Bravos! Our Impact on Protecting New Mexico’s Sacred Waters.
Over the last four years, we have seen unprecedented attacks on landmark laws built to protect our environment. Federal funding has been cut back and bedrock environmental standards that have protected clean air and water for decades have been rolled back by an aggressively anti-environmental administration where corporate welfare takes precedence over human health. That said, the last few years have also led to exciting accomplishments by Amigos Bravos in protecting and restoring the waters we drink, the rivers and lakes in which we play, the waterways that grow our food, feed our livestock, and sustain wildlife.
We were able to accomplish all of this work thanks to a strong, highly dedicated staff and board of directors. The same fierce team is well positioned to take on the challenges of the next decade. We have built an effective coalition of friends and allies. We have knowledge and experience from our past successes and we will not shirk from our responsibilities. We will not allow the people’s voice to be silenced.
We have highlighted some of our accomplishments below.
- Amigos Bravos has continued to provide backbone support to Communities for Clean Water Water (CCW), a coalition of organizations whose mission is to ensure that community waters impacted by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) are kept safe for drinking, agriculture, sacred ceremonies, and a sustainable future.
- Engaged with at least 150 youth on various water quality topics. We continue to track this metric and regularly engage with over 200 youth a year.
- Raised awareness of the impacts on Waters of the U.S. Rules (2015 and 2019) and has gotten 20 other NM based groups to submit comments. Amigos Bravos submitted detailed comment on the draft WOTUS Rule, coordinated a sign on letter with over 50 signatures, presented at various forums throughout the state on this issue, and produced various action alerts to generate over 200 public comments in opposition to the draft rule.
- Participated in discussions on New Mexico obtaining primacy over the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program and has commented on any draft regulations. Amigos Bravos has continued to raise this priority with leaders in the state administration and we have begun to gather information and priorities for what we would like to see in draft regulations.
- Installation of 1-5 components of the Green Infrastructure Plan for the Town of Taos Library and Town Hall. This project has been difficult due to Town politics. We plan to shift our efforts to work with Taos Pueblo and the New Mexico Department of Transportation as possible.
- Reviewed and commented on all reports and monitoring results produced by LANL for compliance with its Individual Stormwater Permit. Amigos Bravos continued to track and comment on regulatory processes related to the Individual Stormwater Permit.
- Implemented the joint stipulation with LANL and New Mexico Environment Department and the parties have jointly petitioned the Water Quality Control Commission for an upgrade of water quality standards for 5-10 stream segments. This work has continued and we have jointly identified several streams segments to petition for an upgrade in standards.
- Advocated for Clean Water Act coverage of urban storm water discharges from Los Alamos and if EPA fails to move forward with a final MS4 designation, has appealed this final decision. See above. We had a major victory on this project when EPA made a final determination in favor of our petition.
- Continued implementation of the Communities for Clean Water Youth Mentorship Project to educate and empower youth concerning current and legacy waste at LANL. CCW Youth have been active and engaged members of the CCW leadership and have taken over the implementation of our social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram).
- Completion of the Rio Fernando Watershed Based Planning Process by the summer of 2020. We are pleased to report that the EPA accepted the Rio Fernando Watershed Based Plan as scheduled in March 2020. We have already submitted a proposal to begin one of the restoration projects identified in the plan.
- Continued monitoring the Superfund agreement for the Chevron/Molycorp mine and monitoring the progress of their closure and NPDES permitting activities. We continue to engage in monitoring the implementation of the record of decision and in FY20 reviewed and commented on the pre-final design of the waste rock reclamation.
- Continued monitoring of the Four Corners area to address issues concerning the Navajo Coal Mine. With our partners we moving forward with an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge lower court decisions that determined that we didn’t have standing to pursue our appeal of agency actions to permit mining and power plant activities.
- Implementation of another full year of river otter monitoring and continued to provide leadership in discussions with stakeholders. We performed two public presentations on river otters, added two cameras, and maintained volunteers checking the cameras.
- Provided trainings to individuals and communities on how to implement the Clean Water Act, how to use water quality monitoring equipment, and how to develop an EPA-approved water quality-monitoring program. We continue to provide technical support to the broader community and regularly do trainings on water quality sampling and the Clean Water Act.
- Worked with volunteers to monitor five streams in Northern New Mexico, write monitoring reports, and submit data to NMED and EPA for inclusion in the State’s 305b/303(d) list. We are currently working on the Quality Assurance Project Plan update required by NMED for this project. Covid-19 may change how this project is done in 2020. Amigos Bravos staff may have to collect the water samples without volunteers to maintain social distancing guidelines. We will plan to get back to the normal volunteer program in 2021.
- Advocated for protection of 22 Wetlands Jewels, the Valle Vidal, and Wild and Scenic Rivers in the Carson and Santa Fe National Forests. See above. Participated in on-going communications with the New Mexico Environment Department, the Governor’s staff, the Water Quality Control Commission, and the NM Congressional Delegation regarding policy initiatives affecting water quality.
- The Taos River and Lands Clean Up has continued to expand and increase the amount of trash cleaned up. Although canceled in 2020 due to Covid-19, we will return to managing the Taos River and Lands Clean up in 2021.
- Four head cuts have been repaired and one mile of riparian protection fencing has been installed in the La Jara Wetland Jewel. This work was completed in FY20. See above for more details.
- Erosion control structures have been installed in the Midnight Meadows Wetland Jewel and a large channel head cut has been repaired. This work was completed in FY20. See above for more details.
- Amigos Bravos has educated legislators and decision makers regarding various water related issues by participating in the legislative process and in interim committee hearings. In the most recent legislative session, Amigos Bravos advocated that adequate funding be provided to the New Mexico Environment Department so that they can appropriately address their mission.
- Participation in the Red River Trail Committee (co-chair of water subcommittee) and has provided guidance to ensure that the proposed trail does not impact water quality and provides opportunities for educational activities and restoration. We continued to participate in this Committee and have actively advocated for green infrastructure and educational opportunities to be included in the trail plans.
- Responded to calls for assistance and provided technical and leadership trainings to organizations and individuals. In FY20 Amigos Bravos continued to respond to requests for technical assistance.