better part of five years of my life, lied and cheated and invented things and vilified me in public and private.

Relatives hire relatives.

The MRGCD destroyed virtually all of the farms and farmers (the taxes were too high) and the founders made money moving everything south (with the water).

[“Water” Post has been amended, originally written on May 27, 2011 @ 05:44  ZLT / GMT / Zulu / UTC]

August 29th, 1993

Notes on the MRGCD:

Maybe if it were adjudicated the whole MRGCD would “go away” and everyone would pay 10% of their taxes less.   It’s a “big bite” of money out of the “river banks” and the MRGCD taxes on businesses DON’T help Albuquerque grow.

Let us just say that Subhas Shah doesn’t get my vote for fairness or honesty.  As long as he is “head” (or even at) the MRGCD there will be trouble in river city, for river city.  And it goes beyond the ditches, to the heart of the MRGCD itself, as if the MRGCD had a heart.  In my experience it doesn’t.

If the MRGCD were gone about 50,000 people who live in Albuquerque could get rid of their pit bulls, half-wolf mixes, and the occasional German Shepherds.  I am not exaggerating.  Things would be a whole lot safer, even gun ownership would go down.  The arson rate and truancy rate would be lower as the “safe havens” for buying and using drugs would slowly disappear.  “Do you live on a ditch near a school?”

The MRGCD BURNS ditches as a short-cut to cleaning them and removing weeds.  They deny this.  They say it doesn’t hurt the Albuquerque air.  No animals are killed by the fires, no birds are left homeless when the cottonwood trees catch fire, when fences catch fire and the chickens and other animals escape.  “Things are under control,” the MRGCD says, and the board is always right behind.  The MRGCD uses convict labor (I have the pictures) near schools in the urban setting.  The prisoners don’t even get minimum wage per hour, but if one tries to clean their own ditch the employees scream, “You are trying to steal my job.”

Which brings back the question of whose job description it is to remove a mattress from a ditch that a homeless person may have used for months in the winter, now stuck in the mud (of spring).

The MRGCD had a lot of cottonwoods set back from an MRGCD Drain near Kit Carson Park in Albuquerque.  A drain is a deep ditch, it “drains water from the river to the river”.  The MRGCD claims the “drains” drain the swamps of Albuquerque that never really existed.  That was the MRGCD’s greatest lie, the “swamp water” angle on reclamation.

Anyway, the MRGCD cut all the cottonwoods down, exposing the park to the nearby roadway and creating dust and noise for the neighbors beyond (who lived on the far side of the park).  The MRGCD finally learned how incredibly thirsty the cottonwood trees really are.  You don’t need a chemist to tell you, or an hydraulic engineer.  Any LICENSED engineer will do, any engineer that knows the first thing about trees and water.  You can double the flow of any ditch just by cutting all the cottonwood trees next to it down.  There are other forms of shade, other trees that do far better and that with no “limb drops” don’t do so much damage to a ditch.

I went to High School just about two blocks from Newlands Circle.  The map is here.   You can see Reno High School on the left, Newlands Circle (up a hill) on the right.  Besides the remarkable coincidence of the name, the man devoted his life to “making the desert bloom” by building dams and reallocating the water.  He believed in “flood control” and more importantly “irrigation”.

The first place that I took my wife before I married her was Derby Dam, the first dam built by the Bureau of Reclamation.  It created Lake Lahontan (now Lahontan Reservoir) and permanently flooded out the cabin that Mark Twain was in when the Carson River flooded and he couldn’t swim to the other side as described in the story of Nevada in Roughing It.  My great grandfather owned this cabin at the time; the first dwelling ever put permanently underwater by the Bureau of Reclamation as it created this first of “thousands of lakes”.   Hundreds of communities and towns, hundreds of thousands of houses would go under water and under lakes (permanently flooded) before the Bureau of Reclamation would stop their dam building, and levee building.  They haven’t completely stopped yet.

He sold before the place was flooded out.  He built dams in Eastern Nevada before Newlands ever thought of his.  Water in the west goes way back, and a lot of the history is pretty personal to me.

