WAGON MOUND, N.M. (KRQE) - An arroyo on state-owned land near Wagon Mound that a local businessman filled with thousands of used tires several years ago has been almost completely cleaned up.
“If somebody thinks they’re going to get away with throwing trash on the [state land] trust, think again,” said New Mexico Land Commissioner Ray Powell. “Because we’ll find you and we’ll hold you responsible and we’ll make you clean it up.”
News 13 first told viewers about the arroyo – which is more than a quarter-mile long outside Wagon Mound – two years ago. At that time, Powell, the newly-elected land commissioner, described the site as “an absolute mess.”
Area businessman Harold Daniels admitted to taking money to dispose of old tires at a nearby landfill he owns, but instead dumping them into the arroyo. The arroyo was located on land he leased from the state for grazing purposes.
“It’s not a tire dump,” Daniels said at the time. “It’s an erosion control project.”
Former Land Commissioner Pat Lyons signed off on the erosion control project just before he left office. But while the project might have started out to control erosion, Daniels continued to merely toss tires into the arroyo until it was nearly full to the brim, which is not an erosion control project, according to officials at the New Mexico Environment Department.
Powell felt the same way and sued Daniels to force him to clean it up. A settlement took two years to hammer out between the two sides, and was signed five months ago.
In that settlement, Daniels agreed to pay a $30,000 fine and remove the tires. He told News 13 it cost him $300,000 to remove the tires and ship them to a Texas recycling plant, as well as $50,000 in legal fees.
As part of his settlement with the state, Daniels must re-seed grass on the land around the arroyo to help restore it back to its natural state.
However, Daniels said he still believes it was a successful erosion control project.
Not surprisingly, Powell disagrees.
“It was an enormous mess – your worst nightmare for state trust lands,” Powell said.
News 13 flew with Powell to the site recently and found the arroyo empty with the last of the 150,000 tires stacked and baled nearby waiting to be trucked away.
“It looks like we got the tires out and we’re on our way to returning the land to the health that it requires to be productive,” he said. “If these hundreds of thousands of tires caught on fire, it would have been a Superfund site.
Some brazen thieves made off with a man's prized possession, and now the victim is hoping for some holiday justice. Little did the suspects' know, their entire crime was caught on camera.
Authorities in Valencia County say a man broke into his girlfriend’s home and attacked her and her mother with a hatchet.
Albuquerque may have the biggest paint-by-number drawing in the New Mexico, and soon, a neighborhood will pitch in to finish it.
A vehicle used in war will soon hit the streets in Farmington.
New Mexico State Police say a missing hunter was found dead Sunday morning.
A wave of support was expressed Sunday from big group of Taos residents who protested the firing of state police officer Elias Montoya.