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Biggest Loser contest encourages community to get healthy

Karen Bailey-Bowman — El Defensor Chieftain:  Magdalena Biggest Loser challengers must weigh in once a week with contest organizer Alice Lawton. Pictured, Charity Ann Jacobs waits while Lawton resets the scale. Jacobs’ four pound loss won the Biggest Loser weekly contest; she received a hand-made ceramic painting donated by local artist Karen Waggoner.

Magdalena-area residents can now join a grass-roots "Biggest Loser" contest. The top loser will get a lot less than the $250,000 Rachel Fredrickson did, the controversial winner on the popular NBC show. On the other hand, Magdaleneans won't have to travel to California or even Socorro for personal coaching and healthy foods, according to organizer Alice Lawton.

Bosque work east of Socorro to begin

Starting in February, forestry division inmate crews from Los Lunas will be working on the "ribbon" east of town — the forested area between the low flow channel and the drain on the west side of the river.

Socorro tightens up on pet leash laws

Several more pet leash law signs were posted in January around the Tech campus area as a result of numerous complaints and one dog attack incident, according to Campus Police Chief George Murillo, Jr.

Irrigation odds same as 2013

Next year's irrigation season looks to be a repeat of 2013 — a gamble that mountain snow melt and summer rain will supply enough water to keep irrigation going until the usual November 1 closure date.

CO2 pipeline proposed for Catron, Socorro Counties

Photo courtesy of BLM.:  Kinder Morgan’s proposed route for a 213-mile, 16-inch diameter underground pipeline carrying liquid carbon dioxide crosses Catron and Socorro Counties before joining the company’s Cortez pipeline in Torrance County.

Hundreds of acres of private land will be condemned in three counties — Socorro, Catron and Torrence — for a pipeline carrying liquid carbon dioxide used to enhance oil recovery. The pipeline, snaking across the landscape and under two rivers, will be completed in 2015.

Insurance mandate looms

Beginning in 2015, the federal Affordable Care Act will require school districts employing more than 50 full-time staff members to offer a year of health insurance coverage to any employee working more than 30 hours per week on average during a school year, Superintendent Randall Earwood said at Monday's Socorro school board meeting. In 2015, the district will have to offer health insurance to some substitute teachers and temporary workers — such as coaches, he said. Once an employee accepts the coverage, the district must pay its share of the employee's premiums for the next 12 months. If the employee no longer works enough hours to afford his share of the cost, the district will also be responsible for that portion of the premium. In effect, the district may end up being a collection agency.

San Antonio ditches to carry water for Bosque birds this winter

Elva K. Österreich/El Defensor Chieftain: Fourth graders at Zimmerly Elementary School practice for the National Dance Institute Residency production, “Eureka!” to be performed at the Macey Center Friday.

Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District irrigation ditches are carrying drainage water from just above Brown Arroyo east of Socorro to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge south of San Antonio this fall and winter as a result of an agreement between the two entities that took effect after the regular irrigation season closed Nov. 1.

Friends of the Bosque celebrates 20th anniversary

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Friends of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, and the group has accomplished its goal — the San Antonio wildlife preserve is now considered "one of the crown jewels of the refuge system," according to refuge manager Kevin Cobble.

Computer woes hinder school testing

Elva K. Österreich/El Defensor Chieftain: Kindergartners at Midway Elementary School lead the Pledge of Allegiance for an awards assembly Nov. 7. According to principal Gilbert Peralta this was the first ever quarterly awards assembly at Midway.

Problems with the school district's Internet service and online student assessments prompted a lengthy discussion at the programmatic school board meeting held at Midway Elementary School on Monday night.

Conflict of interest issues rise at school board

Monday night's Socorro Consolidated Schools board meeting was dominated by discussion about conflict of interest issues affecting board members, board travel to workshops and conferences, and a resolution requesting the Public Education Department to give the district more time to implement accountability measures.

Magdalena Schools awarded $1.2 million

Magdalena Schools was awarded a $1.2 million Demonstration Grant for Indian Children from the U.S. Department of Education in September. The grant funds programs addressing the needs of Native American pre-school and high school students, according to Keri James, federal and state programs coordinator for the district. But all Magdalena students will benefit from the funding boost.

Facilities closed until further notice

Karen Bailey-Bowman/El Defensor Chieftain: The Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge tour loops, the visitor center and all refuge trail head parking lots are closed to the public Oct. 1 because of the federal government shutdown.

Temporary barriers bar visitors from entering the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge tour loops, visitor center and trail heads. A closed sign is taped to the door of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management field office in Socorro.

Pearce visits flood victims, promises action soon

Karen Bailey-Bowman/El Defensor Chieftain: San Francisco resident Chris Lopez (left) discusses flood damage with U. S. Rep. Steve Pearce (right, blue shirt) and staffer Kenny Rogers (center). Neighbor Daniel Frazier also listens to Lopez’s report of last week’s Rio Puerco flood south of Bernardo.

U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce and his staffers visited with Socorro County emergency personnel at their temporary offices in the county annex and San Francisco flood victims Monday afternoon as part of a whirlwind inspection tour of flood-ravaged New Mexico counties.