Friday, December 13, 2013


Dear Senator Udall:
My name is Matt Middleton. I live in Magdalena, NM and
have been working as a part-time activist on the San Augustin Plains
aquifer water grab for a little less than a year. I'm sure you're
aware of the issue, but to set the tone here let me
quote a paragraph or two from an article that came out
in the Green Fire Times in January of 2011.
"Scattered around the Plains of Saint Augustine are cattle ranches run by a curious breed of true individuals who prefer to govern their lives as they see fit through hard work and John Wayne-ian true grit. They prefer to be left alone in this enormous span of grassland that elicits fits of agoraphobia in visiting urbanites who happen to be driving from Magdalena to Datil. This is indeed a habitat perfectly suited to itself, a biotic community contained within a geophysical cradle sculpted by volcanic activity with an ancient tectonic nudge that resulted in an exquisitely defined watershed that apparently drains to either side of the Continental Divide. Both the Río Grande to the east and the Gila River to the west are fed by waters from the San Augustin aquifer.
Today, a family of speculators is seeking legal right to drill thirty-seven wells deep into the San Augustin aquifer and pump 54,000 acre feet of water per year for 300 years, or until the aquifer runs dry, for undetermined purposes other than to sell this water to the highest bidder. Or, put another way, a family of modern-day carpetbaggers wants to pump the lifeblood of a living bioregion, create a water hemorrhage with no thought of tourniquet, despoil a vibrant habitat, rape the Earth—for money, lots of money to satisfy the insidious greed that has come to dominate so much of the darkening consciousness of Western culture. The privatization of common waters for profit is absolutely unethical."
For the benefit of yourself and whoever else
may read this, let me here include the link to
the full article:
The author is, of course, someone well known to you -
longtime Udall family friend Jack Loeffler.
Heck, you've probably discussed the issue with him.
  Senator, Jack's observations and analysis here
 are right on target.
This is an ethical issue.
Currently, everyone is waiting for the State Appeals Court
to announce their decision on the latest round in this mess.
However, while we wait, I think it's important that
people prepare for further battles in the "water war."
The opposition has been stubborn, and of course
they have all the time and money in the world.
Well, money at least.
Senator, while this is a state issue, there are certain
realities here that can probably only be addressed
on a federal level.
Let me explain.
The Augustin Plains Ranch LLC is headed by Bruno Modena
from Milan, Italy.   He and his son Vittorio and other
unnamed foreigners were behind an "eco-resort" and
subdivision nightmare proposed a few years back
on the Maine coast, adjacent to Acadia National Park. 
 Needless to say the whole scheme horrified the locals
and conservationists in the region,
and some well-to-do folks from the area (and state),
along with a timber company, bought the Modenas out. 
The amount paid, according to someone in the loop,
was termed "exorbitant."  It seems like a
 whole new form of extortion.
 The only other thing we've been able to find was that
the family has ownership in some small, four-star,
exclusive hotels, that cater primarily to
 extended family, business associates, etc.
 in a string of hostels in Italy.
The business is under the umbrella of a holding
company registered in England.  Of course, under current
 British law, the cloak of secrecy is intact.
Bruno Modena is Director.  Someone
else is Secretary.  End of story.
However, that may soon change.  The money-laundering
problems in the U.K. are widespread and entrenched,
 undermining law enforcement efforts, and the
 Prime Minister has promised changes -
transparency in ownership and sources of capital.
Time will tell.
An article I found on the web from an Italian newspaper
about the opening of a new hotel venture the
Modenas apparently own, or control in some form,
shed little light on the details, describing the Modena Family
 as one that is known for "confidentiality,"
 and that their investors are people who
 "do not like being exposed."
I'm including a link to this at the bottom.
Senator, as a former State Attorney General,
 I'm certain you're well aware of how this all looks.
People who don't like their names or, more importantly,
the sources of their money, known - by anyone -
generally have something to hide, am I not right?
I'm sure you're way ahead of me here.
The LLC is talking about a $500,000,000 investment
 in infrastructure and whatever else they need
 on the San Augustin project.
Where's all this cash coming from?
 Are these people legit, or are they foreign "operators?" 
 Is there foreign mob money here - money from sex slavery
 and child prostitution, drug money, gun-running money?
Who knows?  No one.
But isn't a deal like this an ideal opportunity to potentially
launder one hell of a lot of cash - huge contracts in
a state that already has problems in keeping its own books,
much less overseeing the legitimacy of money flowing in
and out of a half-billion dollar project.  No way.
No one would ever even come close to knowing
what the hell these people might pull off.
It's overwhelming.  It could be.
And it's scary.
They say nothing, offer nothing.
There's absolutely NO transparency.
NEVER has there been any info about their
corporate background, their financial base,
their past ventures, their successes,
 their corporate story. 
 Nada.  Zilch.  No PR.  No nuthin'.
Except for one guy.
Their front man.
And there is plenty known about the man they hired
to be their "Project Manager" on the deal.
And Senator, when these characters hired
Michel Jichlinski, the former President and CEO of
the Louis Berger Group, a federal contractor,
they may as well have hired the devil.
He was perfect.
The Louis Berger Group, while he was at the helm,
stole millions of U.S. taxdollars involving contracts
in war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.  A whistleblower
came forth with five years of evidence of overbilling
and "creative" accounting procedures.
  The company got hit with the largest war-time fine ever
for a contractor.  A few people went to prison,
 but not Jichlinski, even though he was
the chief of an outfit that the whistleblower
described as "a culture of fraud."
Connected, obviously.
Senator, some months back I got two visits from
law enforcement officials questioning me about
the aquifer issue, and my role.  There's a link to that post
along with the others.
  I believe it's time that we ask that
 the federal government use its resources and
find out who the Modenas and
 their "investors" really are. 
We're talking about total strangers,
who could have dark and dangerous connections,
potentially getting their hands on 52,000 acre ft.
of water, drinking water, per annum. 
 It's imperative that the citizens of the State
  know exactly who these foreigners are
 before any papers are signed,
before any wells are drilled.
Actually, foreign ownership of our water is nuts,
but that's something that will need to be addressed
in the future, when we all have time (?).
We'd also like to know that Jichlinski hasn't been
running around Santa Fe with a briefcase full
of cash to grease the wheels.  At the Berger Group
bribery was apparently a way of life.
This guy needs to be watched.
He has to be watched.
Of course, if a person looks over the legal and
hydrologic evidence, there is absolutely no way
these guys should ever have gotten this far.
When Dr. Fred Phillips of NMIMT explained
the process of capturing ALL the rainfall falling
on their ranch (cut down every living thing,
 sterilize the soil, and then SEAL it with concrete or plastic)
 then we realized how over the edge these people
 really are.  A link to that post is also included.
Senator, I see that your staff is having
"Udall Serving You" office hours at the Socorro
Library on Thursday.  I'll be delivering a hard copy
of this letter to them at that time,
but will be e-mailing your staff the link to
the letter as soon as it's complete, with links.
  One way or another, I'm confident it should
 reach your eyes.  I pray it does.
Thank you for your time, and good luck with
trying to herd all those Capital cats.
When you see Jack, please say hi.
Now there's an amazing cat.
Matt Middleton
Here's the link to the Italian newspaper article
about the Modenas' hotel business in Italy
(needs translation - I used Google, but certainly
a staffer that knows Italian would be better):
Here's just one of the many articles from the
McClatchy Washingto Bureau about the
Louis Berger Group fraud case:
USA Today was one of many news organizations
 covering the Maine "eco-resort" the Modenas
 had planned:
Here's an intriguing part of an interview we conducted
with Dr. Fred Phillips, Director of the Hydrology Program
 at New Mexico Institure of Mining & Technology:
Here's the post (really a letter to the editor)
after I found out I was the subject of a
criminal investigation:
To send a message to Senator Udall here's
his contact page:

Monday, November 25, 2013


"Like so many New Mexicans, farming and ranching
are in my blood. My grandmother was born in
 Luna, New Mexico in 1893 and her family
 drove cattle through the mountains down
 to the railroad in Magdalena.
 Farming and ranching are part
 of our heritage and serve as a key economic
 engine in our state, accounting for more than
 $4 billion in our economy. 
More than 20,000 farms dot the
New Mexico map.
 I am committed to preserving the important
 role that the agricultural community plays in
 our state's identity and economy."
Senator Tom Udall
As you can see from the Senator's statement
above, Tom Udall has roots and connections
to New Mexico's ranching community, and
that tie runs right through this country.
When the Senator speaks of his ancestors
driving cattle to Magdalena, he's speaking of
the Magdalena Trail - which runs right by
(or perhaps through) part of the
 Augustin Plains Ranch LLC,
 the proposed site of the WATER GRAB.
The cattle "Trail" became the "Driveway" in
1918, and was in use up until about 1970.
There's lots more info about the Trail on
the Bureau of Land Management website -
While the Water Grab is more of a state, rather
than federal, issue, there are definitely some
factors here that would be of interest to the
Senator, and there are ways in which he
could aid the cause.
