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Tesuque Residents Challenge Bishop's Lodge Wastewater Plan

It wasn’t a normal scene on Tesuque Village Road yesterday. The shoulder of the usually serene country byway was packed with dozens of parked cars, on either side of Tesuque Fire Station. About two hundred people had gathered after a meeting was hastily scheduled in the past few days.

It was in response to area residents learning that Bishop’s Lodge is proposing to release wastewater effluent into Little Tesuque Creek. Federal, state, and county officials and representatives from Bishop’s Lodge were in the room or online for the public meeting—a forum that residents said was their first opportunity to hear details of the plan.

Presenting on behalf of Bishop’s Lodge was Chris Kaplan, director of juniper capital, the firm that owns the luxury hotel. Kaplan said that the lodge’s proposed new wastewater process has been vetted by state and federal officials over the past two years and that hotel managers believe that they arrived at the best possible solution.

But Tesuque resident Sabrina Stairs was one of several people who argued that Bishop’s Lodge has more options available than discharging treated wastewater into an already delicate water supply.

"They could contain their excrement water in a tank, a giant tank, and they could use it, sell it, do all kinds of things with it. They don't need to float it down a creek that's vulnerable and change the whole ecosystem. It doesn't matter how clean the water is; it's not pristine water. It's not natural water, which is coming from the runoff and the snow melt and the rain and the things that (make it) natural.

The Bishop’s Lodge proposal is currently in a public comment period scheduled to end July 1 with plans to complete construction of the new plant in the fall and to begin shuttling wastewater into Little Tesuque Creek by the winter.

Several attendees, including Tesuque Pueblo governor Milton Herrera, requested a delay in the permitting process to allow more time for dialogue between residents and Bishop’s Lodge. Gvernor Herrera. He read a statement objecting to the current process, pointing to potential hazards in releasing effluent into Little Tesuque Creek, which flows only for a couple of months per year.

Santa Fe county commissioner Justin Greene said that the county may communicate with the Environmental Protection Agency about the matter later this week.

Rob Hochschild first reported news for WCIB (Falmouth, MA) and WKVA (Lewistown, PA). He later worked for three public radio stations in Boston before joining KSFR as news reporter.