Desert Rock comment period to end

The deadline to weigh in on the Desert Rock Power Plant is just around the corner. Durangoans and other concerned citizens have until Oct. 9 to offer feedback on the draft environmental impact statement for the proposed power plant.

Sithe Global would like to build the $2 billion Desert Rock Energy Project on Navajo Reservation land 30 miles southwest of Farmington. If completed, the new plant would be among the largest in the nation and generate enough energy for 1.5 million homes. It would also be the third coal-fired power plant in a 15-mile radius and further taint area air quality.

The plant has already won preliminary approval from the Environmental Protection Agency, which touts it as state-of-the-art, using 80 percent less water than traditional wet-cooled, coal-fired plants and having an efficiency of 41 percent. In June, the Bureau of Indian Affairs released a draft environmental impact statement, which also found few problems with the plant. The release opened a public comment period that had been scheduled to end Aug. 20.

However, Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., and his brother Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., objected to the short 60-day period for public comment. Among the Salazars’ concerns was that many residents who requested a copy of the draft did not receive it until the comment period was half over. The Congressmen also expressed concern regarding the length and extreme technical complexity of the document. As a result, they lobbied for and won an extension.

“My office has received numerous concerns over the proposed Desert Rock Plant, but it is critical that those living in Southwest Colorado make sure their concerns are heard in the NEPA process,” said John Salazar. 

Comments must be received in the BIA Gallup office by 4 p.m. on Tues., Oct. 9. They can be sent by e-mail at the project website,, or by mail to: Harrilene Yazzie, Regional NEPA Coordinator, Navajo Regional Office, Bureau of Indian Affairs, P.O. Box  1060, Gallup, N.M., 87305. 

Meanwhile, protesters continue to oppose the power plant at the proposed site. In response to unauthorized test drilling, Dooda’ Desert Rock, an opposition group of Navajo elders, established a resistance camp at the site at Ram Springs last December. The BIA then issued a categorical exclusion allowing the contractor, the Layne Corp., to conduct test drilling for 45 days. The Layne Corp. vacated the site earlier this week, after more than 300 days of work, according to Dooda’ Desert Rock.

The group claims to have been a day-to-day eye witness to the damage done in the drilling process and the overall shoddy workmanship at the site.  

“Who knows how much damage has been done,” said Elouise Brown, president of DDR.  “We can only hope that our water and lands have not been badly contaminated and that they clean up after themselves and reclaim the grounds.”

The purpose of the drilling was to establish that groundwater can provide a proven water source for the power plant. Dooda’ Desert Rock alleges that the test drilling effort failed to do that.


Local hunting outlook ‘excellent’

With hunting season just over a week away, big game managers have rated Southwest Colorado’s hunting outlook as “excellent.” According to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, deer and elk are thriving throughout Southwest Colorado thanks to availability of good habitat, limited license programs and favorable weather conditions.

Rifle season begins with an elk-only season from Oct. 13-17. Combined deer and elk seasons are set for Oct. 20-28, and Nov. 3-9, 14-18. Based on past years, about 25 percent of hunters usually harvest an elk in Southwest Colorado. The local success rate for deer is about 50 percent.

“Hunters who are willing to hunt hard and walk well off established roads should have a successful hunt,” said Scott Wait, senior terrestrial biologist for the DOW’s southwest region. “Hunters driving roads in their pick-ups and all-terrain vehicles have less chance of seeing deer or elk.”

For deer hunters, conditions in the Southwest and throughout Colorado have improved dramatically during the last few years. During the mid-1990s, hunters, the Colorado Wildlife Commission and DOW staff recognized that deer in Colorado were in trouble. After years of unlimited hunting, deer populations were in serious decline. In Southwest Colorado, the num

ber of licenses available in some game-management units was cut by as much as 90 percent. Today Colorado’s deer herds are again nationally renowned. More licenses are being made available, and a fourth season has been added in some game-management units.

“Deer herds are healthy and deer hunters know now that the sacrifices they’ve made for the last eight years have been worth it,” said Tom Spezze, southwest regional manager for the DOW.


9-R celebrates Walk to School Day

Durango area students got out and hoofed it this weekend. Students from throughout Durango School District 9-R joined schools from around the world to celebrate International Walk to School Day on Oct. 3.   

On Wednesday morning, dozens of students from Durango-area schools walked to school along with parents, teachers and community leaders. These walkers join approximately 5,000 schools in 50 states and as well as parents, teachers and others from 40 countries worldwide.

The local event was organized by Healthy Lifestyles La Plata, according to Jeanine Justice, project coordinator for Healthy Lifestyles.

“This annual event serves as an excellent way to remind students, as well as the general public, of the importance of remaining active to improve overall health,” said Justice. “In addition, it creates a great way to remind neighbors, commuters and others to watch out for children on their way to and from school as we enter into another school year.”

A Durango-based program supported through Live Well Colorado, Healthy Lifestyles La Plata’s mission is to engage and support the community in the development and implementation of policies, programs and strategies that prevent obesity and obesity-related ailments, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension and asthma.

Commons awarded six-figure grant

Durango education got a six-figure boost last week. The Southwest Institute for Education and Conservation was awarded a matching grant of $200,000 by the Gates Family Foundation. The funds will go to The Commons Building, located at 701 Camino del Rio, which is being converted into an education center by the Southwest Conservation Corps and Durango Adult Education Center.  

The vision for The Commons is to provide an umbrella of educational, career, technical, environmental and family support services in one location. The plan is to eventually offer a variety of educational services ranging from high school diplomas and vocational programs to community college, four-year degrees and master’s degree programs.  

The Gates Family Foundation invests in Colorado-based projects and organizations primarily through grants that enhance the quality of life for those visiting, working and living in the state. This grant will be for the completion of the building’s capital campaign, which will raise funds for renovation and outdoor child-care play space. However, The Commons’ capital campaign must be complete by Feb. 1, 2009. in order to receive the grant. That campaign is currently 85 percent complete.

– Will Sands