Our letter to Senator Udall will be up shortly.
Editor's note, December 14:
The letter is UP and is here:

Saturday, November 2, 2013


We kept a small jpeg in the upper-right
corner of the layout for some time, though June 15
was long past.  But having it up begs the question.
How did things go?
Well, let's start by a little brief history.
Last March 3, we put together some photos,
prayers, and music for a post we titled:
We've gotten a lot of hits on it.
Later in April we started promoting the
we held out at Montosa Ranch in mid-June,
 at the Chapel of the Living Waters,
courtesy of B.W. Cox.
Of course if something's a good idea,
it's bound to pop up all over the place.
We weren't the only outfit in the state
 doing something like this. 
 There were ceremonies and prayer services
 for rain in five or six places.
Below, participants in a Prayer for Rain
service in Bernalillo, New Mexico this past Spring.
If you'd like to check out the post, -
 to see how this all started,
 you might want to look, and listen
 to the music while you're there.
See it here:
Here's the approximate state of affairs as far
as the water goes - last April into mid-June.
Things were looking bleak.
Magdalena ran into water trouble right about this time,
but the "coincidence" of drought and the well problems
turned out to be just that, a coincidence.
 It turns out the village difficulties
were due to poor management, stupidity,
 incompetence....whatever your favorite term is.
Governor Susana Martinez called it
"forty-five years of mismanagement."
Our law enforcement guys ended up having to
take the initiative and do a lot of stuff
that wasn't their responsibility.
But these guys "step up" to the occasion
when duty calls, unlike some around here.
Thanks a lot gentlemen.  We owe ya'.
. was definitely interesting stuff for the media.
Especially since here we were PRAYING for rain.
Below - the NBC News crew at work, and then a brief video
from KOAT, Channel 7, in Albuquerque.
The water crisis caught the attention of a
lot of people, among them Briane Dennison of
the Albuquerque Police Department Chaplains Unit.
They organized a drive to collect agua and
A LOT of water was donated and brought to the Village.
In a way, prayers were being answered already.
No, it wasn't rain.  It was water.  Drinking water.
Something that was needed in large quantity.
There's good people out there, no matter
what kind of mess Albuquerque is.
Here's a link to a neat little story that aired
on KOAT (Channel 7) Albuquerque
about the water drive:
And here's the text story from KOB NEWS
when the water came rolling in.
APD delivers water to Magdalena
.           Posted at: 06/21/2013 6:53 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4
It’s Albuquerque to the rescue for a little New Mexico town where the well ran dry three weeks ago. City cops delivered thousands of gallons of water to the Socorro County village of Magdalena Friday morning.
Village residents worked side by side with police officers, unloading pallets of bottled water. Albuquerque residents and businesses made the donations, along with Walgreens, Walmart and Smith’s, which also provided the drop-off locations. ABF Trucking, Albuquerque Moving, U-Haul and the city Parks and Recreation Department donated trucks and drivers.
“It’s pretty overwhelming, the support we’ve had from outside the community,” said Magdalena village blacksmith Z.W. Farnsworth. “It’s nice to see that people step up and help each other out. It’s something we need to do more of.”
In under two hours the big job was done and the cops and truck drivers dug into enchiladas and green chile cheese burgers at local restaurants – on the house.
“I was amazed when I saw all those big trucks coming in with all this water and unloading and helping us,” said village mayor Sandy Julian.
 “Albuquerque, I thank you from the bottom of my heart,
 and the people of the village of Magdalena thank you.”
“It’s just great helping your neighbor,” said police chaplain Briane Dennision.
“We get to do that every day in the city of Albuquerque, but we have to come and help our neighbors in the state of New Mexico. It was just a great effort on everybody’s part.
How much water? Don’t ask. Nobody knows, since the containers are different sizes.
 But it’s a lot!

The last of the bottled water was distributed
on October 16.  The wells are still having some issues,
and many people are still using bottled water.
But we need to send a huge THANKS to
Briane Dennison, the Chaplain from APD
who put this all in motion, and the
people from Albuquerque, Los Lunas, Belen, Socorro,
and from across the state who either donated
water (or $$$ for the drive to purchase water).
Thanks a lot!  Gracias a todos!
God Bless you all!
And of course the Project Director for the foreigners,
 Michel Jichlinski, was basically sounding like
 Chicken Little in the local paper during all of this.  
"The sky is falling!!!
Drought....Drought!!!  No water!!!
Your well's DRY!!!!
What will you do???
You need our project!!!