I’ve posted pictures from when I was four at Hoover Dam, posted the plans and other pictures too, posted the maps of the Imperial Valley irrigation and the entire watershed of the Colorado River, further north (and east).  My uncle made his living working for the Agricultural Department in California.  The Central San Joaquin Valley and the Imperial Valley were his working places, I went with him on far too many trips.

I’ve posted about how my father built and finished the early dams in Afghanistan, was in charge of the Helmand Valley project, also did water projects in Sudan and South Korea.  One can learn a lot across a dinner table.  It was expected that I did.  I saw a lot of dams growing up, went in them, learned just about everything about electric generation, distribution, land, irrigation, crops and food and flooding – everything about WATER!

I’ve lived too, on a ditch or two in Afghanistan.  They had water so clean that people bathed in them, drank from them, got leeches from them when they weren’t so good at looking.  I’m kind of a specialist in terrace farming; have seen terraces three thousand years old in different sections of the world.  I understand the value of laser leveling and know how to make a field truly flat (to save water) when you can’t afford (or don’t have) a laser level.

My family lived Owens Valley, watched the water merchants move in and make it die.  I’ve supported saving Mono Lake.  I wish the old Pyramid Lake (in Nevada) could have been saved too.  The Indians still live there.  It still is sacred land.  If anyone had of listened to my father Lake Tahoe would be so much cleaner than it is today.  The algae problem would not have happened, but; Oh, well.

So I will match anybody, picture for picture, photograph for photograph, experience for experience, story for story, ditch for ditch, drain for drain, dam for dam, levee for levee and for whatever else.  The bottom line is that it is not about the water, it is about the lives of the people that are so often left behind.  Wise people learn to live with the water that they have.  As I suggested when I quoted Warren Beck (author from New Mexico), “There has never been a civilization built on irrigation that has lasted any appreciable time.”  It is right there up front, on top, at Qala Bist (.com).

I guess one has to be a bit of an historian, more than the average lawyer or engineer, to know the futility of trying to “tame” water, make it do wondrous tricks.  Water is not a currency, it is not the route to wealth and fame.  Respect water and you will live.  Mess with water, and ones life will become a ruin.  If someone says, “I thirst,” one had best be there with a drink.

The whole thing was started when (125?) people signed a petition.  A month later several thousand farmers in Albuquerque signed petitions to stop it.  That is when the lawsuit began.  The court always sided with the men with money, although some of the finest legal work on record in New Mexico was by lawyers who didn’t, lawyers who supported and defended the farmers until the MRGCD and the Depression that followed left everyone destitute and broke.

Walking an MRGCD ditch is like revisiting a corridor, a lost corridor of crime.  Nasty stuff has gone on there, look closely and you can see that it (often) still does.

One final thought.  I hadn’t realized until recently how hurt I am by the whole unjust MRGCD affair.  Charles Groffman who knew the MRGCD and used the MRGCD to file suit is now dead.  The lead lawyer for the MRGCD (then) now literally lives right next to me.  Subhas Shah took the whole thing very personally, he attended every hearing of the court, appeared too as a witness.

The whole lawsuit was to stop a Neighborhood Watch program, to save the local residences from arson.  They used the ditch to burn the local Piggly Wiggly down.  When I lived on this same ditch it was used by a person to escape from a recent murder.  The man entered the ditch by crossing through my yard.  He knew that the APD would not chase him, because it was an “MRGCD” ditch.  The MRGCD has no police that patrol the ditches, only the drains.

The same ditch (across the street) was closed off by a gate and fences.  My neighbors wanted a gate and a fence too.  I sided with my neighbors and agreed to help them.

