Desert Rock foes go to top

Desert Rock opponents took the fight to New York City this week. Several Navajo Nation tribal members, who will be impacted by the proposed Desert Rock Power Plant, met this week with top officials with Sithe Global Power, the power plant’s proponent, and the Blackstone Group, which owns an 80 percent financial stake in Desert Rock.

On April 30, members from the Navajo grassroots group, Diné Citizens Against Ruining our Environment, sat down with Bruce Wrobel, Sithe’s chairman and CEO, and David Foley, senior managing director of the Blackstone Group, in New York. During the meeting, they urged the executives to reconsider the massive power plant, which is proposed for Navajo Nation land just southwest of Farmington. They advocated instead for clean energy options for the reservation, which is rich in both wind and sun resources.

“Desert Rock is a bad financial risk for investors and bad for Navajo health and prosperity,” said Dailan Long, community grassroots organizer for Diné CARE.

Long added that while the proponents claim Desert Rock will generate $50 million in tribal revenues per year for the Navajo Nation, the plant could actually come at a higher price. If it is built, Long said the Navajos could feel the financial impact of impending global warming legislation, which could mean a carbon tax of between $63.5 million and $292.1 million dollars per year, according to his calculations. Diné CARE is arguing instead in favor of the Navajo Nation’s vast renewable energy resources, which will be free of carbon costs.

“The Navajo Nation contains valuable, untapped solar and wind resources which could be a wise investment for the tribe and Blackstone,” said Lori Goodman of Diné CARE. “Solar and wind development is common sense for the Diné.”

Long and others also contended that Navajos will face forced relocation by the proposed expansion of the existing BHP Billiton Navajo coal mine that would fuel Desert Rock. They added that additional pollution will further degrade the health of local Navajo communities already impacted by two nearby coal-fired power plants and other industrial facilities. Both the San Juan Generating Station and the Four Corners Power Plant sit within 25 miles of the proposed Desert Rock facility. 

“There is an existing legacy of energy exploitation in Navajo communities where coal, natural gas, and oil are found under our homes and communities,” said Long. “Desert Rock plans to export its power to large cities in Nevada and southern Arizona and leave us with the pollution.”

Diné CARE was invited to New York to speak at the United Nations Seventh Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples on April 29. During the forum, they detailed the impacts of living in a region being dramatically affected by intensive energy development. They also  presented their economic study, “Economic and Energy Alternatives to the Desert Rock Energy Project,” which found that wind and concentrating solar power would deliver more jobs, less financial risk and less pollution to the Navajo Nation.


Top exhibit taps local photographer

A Durango photographer and regional image are currently getting international attention.  

Gunnar Conrad’s photograph, “Interstate-70” was selected from more than 12,200 entries from 46 countries to be exhibited in “The Art of Photography Show 2008.” Juror Carol McCusker, the curator of photography at the Museum of Photographic Arts, in San Diego, chose 102 pieces to be exhibited in the show

The Art of Photography Show opened April 25 in the Lyceum Theatre Gallery in San Diego and will be on display through May 23. Approximately 20,000 people are expected to view the show during its four-week run.

“Though we are very excited to receive a record-breaking number of entries this year, the thing that really thrills us is the overall caliber of the photography. The work is fantastic, including images from many significant and well known photographic artists,” said Steven Churchill, curator and founder of the event. The exhibit’s mission is to provide a truly “artist oriented” show and to create a world-class presentation of photographic art in San Diego.

Conrad shot “Interstate-70” about 20 miles west of Green River, Utah, where the highway descends out of the San Rafael Swell. The Durango native describes the photograph as “both an archetypal image of the Western landscape and a personal reminder of the time I spend traveling though it.”

More information about the exhibition is available at


Plan for Twin Buttes goes public

The public has an opportunity to weigh in on what could be the next major change in the Durango landscape. A public information meeting on the Twin Buttes Annexation and Conceptual Plan is set for May 7.

Twin Buttes is a proposed development of approximately 600 acres, located north of. Highway 160 West at Durango’s western entrance. The owner of the property has submitted a plan to build 595 homes clustered on the property. The project is primarily residential but also has some neighborhood-oriented commercial.

Twin Buttes developers say the area will be designed embracing eco-friendly principles. These principles include conserving the majority of land as open space, preserving wildlife habitat, clustering housing, and utilizing sustainable energy technologies for all the residential and commercial buildings. The plan also contains a substantial number of public trails.

The May 7 forum will allow attendees to hear from the designer of the project and the development team. City of Durango planning staff will also be in attendance to discuss and address community interests regarding the project.

The session will begin at 5 p.m. at Fort Lewis College in the Center for Southwest Studies Lyceum. For more information, call the City Planning Department at 357-4850.

Habitat executive director steps down

After three years and seven new homes, the executive director of Habitat for Humanity of La Plata County is stepping down. Connie Imig has been gradually phasing out from her position since announcing her intentions to the Board of Directors in late February.

During her tenure, seven new homes have been completed, and four will be constructed this summer in Bayfield. A total of nine families received homes over the past three years. 

“Habitat has come a long way since I was hired, and while we’ve had our challenges, I am very proud of how we handled them, the excellent staff we have in place both administratively and in the store, and the assistance we’ve offered to families needing homes,” Imig said.

Habitat’s most significant challenge was the disappearance of $18,000 from the non-profit’s offices in the fall of 2006. The Durango Police Department was unable to determine if the money was stolen or lost.

Habitat’s Assistant Director Nadine Chaney-Orantes took over as interim director this week. Imig, who is in the process of starting a botanical garden in Durango, says she is “not going away” but going to start making more time for her art work.

– Will Sands