Reports of Major Earthmoving Work, Silage Deliveries Reignite Concerns
By Tony A. Archuleta
A southern Sierra County resident called The Herald last week to report truckloads of silage being hauled into the Parasol property where a subdivision has been proposed by property owner John McCatharn.
Reports of the silage, commonly used to feed dairy cattle, have re-ignited concerns that McCatharn continues to pursue his original plan to construct a dairy in what many consider a risky venture within the Percha Creek floodplain.
While the New Mexico Environment Department twice denied McCatharn’s groundwater discharge permit, the Water Quality Control Commission granted the permit with additional and costly conditions, including the use of impermeable concrete or steel in any of the waste lagoons built against Percha Creek.
McCatharn, however, went before the Sierra County Planning Commission in late summer 2010 announcing plans to develop a 95-lot subdivision on the Parasol property.
McCatharn never submitted any type of formal plan for the county’s review, but Jerry Nivens, founder of the Caballo Concerned Citizens Group, said McCatharn recently acquired earthmoving equipment at auction and has dramatically altered the landscape – but whether he’s developing a subdivision or a dairy or both is a mystery to county officials and residents alike.
The county has deferred to the NMED and other state and federal agencies concerning the dairy proposal, which was first initiated in 2007, but Nivens has long maintained the county has flood protection oversight.
“We had honestly thought the local county commissioner might take this up, but that’s probably not going to happen without some kind of legal wrangling,” he said during an interview Friday, Nov. 2. “This will also affect the FEMA flood insurance for Sierra County if the county doesn’t take action.”
Without much communication from McCatharn, the county is hard put to determine whether it’s a subdivision or dairy issue.
“In effect, this mean that with no EPA permits for storm water or county regulation, many of the hills and land structures of the property are now graded down into the creek,” Nivens said. “The dairy will have been installed with a subdivision sign at the entrance to the property.
“This sign has lately been graded behind to allow it to be laid somewhat back,” he said. “Even a serious stretch of the imagination won’t bring this facility into any degree of legal or safe, logical compliance. Expectations are that this will ultimately cause serious contamination of waters and properties both tourist and agriculture related.”
The county’s development supervisor, Sandy Jones, recently asked McCatharn’s engineer, Mark Burak, about McCatharn’s plans for the property.
In a letter last July from Jones to Burak, Jones wrote, “With the (subdivision) application before Sierra County and the notification sign in place, the general public assumes that a subdivision is going to be developed.
“To my knowledge, there has been no letter of withdrawal forwarded to my office and I certainly would arrive at the same conclusion,” Jones said. “So when I get a call that there is earthmoving activity being conducted, it causes concern for my office as to the intent of the work being done.”