[“An email about water” Post is revised, originally written on May 28, 2011 @ 05:31  ZLT / GMT / Zulu / UTC]

Welcome to Albuquerque

August 28th, 1993

I moved to Albuquerque in late August of 1993.  Of course it is always scary to move, because you honestly don’t know how you will be treated, by your new neighbors; will there be any friends?  Will the community itself accept you? Albuquerque had one clear advantage over any other community in America.  It had a very good school, the Albuquerque Academy.   My son needed a very good school.  He was bright, he was unchallenged by the best that Oregon offered.  He was headed for being a drop-out before finishing school, that’s what life is like when you’re really “gifted”, life is likely to end in a dead end or at least in a dead end as it shows up in regard to finishing “school”.  Who would not sacrifice everything (else) for ones child’s education?

200 applicants applied (that year) for just two openings.  They admitted one boy and one girl.  My boy was the boy.   The school embraced us and him.  We were given a warm welcome.  The problem was that there was no place to stay.  We stayed in a motel for awhile, looked for an apartment to rent.  The vacancy rate was the tightest it has ever been in Albuquerque history.  Nothing was available, as in literally nothing.

We had a little money, from money that we had saved.  It was enough for a modest down payment if we could just find a home.  Neither my wife or I even had jobs.  She applied to APS, but APS was not hiring “foreigners” from out of state; they acknowledged my wife’s application, but then wrote nothing else.  Finally one Sunday a house offer appeared.  It was a small, fairly new adobe.  Several thousands of dollars down, but no qualifying; it was through FHA.

I had lived in mud brick dwellings in Afghanistan; built right, they are tight and they’re warm and they are quiet and charming and offer so much that more conventional houses don’t offer.  The roof leaked (of course), but then what roof doesn’t leak in Albuquerque when it rains?  It almost never rains here, they said.  But the aquifer is deep and goes on forever and there is enough water for two hundred or three hundred years – the geologists say so.  I still have the ads from the Chamber of Commerce.  We were concerned about water, the city said not to worry.

We called up the number.  We looked at the house.  We asked questions about security and safety, about the neighborhood.  We were told the usual lies, he kept secret the break ins.  Little was said about the ditch, we were shown the kiva fireplace instead and the fruit tree in back (with yellow cherries).  “We like it,” I said.  “What a relief,” my son said.  All my wife did was cry.  She thought the neighborhood looked so foreign (not the people so much, nor the houses); maybe it was just the street, or maybe the market, or maybe it was the ditch.

I said, “Don’t worry.”  We can clean up the weeds, build a new fence.  So we bought itNote: the house has been enlarged since we lived there, but you can see the property and the ditch, although even the ditch has been realigned.

A few weeks later, maybe it was just 10 days.  I was up on the ditch inspecting the weeds.  I was trying to find a path down from the ditch path to remove the trash and soiled discarded clothing that sullied my fence.  What could be more natural when you see trash, than the urge to pick it up; especially when, if it’s not “yours”, it is on your property?

“What are you doing?” a man in a uniform asked.  “I’m picking up trash,” I said, “and looking for my property corners so I can build a new fence.  “That’s not appropriate,” he said.  “Go away,” and “get off the ditch, there’s No Trespassing.”

“I don’t see a sign,” I said.  He said, “people can’t read, there’s no need for a sign, everyone can see that this is a ditch.”  “Who are you,” I asked, “do you have any identification?”   He gave me a card, “Engineer, MRGCD”, it read.  He gave me his name.  He said, “I don’t want to have to tell you again; this is MRGCD property, stay off and leave the ditch alone.”  He was a young guy, my impression was that he had attitude, wanted to impress some one.  He wasn’t impressing me.

I said, “Since you are an engineer, you probably know a little about surveying.”  “I need to find my corners so I can build my fence along the property line,” I thought that I was being reasonable.  “You can’t,” he said, “No digging,” and “no fence building either.”  “We ARE the MRGCD.”  And then he assured me that if I did not believe him, his boss Subhas Shah, would tell me so.  “Go talk to him,” Shah will set you straight.  “You see, you have an MRGCD ditch for a neighbor.”

“Follow instructions, and I am sure we will get along.”  And then he drove off in his nice new MRGCD truck.

[“Welcome to Albuquerque” Post has been modified, originally written on May 29, 2011 @ 03:51  ZLT / GMT / Zulu / UTC]