Caja del Rio landscape

Press Release: Proposed power transmission line through the Caja del Rio sees overwhelming public opposition

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 13, 2023

Proposed power transmission line through the Caja del Rio sees overwhelming public opposition

Over 20,000 public comments were submitted in opposition to the National Nuclear Security Administration proposed power transmission line

SANTA FE, NM - In late February, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNNS) ended its public comment period on a proposed 14-mile, 115-Kilovolt power transmission line for Los Alamos National Labs (LANL) that would be constructed across a major part of the Caja del Rio plateau in Northern New Mexico. The Caja del Rio coalition collected 23,215 public comments in opposition to the proposed transmission line citing concerns over the potential impacts to the ecological, cultural and spiritual values of the landscape and raising questions on the substance, transparency and legality of the project. 

“Our people have called these lands home for thousands of years, and we still use them today. The Caja del Rio already faces immediate threats — from illegal dumping and shooting to the desecration of sacred sites and petroglyphs. The proposed transmission line would bring increased traffic and increase these threats and pressures on the landscape tenfold. This project will only continue the harmful nuclear legacy that LANL has brought upon our Northern Pueblo relatives, therefore I stand firm in opposition to this project.” said Reyes DeVore, a member of the Jemez Pueblo and program director for Pueblo Action Alliance. 

“In proposing this project, the agency clearly failed to recognize the longstanding spiritual, cultural and ecological connection New Mexico’s diverse communities have with the Caja. Our community has made our voice heard loud and clear that a powerline has no place in this landscape.” said Carmichael Dominguez, a former Santa Fe city councilor and the Hispanic organizer for EarthKeepers 360. “We urge the agency to go back to the drawing board and come up with more creative solutions to energy transmission without compromising the Caja’s sensitive natural, cultural and ecological values, as well as truly listening and building trust with local communities.”

“This proposed project threatens important wildlife habitat – including the Caja del Rio Cultural and Wildlife special management area that we worked with thousands of community members, elected officials, and ultimately the U.S. Forest Service over many years to protect. The proposed line could also impact the integrity of lands sacred to many Tribes and our local communities as well as the ability for local Tribes to preserve important cultural and historical sites,” said Reverend Andrew Black, Founder of EarthKeepers 360 and public lands field director for the National Wildlife Federation. “The Caja del Rio coalition and over 23,000 people are urging the Biden Administration and federal agencies to engage in a more thorough process and consider all alternatives by conducting a full Environmental Impact Statement.”

“The sheer amount of comments submitted in opposition to the project affirms what we knew all along: the Caja del Rio is a landscape of immense cultural and ecological significance that deserves long-lasting protection not destruction,” said Romir Lahiri, New Mexico associate program director for the Conservation Lands Foundation. “We encourage the public to continue to make their voices heard and oppose any project that threatens what makes the Caja so special to diverse communities across New Mexico.” 

The Caja del Rio Coalition has asked the New Mexico congressional delegation to call on LANL and NNSA to conduct a new and updated Renewable Energy Feasibility Study for Los Alamos National Labs. The previous Renewable Energy Feasibility Study, completed in November 2008. Given recent breakthroughs in renewable energy technology, rooftop solar and power storage, the 2008 plan is antiquated and fails to consider the many advances that have been made in the field of renewable energy and storage. 

“LANL has an immense opportunity to modernize and innovate, while also benefiting the environment, our climate, the local economy, and our communities,” said Black.

Throughout the comment period, an array of public constituencies expressed opposition to the project including:

The proposed transmission line will cut across the Caja del Rio, a culturally and ecologically significant landscape that is currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service. In addition to supporting abundant biological diversity, the landscape is culturally and spiritually significant for numerous Pueblos, who have used the area since time immemorial, and for descendants of Spanish settlers, who traveled along the National Historic trail El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro for generations.

To learn more about the history and importance of the Caja del Rio plateau, visit cajadelrio.org.

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Photo: West Cliff Creative

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