BACKGROUND

In November 2023, Los Alamos National Labs (LANL), with oversight from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), announced the proposal of a 14-mile, 115kV power transmission line project that would cut across the Caja del Rio, jeopardizing its spiritual and ecological integrity.

The Caja del Rio is a landscape of immense cultural and spiritual significance for many Pueblos and Hispanic communities throughout Northern New Mexico. Constructing a power transmission line through the Caja would put this sacred land in immediate danger, causing irreversible damage to the landscape by causing erosion, water quality degradation, habitat fragmentation, and increased opportunity for illegal off-highway vehicle use on this very sensitive landscape. These threats underscore the need for the Caja del Rio to be permanently protected and preserved for future generations.

Below is a map of the proposed transmission line project. The highlighted section represents the area where a new line would be placed. The full proposal can be found here with more information here.

More than 23,000 comments were submitted by members of the Caja coalition expressing concern about the proposed power line. The public comment period closed on February 20, 2024 and the NNSA is currently in the process of reviewing them.

Key Concerns Expressed by the Caja Coalition:

  • The project poses a direct threat to crucial wildlife habitats, including those of vulnerable bird species like the golden eagle and the western burrowing owl. It’s also part of the Western Wildway Priority Wildlife Corridor, supporting movement along the Rio Grande for large mammals including mule deer, elk, coyote, and gray fox.
  • Culturally significant sites, petroglyphs, and ancestral homes face prolonged, irreparable damage. The Caja del Rio is used by many Pueblo communities for spiritual ceremonies; construction and installation of a transmission line would significantly disrupt those ceremonies.
  • Before moving forward, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) must be prepared. An EIS is a comprehensive government document that assesses and discloses significant environmental impacts of a proposed project. This rigorous evaluation ensures that decision-makers and the public have a full understanding of the ecological, cultural, and social impacts, allowing for informed and responsible choices that prioritize the well-being of Caja del Rio.
  • The NNSA must explore and invest in clean, green energy alternatives rather than resorting to a power transmission line that would harm our cherished landscapes. Renewable energy sources can provide a sustainable solution without compromising the natural and cultural heritage of Caja del Rio.
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