Socorro County sign

Several Socorro County landowners support an ordinance they hope will prevent the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project from using roads near their property.

The Socorro County Board of Commissioners approved the ordinance placing limits on roads in the eastern part of the county. The ordinance restricts use of the roads to their historical use.

County Attorney Adren Nance said the ordinance restricts vehicles on the roads to under 5,000 pounds and under 14 feet tall.

The ordinance exempts solid waste vehicles, school buses and vehicles used for agriculture.

The ordinance applies to Socorro County Roads 121, 127, 152, 147, 131 and 181. Nance said the roads were narrow. He also said the county does not own the rights of way to the roads.

The ordinance would not necessarily keep the SunZia project or similar projects from coming through the county. It would — however — require companies involved with such projects to negotiate with landowners along such roads for the rights of way and require them to improve the roads should they decide to widen them.

A bond would also be required as to not create a financial burden for the county. It would also require an environmental impact study.

Landowner Oliver Lee reminded the commissioners that the county would still be responsible for maintaining the roads after the SunZia project is completed. He also said the Sheriff’s Office would be required to monitor the roads to make sure the limits were met.

Both, he said, would cost the county revenue. Lee also said allowing a project such as SunZia to come through would also increase the number of trespassers for landowners who owned property along the roads.

Ralph Lopez said he was concerned the SunZia project would disrupt historical families living in the area. He said the private companies supporting the project would “profit by destroying the land they use.”

Billy Jack Pound said he was concern about the effects of the overhead lines on the health of local residents.

Several of the landowners said the county was having a difficult time maintaining the roads as it is. Keith Banks voiced a concern about what the project would do to cattle guards along the roads.

“Some of them are very old,” he said of the ones on County Road 127, which runs through his property.

Landowners also voiced a concern that the SunZia project could still impede the mission of White Sands Missile Range. They feel the project could affect pilot training missions and missile launch tests, something they said could end up hurting the local economy.

They also voiced concerns that property values would drop and that the lines could spoil pristine views.

The 515-mile project would transport electricity generated from wind farms in eastern New Mexico to users in Arizona and California.

• In other commission business, the commissioners approved an affordable housing ordinance which could pave the way for a housing unit that could provide housing for senior assisted living, those struggling with substance abuse and people on the fringe who need housing.

The unit would provide substance abuse treatment on site.

H.U.D. regulations would require the housing unit be public housing for at least 50 years.

• County Fire Marshal Mark Mercer said the two wildland fires county crews had been battling, the Tiffany Fire and the Taylor Canyon Fire, have been put out. He said recent rains have helped.

He also said county crews helped with two structure fires in Socorro, including the recent fatal fire that took the life of 93-year-old Frances Molina, and the fire that damaged the home of former District Judge Ted Kase.

• Socorro Detention Center Administrator Ed Sweeney said new regulations put in place by the New Mexico State Supreme Court on July 1 appear to be affecting the jail population at the detention center.

He said the detention center had been averaging a monthly population of 101, but said the population has dropped to 81 since the first of the month.

County Manager Delilah Walsh pointed out the regulations have also affected the pretrial program run by the Socorro County Community Alternatives Program.

The number of defendants in the program has jumped from about 12 to more than 200 in less than a year, Community Alternatives Program Director Theresa Rivera-Rosales told The Chieftain earlier this month.

• Senior Program Director Linda Murillo told commissioners that a cancer research study has been performed at the Socorro and Veguita senior centers with residents who were living at the time of the Trinity device explosion.

She said a future study could also involve the Magdalena Senior Center.

• The commissioners also heard a presentation from the county’s 4-H program as well as an annual report from Socorro General Hospital Administrator Veronica Pound.