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Looking forward: 10 big news stories that will develop in 2020

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
The south end of the East Aztec Arterial Route is pictured, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019, in Aztec. The city received funding in 2019 to complete the road.

FARMINGTON — 2020 will be a year when plans made years, or even decades ago begin to come to fruition — from major road projects to a new wastewater treatment facility.

Here’s a look at 10 stories that will develop in 2020.

1. Construction 

A sign tells drivers that the East Aztec Arterial Route is closed. Construction will be one of the major stories in 2020.

Major construction projects will dominate 2020. Farmington has already begun work on its Complete Streets Downtown Revitalization project, which is aimed at creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment and transforming the downtown into a destination.

More:Street closures planned in advance of Complete Streets construction in January

Meanwhile, Aztec has funding in place to complete the East Aztec Arterial Route as well as work on the North Main Avenue extension project. These two projects have the potential to change the city’s downtown by rerouting heavy truck traffic away from the historic downtown and by further developing a connection to Aztec Ruins National Monument.

More:Film studio, arterial route and code talkers museum included in capital outlay bill

A lane finder works, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019, in downtown Farmington as the Complete Streets project gets underway.

2. Outdoor recreation

Outdoor recreation will continue to be a focal point in 2020. The City of Farmington is kicking off the new year with consideration of increasing swimming options at Lake Farmington. The City Council will likely vote this month on allowing people to swim throughout the lake rather than just at The Beach.

More:Newly-adopted Outdoor Pledge provides a chance to voice support for city's efforts

Betty Abrahamson, left, and her daughter Kirstin Abrahamson take a break, Monday, Aug. 15, 2016 while paddleboarding on Lake Farmington.

San Juan County residents can expect to see additional trail building. The City of Farmington will work to complete the river trail system. Meanwhile, Bloomfield is working on a trail inventory project and Aztec is annexing land to build trails.

More:As New Mexico focuses on promoting outdoor recreation, Bloomfield works to map trails

As local governments focus on promoting outdoor recreation, residents can expect to see new businesses opening hoping to cash in on the efforts.

More:Farmington looks at outdoor recreation assets it could market to the world

3. Bloomfield wastewater treatment plant

Bloomfield must replace its wastewater treatment plant by December 2024, and the project won’t be cheap. The city received funding from the state’s clean water revolving loan fund. The city is receiving a $7.65 million low-interest loan as well as a $3.35 million grant to fund the approximately $11 million project. But that also required an increase in wastewater rates for Bloomfield residents.

More:Bloomfield wastewater plant replacement will cost $11 million

In early February, Bloomfield will have a public meeting to discuss the preliminary engineering report, final design and environmental information document.

4. San Juan Generating Station

Two of the four units at the San Juan Generating Station have already closed as part of an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to cut emissions at the power plant.

One of the major stories of 2019 was the future of the San Juan Generating Station. This will continue to develop in 2020.

Residents can expect to learn more about plans for carbon capture at the power plant when Enchant Energy releases the results of its Front-End Engineering and Design study in 2020. San Juan County residents won’t be the only ones watching as the carbon capture plans unfold. The proposal has gained state, national and even international attention.

More:San Juan Generating Station hearing discussions included decommissioning, carbon capture

Meanwhile, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission must decide this spring whether to approve Public Service Company of New Mexico’s application to stop operating the power plant and refinance past investments. The PRC will also have a hearing this month regarding PNM’s proposals for replacing the power it currently gets from the San Juan Generating Station.

5. Elections

President Donald Trump speaks to the crowd at his campaign rally Sept. 16, 2019 in Rio Rancho.

Like all even-numbered years, 2020 will be a year of elections. This will start with the March 3 elections for Bloomfield, Aztec and Kirtland.

But the general election in November will have the most interest. President Donald Trump will face a Democratic opponent. The Democratic Party nominee will be chosen during the primary elections. New Mexico’s primary election is June 2.

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan participates in a press conference, Sunday, April 14, 2019, at Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

Congressional District 3 has multiple candidates vying for party nominations following Rep. Ben Ray Lujan’s announcement that he will be running for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate rather than seeking reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives. The Democratic Party has nearly 10 candidates while the Republican Party has four candidates.

6. Methane regulations

New Mexico Environment Department Secretary James Kenney responds to a question during a meeting about methane emissions  at the Counselor Chapter house in this undated file photo.

The Methane Advisory Panel assembled by the New Mexico Environment Department and Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Division has released its recommendations for methane regulations. These could be used by the state legislators to draft new laws impacting oil and gas operators.

7. Energy Transition Act

One of the most heralded laws that came out of the 2019 legislative session was the Energy Transition Act. This legislation, dubbed New Mexico’s Green New Deal, increased renewable portfolio mandates while also paving a way for PNM to move away from coal-fired generation. But it soon became apparent that the law had its weak spots.

More:PRC: Energy Transition Act doesn't apply to PNM's plan to close San Juan Generating Station

Coal is delivered from the San Juan Mine to the San Juan Generating Station through a coal supply contract that ends on June 30, 2022.

The Energy Transition Act was born out of the news that the San Juan Generating Station could close in 2022. Lawmakers, concerned with impacts to ratepayers as well as the San Juan County economy, passed the Energy Transition Act. But the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission had already created a docket to evaluate PNM ceasing operations at the San Juan Generating Station. This led to a debate about whether the new law could apply to the case, since a docket was opened before the law was even introduced in the Legislature. This debate will continue in 2020.

8. PRC reform

The PRC currently consists of five elected members. Any registered voter can run for the office.

Whether its on the 2020 ballot or in the legislative session starting Jan. 21, the government body in charge of regulating utilities as well as transportation and pipeline safety could see reform. Some of the past proposals have included the governor appointing some or all of the commissioners.

9. Chaco Culture National Historical Park

A group including Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, walk, Monday, May 28, 2019, toward Pueblo Bonito at Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

The debate about future oil and gas development near Chaco Culture National Historical Park will continue in 2020. Moratoriums currently exist on future leases within 10 miles of the park boundaries. But these are temporary measures. Officials at both the state and federal level will likely continue to discuss this buffer zone.

10. Behavioral health

San Juan County contracted a study of gaps in the behavioral health system in 2019. This led to the county hiring a behavioral health director. The gap analysis will continue to influence decisions in 2020 as the County Commission works to bridge some of the identified gaps.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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