Desert Rock suffers setback

Activists are beginning to take a chip out of Desert Rock. The giant power plant suffered a setback this week when the New Mexico State Legislature tabled a bill that would give $85 million in tax credits to the project. In addition, a rally against the new coal-fired plant will hit Santa Fe next Monday.

Sithe Global would like to begin construction on the Desert Rock Power Plant as early as 2008. In collaboration with the Dine Power Authority, Sithe would build the coal-fired plant on Navajo Reservation land, southwest of Farmington, for an estimated cost of $2 billion. When completed, the new plant would be among the largest in the nation and generate enough energy for 1.5 million homes. The company has won preliminary approval from the Environmental Protection Agency for the plant, which it touts as state-of-the-art, using 80 percent less water than wet-cooled, coal-fired plants and having an efficiency of 41 percent.

However, the New Mexico House Energy and Natural Resources Committee did not look so kindly on Desert Rock. By a narrow vote last Monday, the committee tabled a bill authorizing the $85 million credit.

More than 40 people turned out for the hearing, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican, and some were not happy with the decision. Navajo tribal member Albert Shirley, of Gallup, told the paper, “The Navajo Nation took on this project because other outside companies were interested in moving in and using Navajo coal. Every Navajo likes the electricity in their homes. Ask them to give it up, they won’t do it.”

However, others celebrated the tabling. Elouise Brown, who lives near the proposed plant, was quoted as saying, “I don’t know what’s next, but I’m going to keep fighting against the plant.”

Opponents are also continuing the fight next week. On Feb. 5, a rally to against Desert Rock will take place at Santa Fe’s Round House Rotunda. The rally will object not only to the tabled bill, but also the fact that Desert Rock will emit 10 million tons of greenhouse gases into the Four Corners airshed each year. Robb Thomson, chair of the Interfaith Alliance for Environmental Stewardship, added that Desert Rock will effectively negate Gov. Bill Richardson’s efforts to clean up New Mexico’s air.

“The carbon dioxide emissions from the proposed Desert Rock will almost exactly cancel out any savings in the Governor’s efforts to decrease those emissions over the next five years,” he said. “And the human race must begin to decrease those emissions quickly if the worst consequences of global warming are not to be faced later.”

Thomson added that the tax break bill may be tabled, but it and its companion bill in the state senate remain a threat. “House Bill 178 and Senate Bill 431 will grant state tax credits to the owners of Desert Rock, even though the plant will increase pollution in an area already severely impacted by air pollution of all kinds,” he said.

The Feb. 5 rally will take place from 2-3 p.m.


Falls Creek paving nears approval

The Forest Service appears to be going forward with a controversial plan to pave and then transfer ownership of a small section of roadway near Durango.

This week, the Forest Service announced it would accept comments on a preferred plan to convey Falls Creek Road, also known as County Road 205, between the Turtle Lake and Falls Creek areas, to La Plata County. The county plans to chip and seal the 2-mile, popular recreation corridor, a prospect that drew strong reactions when first announced. The road links up with the Falls Creek Subdivision through the Hidden Valley area, which contains several trails, vistas and archeological sites.

The Falls Creek Homeowners Association approached La Plata County commissioners in 2004 about the transfer. Commissioners initially denied the request, but late in 2005 approved it on the contingency that the homeowners association and Forest Service fund an upgrade of the road to county standards. In exchange, the county would take over jurisdiction of the 2 miles and provide labor and equipment. A Forest Service spokesperson explained that the agency is not in the business of maintaining roads to residential developments.

The idea of transferring ownership of the short section of road may not be as controversial as the county’s interest in paving it. A large contingent, including Turtle Lake and Falls Creek residents, has objected to the upgrade on the basis of safety and quality-of-life issues. Objectors contend that paving the road will lead to high-speed driving on a corridor currently dominated by recreation and wildlife.

“That valley is one of the most accessible, really peaceful, rural areas close to town,” said Randall McKown, a Falls Creek resident. “It would be a shame to degrade that for the sake of a single neighborhood.”

The Forest Service is now seeking public comment on a “revised pre-decisional environmental sssessment.” The preliminary analysis is posted at: projects/projects.shtml or is available by calling 884-2512.


Film festival loses executive director

With the event less than a month away, the Durango Independent Film Festival is short an executive director. Karyle Frazier resigned her post recently due to personal reasons. However, the DIFF board said that this year’s event, scheduled for Feb. 28-March 4, will be stronger than ever.

“While we’re disappointed that it didn’t work out with Karyle, we are very excited about our upcoming festival and confident that our energetic and passionate staff will execute an even better film festival than we put on in 2006, which everyone should note was also done without an executive director,” said Carla Finlay, DIFF Board President.

DIFF has hired Kaiya White to staff the Durango Independent Film Festival office, and is actively seeking a public relations and marketing manager for the upcoming festival. “Our staff is dedicated and experienced with many members now having seven-years-plus experience with their jobs in the film festival, so running the actual operation of our festival is in good hands,” said Michele Malach, board member and operations manager for DIFF.

The film festival is also excited about the quality of this year’s films, which includes tentative agreements to screen three Academy Award-winning films including: “Iraq in Fragments,” “Binta and the Great Idea,” and “The Little Matchgirl.”

The Durango Independent Film Festival still has opportunities for volunteers and is presently selling passes. For more information, visit


Zink announces reelection bid

Durango Mayor Sidny Zink has joined the race for City Council. The current mayor, who has served on council since 2003, kicked off her campaign for the April 3 election Friday. Councilors Zink, Tom Howley and Dale Garland are all up for reelection.According to Zink, she wants to continue to serve as a member of City Council because her leadership skills and practical approach to difficult issues have served Durango well.

She identified some of the major issues she will continue to focus on as a member of City Council saying managed growth is paramount. Zink said her philosophy is to balance healthy growth with preservation and she has a track record of guiding the council to reasonable compromises. Completing the revision of the City’s Comprehensive Plan is another goal for Zink. She’s sees it as a key to being proactive rather than reactive in land-use planning, environmental issues and other community priorities.

Zink moved to Durango in 1990 and has been very active in the community. She was a 1999 graduate of Leadership La Plata and a recipient of the Barbara Conrad Leadership Award in 2003. Professionally, Zink is a certified public accountant and co-owner of FredrickZinkElliott, PC.

– compiled by Will Sands


In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows