Lack of water delays opening of NM center

Sante Fe, New Mexico (AP) May 2011

The director of New Mexico’s Office of Archaeological Studies is waiting for the opening of the Center for New Mexico Archaeology southwest of Santa Fe.

And it’s taking longer than Eric Blinman thought it would.

Blinman is a member of the planning team that first contemplated the project in 1992. The 33,000-square-foot building is largely complete, but there’s a hurdle delaying the opening – a lack of water.

On the last day of the 2011 session, lawmakers failed to pass nearly $240 million in capital outlay funding that included about $200,000 to deliver water to the building.

“When I heard, I cried,” Blinman told the Santa Fe New Mexican.

The center’s stopgap solution has the New Mexico National Guard delivering a water tanker every so often. But the center needs a permanent water source before it can gain a certificate of occupancy, Blinman said.

Efforts are under way to find the money for the pipeline.

A group made up of staff members of the Legislative Finance Committee, the Cultural Affairs Department and the General Services Department’s Property Control Division is trying to find money for the water hookup so the center can open in the next couple of months rather than next year, said Linda Kehoe, capital analyst for the LFC.

New Mexico has a prominent place in the field of archaeology. Ancient Paleo-Indian cultures identified by archaeologists are named Clovis and Folsom after New Mexico towns. The state’s archaeological collection includes the earliest evidence of human presence in New Mexico; rare, ancient textiles and artifacts of the state’s Spanish colonial period; communities of freed slaves; and items from the Atomic Age.

Blinman now works out of the basement of the Bataan Memorial Building near the state Capitol, and the new center would give him better equipment and more light. It will offer archaeologists a chance to show off recent finds during brown-bag lunches.

“We don’t have a room where we can put more than four people,” Blinman said of his current office.

The new archaeology center will consolidate most of the state’s archaeological collection, which currently spread among three state buildings. The Office of Archaeological Studies, now in two buildings, also will be consolidated.

Blinman and his staff of nearly 40 do archaeological research projects throughout the state, serving both state agencies and private organizations, often when there’s a chance development might affect potentially significant artifacts.

Finds at such sites range from pottery to animal bones or, occasionally, human bones, Blinman said.