Biden signs Congress' $1.5T federal spending plan. How will it support eastern New Mexico?

By:  Adrian Hedden

$1.5 trillion federal spending plan included dollars for local projects throughout eastern New Mexico supporting services like public safety, water infrastructure and the military.

President Joe Biden signed the bill, known as the “omnibus bill” into law earlier this month after it passed the U.S. House and Senate.

The success of the bill, with bipartisan support, avoided a government shutdown and aligned federal spending with Congressional priorities through the end of the fiscal year.

Upon passage of the bill, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) said he and other political leaders worked closely with local communities in New Mexico in hopes of assuring their needs were met.

“We have been working hand-in-hand with communities in every corner of New Mexico to ensure that more federal dollars find their way to New Mexico,” Heinrich said.

Carlsbad Police public safety agencies get a boost

About $575,000 was appropriated to the City of Carlsbad via the spending bill to allow its police department to develop a mobile command center to be used by regional law enforcement and first responder agencies across southeast New Mexico.

The project will see Carlsbad collaborate with the Artesia Police Department, Carlsbad Fire Department, Eddy County Fire Service, Eddy County Sheriff’s Office, Eddy County Emergency Management and the Loving Police Department.

The facility was intended to cut down on response times for incidents in the area, allowing for uninterrupted communications.

Another $400,000 in the omnibus bill would fund upgrades to radios used by first responders in Carlsbad, replacing old and obsolete technology currently in place and allowing regional responders to communicate across jurisdictions and city and county lines.

Military facilities in southeast New Mexico get funding for projects

Holloman Air Force Basin near Alamogordo will receive about $40 million to support its training facilities for MQ-9 aircraft, an unmanned aircraft used in military defense operations.

All of U.S. MQ-9 personnel are trained at Holloman and the funding would go to building a facility specifically for these training activities.

The project was funded in Fiscal Year 2020, but was deferred to free up funds of a wall at the U.S.’ southern border with Mexico.

The base will also receive about $2 million for planning and design of an indoor target flip facility at the base.

This facility will help Holloman measure the radar characteristics of aircraft and devise an aircraft’s vulnerability to enemy radar detection.

The 34,000 facility would upgrade existing technology in use for such research and include a mechanical flip fixture and 40-ton overhead crane needed for the measurements.

Nearby White Sands Missile Range will also get $1.3 million in the omnibus bill for an assembly facility for long-range missiles. These projectiles are used to attack enemies from far away to reduce the risk of U.S. personnel from enemy fire.

The facility is already planned and will also be used to test and evaluate the missiles constructed. The funding would push forward its planning and design phase.

Eastern New Mexico water scarcity addressed by spending plan

Throughout eastern New Mexico, the farmers and ranchers that make up a key economic driver for the region struggled in recent years with worsening drought and water scarcity.

The Eastern New Mexico Utility Water Authority (ENMWUA) is tasked with improving infrastructure and ensuring water makes it to member communities of Clovis, Portales, Texico, Elida and Cannon Air Force Basin in the rural, mid-east portion of New Mexico along its eastern border with Texas.

The Authority will receive $17.4 million from omnibus bill for a project to deliver water from Ute Reservoir on the Canadian River in northeast New Mexico, down to its member communities.

U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury said the federal government must step in to help local, rural communities in her state grappling with the increasing effects of climate change and resulting drought.

She recently also proposed funding for several New Mexico-based water projects as Congress considers the Water Resources Development Act, citing the “worst drought in 1,200 years” impacting the American Southwest.

“New Mexicans are deeply concerned about ensuring that our water infrastructure is up to the challenge of responding to this drought and increasing hydrologic change that we’re seeing across our communities,” Stansbury said during a hearing on the bil

New Mexico conservationists call for more funding for at-risk species 

Santa Fe-based WildEarth Guardians along with a coalition of environmental and conservation groups called for a $13.6 million increase in funding for species recovery efforts under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that could support the survival of 430 species proposed for federal protections.

This appropriation was not included in the omnibus bill, drawing criticism from WildEarth Guardians and others who said the spending package fell short of meaningful environmental policy.

“The ESA has proven to be an incredibly effective tool for preventing species extinction, but Congress has failed to fully fund the Act for decades,” said Lindsey Larris, wildlife program director at WildEarth Guardians.

“Despite a Democratic-controlled Congress and clear evidence of an extinction crisis not in some mythical future, but happening all around us, imperiled species once again were treated as a mere afterthought by federal elected officials.”