Navajo Council OKs power plant

The haze could thicken over the skies of the Four Corners in coming years. Last Friday, a massive new power plant took another step forward when the Navajo Council voted to approve a 50-year lease agreement with Sithe Global Power.

The Desert Rock Energy Project would be located on Navajo land just south of Farmington. The 1,500-megawatt plant would be a hybrid dry-cooled, coal-fired plant, producing enough electricity for 1.5 million homes. Sithe, a privately held, independent power company based in Houston, hopes to have the plant completed by 2010.

On Fri., May 12, during a special session, the Navajo Council embraced the Desert Rock plant by a 66-7 vote and approved a 50-year lease agreement with the plant.

Steve Begay, Dine Power Authority general manager, hailed the decision as a landmark for the tribe.

“This project is really a big project for the Navajo Nation, and it’s really a plus for Indian Country and other Indian tribes,” Begay told the Associated Press. “It shows a big project can be done between Navajos and outside business. It sort of blazes the trail.”

However, the opposition takes a darker view of the proposed $2.3 billion plant. They contend that the plant would take up 600 acres on the reservation; add to the 35,100 tons of sulfur dioxide and 45,200 tons of nitrogen oxide already emitted by other plants in the Four Corners; would use enough water to serve 70 communities; and power from the plant would go to Las Vegas and Phoenix rather than to the Navajo people.

Dine Citizens Against Ruining our Environment (Dine CARE) has been particularly outspoken in its criticism of the plant. The group contended in a statement, “Despite misleading claims in the press, there is no consensus in the Navajo Nation in support of the plant.”

The group goes on to argue that the addition of the plant to the others already operating in the Four Corners region would be an environmental disaster. “Two existing plants in the vicinity have been called two of the worst point-sources of pollution in the U.S. by the EPA, spewing concentrations of a number of pollutants proven to be damaging to human health and the environment. The health of neighboring residents on Navajo lands has been compromised by their exposure to these toxins.”


Mothers march against the war

Last Sunday, Durango honored the true origins of Mother’s Day. Close to 100 local residents turned out for a Mother’s Day Anti-War March on May 14.

Mother’s Day actually was started in 1870 by a peace protester named Julia Ward Howe. Howe was horrified by the pain of the Civil War and wrote a proclamation calling on women to unite and oppose the war.

This Mother’s Day in Durango was marked by a march opposing the War in Iraq. Family members of all ages gathered on Sunday afternoon in Buckley Park and paraded up and down Main Avenue waving signs and flags. The march’s theme was “I didn’t raise my child to be a soldier” and was sponsored by the Southwest Colorado Peace and Justice Coalition.

“Over 2,000 soldiers have died, 1,500 have been wounded, and that’s a lot of mothers who are grieving over a war that’s useless to the American people,” said Lora Chamberlain, of the Peace and Justice Coalition. “This war is over oil. I really believe the mothers in this country are no longer interested in sacrificing their sons for someone else’s profits.”

Pointing to her sign which read “We’ve raised them to be good, not die for oil,” Margaret Cauire added, “My sign says it all. We need to make the statement that the war is not acceptable and keep reminding people every day.”

The Southwest Colorado Peace and Justice Coalition plans to take part in an International Day of Action on May 28 at the Nevada Test Site. The planned protest is in response to the scheduled June 2 test of a 700-ton explosive by the U.S. government.


Summit draws big turnout

More than 270 La Plata County residents gathered at Fort Lewis College last Friday to look for solutions to community problems. The La Plata County Community Summit spent four hours discussing hot-button issues including affordable housing, health care, livable wages, transportation and positive youth development. The event, hosted by Operation Healthy Communities, is designed to enhance existing programs, eliminate duplication of efforts, provide a venue for community goal setting, and create measurable action.

“The fact that so many residents chose to participate today says a lot about the community in which we live,” said Kim Newcomer, executive director of Operation Healthy Communities. “I am consistently impressed with the level of involvement community members exemplify, not only by attending this event, but by taking these action items and making them a reality.”

The action items Newcomer referenced include a wide variety of ideas. They range from large comprehensive strategies such as increasing infant and toddler child care slots to smaller action items such as the creation of “Carpool to Work Day” to promote alternative forms of transportation.  

For a complete summary of the 2006 La Plata County Community Summit action items, visit


FLC Athletic Director steps down

Fort Lewis College Athletic Director Dave Preszler is leaving the college after 14 years as a coach and administrator. Preszler has accepted an administrative position as assistant principal and activities director at Bayfield High School, where he will continue to work with students and young athletes.

“Dave has served exceptionally for Fort Lewis College during the past 14 years, including this past year when we had the finest collective athletic record in college history,” said Fort Lewis President Brad Bartel. “We all wish him well in his new career.”

The 2005-06 season saw the Skyhawk Men’s Soccer team capture the NCAA Division II National Championship. The women’s soccer team earned its best record since 1999. The football team finished with its first winning season in 21 years and went undefeated at home. The volleyball team finished 2005-06 with a winning conference record and the golf team advanced to the NCAA Super Regional. Both men’s and women’s basketball teams achieved five straight winning seasons during Preszler’s five years at the helm.

“It’s been a great run at Fort Lewis College,” said Preszler. “Now it’s time for me to close the Fort Lewis chapter in my life and begin a new and exciting opportunity. We depart with fond memories and thanks to the entire Skyhawk athletic family and wish them all the very best in their futures.”

Preszler will remain in that job through June while the college searches for a replacement.

– compiled by Will Sands and Grace Edgin