Opponents of a 33-mile electric transmission line that a Texas company wants to build across parts of northern Santa Fe County and southern Rio Arriba County presented a documentary-style video in a packed Santa Fe County Commission chamber on Tuesday night as part of their efforts to sway decision-makers to reject the plan.
The five-member board took no action and withheld any comment on the presentation because the commissioners may rule on the proposal at a formal land-use hearing.
Gregory Nava, a filmmaker who wrote and directed El Norte, directed Selena and is on the Motion Picture Academy Board of Governors, was among area residents who spoke against the proposed 345-kilovolt transmission line, which could have support towers up to 110 feet tall. He said the project would have a “horrendous effect” on the film industry in Northern New Mexico.
“We’re a great economic benefit to the state because we don’t build power lines or dig strip mines or put up factories,” he said. “We’re here because of the beauty of this land. We film it and then we pack up and leave and leave a lot of money behind. This is an incredibly gorgeous, beautiful area.”
He said the height of the transmission line “not only spoils that location as a potential place to shoot films, but for many, many miles around it destroys the ability of filmmakers and television-makers to use New Mexico as a place to film.”
Nava is the just the latest from the film industry to voice opposition to the proposed line. In December, Robert Redford wrote in a column published by The New Mexican that the transmission line should not be built on Bureau of Land Management land because the agency’s own classification charges it to “retain the existing character of the landscape.”
Hunt Power says its Verde Transmission Line would add 600 megawatts of capacity to the electrical grid and provide a new means through which to transport energy from renewable sources such as solar and wind power. The company is seeking rights of way from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for the route, which would cross public, private and tribal land, including 15 miles in Santa Fe County.
Paul Schulze, a spokesman for the company, said Tuesday that Hunt Power was not ready to share with The New Mexican any digital mock-ups of what the power line might look like while the project goes through the federal review process, which includes consideration of different design options and routes.
“The Verde Project team welcomes all comments and input related to this important and needed project for New Mexico,” he said in an email. “We appreciate this feedback, and we are listening. We will continue to engage all stakeholders as this process continues over the next few years.”