Monday, January 14, 2013

Otero County at odds with BLM over ownership of road in Orogrande

Otero County workers are scheduled to make improvements to a road just north of Orogrande and open it Tuesday for Gulf Coast Mining so the company can haul iron ore from the Iron Duke mine. But Bureau of Land Management officials say Otero County needs to file the necessary forms to make the improvements and open the road. Both county and BLM officials want to work together on opening the road, A010, but there is a discrepancy as to who has the right-of-way and whether the county or BLM owns it. County Commissioner Ronny Rardin said he has maps from the 1940s and 1950s indicating that A010 is an improved and maintained roadway, which leads him to believe the county and Gulf Coast Mining have the right to use the road and make minimal improvements to it. Rardin said he obtained the maps from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. He said the maps show a direct route from U.S. Highway 54 to the mining site. BLM has provided a map to the county that shows the road beginning at U.S. Highway 54 near the northern border of Orogrande and looping back to the highway a little further north. Rardin said he believes BLM's map is incorrect because there's evidence of a road, but it ends without access to the mining site and essentially landlocks access to it. "We can find our roadway indicated on the 1947 and 1955 maps from NMSU," he said. "We believe it's our road. We're not widening the road. We want to grade the road for Gulf Coast's 18-wheel trucks to haul iron ore from the mine. They're just cleaning up the site. Gulf Coast is not doing any deep mining. They're cleaning up the tailings from previous mining. Gulf Coast is going to give us the leftover product from crushing the tailings, or rock, to use to fill in the ruts in the road. They're giving it to us for free." Road A010 is considered by the county to be a Revised Statue 2477 road. In 1866, Congress passed a law that gave public entities, counties or state governments the right to construct roads on federal lands. It was an open invitation to counties and states to construct roads on federal lands, and upon construction they received a right-of-way...more

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