We could have water for you!!!"
Well, that's a matter of opinion.
Our well wasn't actually dry.
As the "Guv" said - "mismanagement."
It should be noted - corporate donors and
private businesses got involved with the water drive -
from Walmart and Home Depot,
 to Daniels Funeral Home and the
 Water & Ice Store in Socorro.
But there was NO assistance, as far as is known,
from the foreign investors -
Augustin Plains Ranch LLC.
Common sense tells you if they had been generous,
and gracious about it,
it could have been a point in their favor.
Good PR.
But these guys have a history of everything from
not paying their contractors, to falling behind
on land taxes.
You expect the generosity of a neighbor from
the likes of these???
Dream on.
If they'd have done anything they would have had
the PR flacks in full gear - TV, print, radio and web.
But generosity is NOT what these guys are about.
It's pure self-interest and misguided thinking.
It's dangerous.
But, here's how the drought monitor looked
at the beginning of October.
We got a short rain in Magdalena, and the area,
later the afternoon of June 15, after the ceremony
at Montosa, and then it stopped.
And then it started up around July 1...and it rained,
and rained, off and on, across the state, in
 various locales, for weeks...and weeks.
  It was a little spotty in some areas, some weeks,
 but most of Catron and Socorro Counties got a
 lot of rain, as did most of southwestern New Mexico.
Generally, most of the state got a big boost.
In just three months, exceptional drought - the
 worst category -  disappeared from
 New Mexico drought maps.
 The state also marked its second wettest
September on record with average
 precipitation of more than 4 inches.
Yes, there were a few minor flooding issues,
but they were minor.  In the big picture, we did well.
There's fat cattle now, munching and laying
 around all over the place.  FAT.
We'll get a lot more up here, including material
from June 15 - and we have some surprises.
Below is a short video that was part of
our ceremony at Montosa.  Someone wanted
to participate, but had to work, and so
we got it on video to show that day,
and now we've flipped it up on YouTube.
  It's nothing fancy, but it works.
Thanks Travis.
Above: Father Tommy Means of Epiphany
 Episcopal Church of Socorro leads a litany (below).
This very much caught people's attention.
It was written by Rev. Talitha Arnold of
Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2011.
Permisssion is allowed to reproduce and adapt
for worship services or church education.
So we adapted a little.
  Publishing rights are reserved.
God of all creation, of rain and fire, of ponderosa and pinon,we your people lift our prayer to You.
Lord, hear our prayer.
For rain in this thirsty land, and for hope in this hard time.
Lord, hear our prayer.
For the people who are dealing with a water shortage and its effects - both financial and personal - from Magdalena to the Plains, from the Rio Grande Valley to Elephant Butte Reservoir.
Lord, hear our prayer.
For firefighters on the front lines, for pilots and crews, and all who are working across the State of New Mexico at this time to contain fires - for their safety and stamina.
Lord, hear our prayer.
For the animals and birds that have lost habitat or lack water sources, for the plants and trees, rivers and lakes, and all creation that is suffering because of drought and fire, and often because of human greed or human carelessness.
Lord, hear our prayer.
For the farmers and ranchers, and others of our rural communities whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by fire, drought, or water theft.
Lord, hear our prayer.
For the just and wise use of the water You have given us, to be gracious stewards of Your creation and good neighbors with all people.
Lord, hear our prayer.
For the wisdom to conserve resources, and the grace to share them, with common sense and a dedication to protect what is a sacred trust - to understand that we are not so much owners as we are custodians of land, and to know that water is life.
Lord, hear our prayer.
For the local, state, and federal authorities and leaders - to have Your courage, O Lord, and Your vision, to make hard decisions for the common good, and the will to stand up to financial and political powers that would rob the state's citizens of what is theirs.
Lord, hear our prayer.
For a peaceful resolution to the difficulties that people face on the San Augustin Plains aquifer water project, and a fair, just, and timely answer from the New Mexico Court of Appeals.
Lord, hear our prayer.
Gracious God, You who hear the prayer of every heart, hear now the prayers we lift up to you now.
(A moment of silent prayer.)
Hear all of our prayers O God, spoken and unspoken.
Remind us that You are the One who listens and Who hears.
Grant us the wisdom to love one another, and this God-given earth, as You do.
We pray in Your name, and offer the prayer that Christ taught us:
Our Father, Who are in heaven, holy be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Nobody's claiming the drought is broken.
But we're in far better shape now than we were
four months ago, or even a year or two ago.
  Now we say our THANKS, and pray for snow.
  We're not kidding.
More to come....