February 3rd, 2005

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The meeting. The report

Woke up in Chama this morning and it was -2F. Hot cups of coffee and a plate of huevos rancheros helped to take away the chill. I was also heartened to see that the press treated us quite kindly after last night's meeting. The story was front page news in the local paper. I hope the reservoir rises the 30 feet I had predicted. It must be true if it's in the paper. *lol* Also, while eating breakfast we could hear a story about the meeting on the radio that was playing the morning news.

The meeting went very well. The room was packed with about 40 people. The director of state parks and a representative with Congressman Udall were also in the audience. I made my presentation and it was well received. They liked the news that the slightly above normal snowpack will mean the reservoir will be higher next year. Now I just pray that the storm systems keep on coming. If any questions about policy came up, the assistant office boss stepped up and answered. I could sense the frustration in the room with some of our answers, but the folks need to realize that even though something may make sense, it could possibly take an act of Congress to change things. They don't like to hear that the process could take years, but that's the nature of the beast. There is a lot of inertia in bureaucracy.

What I found amusing was the hidden attitudes of the populace. The area looked beautiful with all of the snow, the mountains, and the meadows. We commented that it would be a beautiful place to live. It was followed up with, "Yeah, but you don't know how the locals would react." And we saw just such a division after the meeting while having drinks with the Chama office manager, his wife, and her brother-in-law. All were life-long residents. They had nothing good to say about the people who owned homes around the reservoir. They were dismissed as being outsiders from Texas or California. It doesn't sit very well with the locals that the "newcomers" all live in nice gated communities. I thought they moved up there because there was no big-city crime. Why do you need to lock yourselves in?

In all fairness I should also state that I consider a lot of people in rural northern New Mexico to be "brown necks." They are a staunchly proud people, mainly Hispanic, who have lived there for hundreds of years. There is also a lot of in-breeding and folks are as dirt poor as all of their ancestors. Outsiders are eyed suspiciously, and change or anything different is looked at with disdain. The attitudes are really no different than the "hill folk" of the Appalachians. Even some of the stories that were told around the table over a few drinks sounded like they were out of "The Dukes of Hazard."

And so there will probably be another meeting or 2 later in the year as the snowpack situation stabilizes and I have a better idea as to how much water we can expect. Hopefully I'll earn a few kudos for a job well done. I at least picked up a few extra hours of vacation time.
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    accomplished accomplished