A road to ruins?

  • ARCHAEOLOGY OR AVENUE: Petroglyph National Monument

    Jeff Widen photo
  New Mexico Republican Sen. Pete Domenici is trying to pave the way for a six-lane highway through the Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque (HCN, 1/20/97). In March, Domenici attached a rider to an emergency appropriations bill that allows the city to extend the Paseo del Norte road through the 8.5-acre midsection of the national monument - a monument he helped establish in 1990.

Domenici's rider is "a sleazy Trojan horse - the lowest of its kind in political shenanigans," according to Ike Eastvold, president of Friends of the Albuquerque Petroglyphs. "It could end over 1,000 years of Pueblo Indian religious practice."

The rider does not mean the $13.5 million road will be built, but it authorizes Mayor Jim Baca and the Albuquerque City Council to build it at their discretion. Baca opposes the road extension, and argues that instead of reducing traffic, it would worsen urban sprawl and "set a poor precedent for the protection of our national monuments." But eight of the nine city council members support it and would likely override a Baca veto.

In early March, Domenici had introduced a free-standing bill in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, where it passed on a voice-vote. But President Clinton promised a veto if the bill reached the oval office.

Domenici was not worried. "Anybody who thinks this bill is going to be killed by a veto just hasn't lived around here for a while," he told the Albuquerque Journal. "It may be on another bill that he (President Clinton) can't help but sign."

Living up to his threat, Domenici dropped the free-standing bill and piggy-backed the road authorization onto the emergency appropriations bill, which earmarks funds for peace-keeping efforts in Iraq and Bosnia. The bill should reach the Senate floor in coming weeks. The House version of the bill does not yet contain Domenici's rider.

*JT Thomas

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