American Rivers
American Rivers

ACT NOW: Help Protect the Caja del Rio! Stop the Proposed Power Transmission Line

White Rock Canyon of the Rio Grande, west side of the Caja del Rio, NM | Mike Fiebig

The Caja del Rio in New Mexico is under threat! Take action before February 20 to stop a destructive new power transmission line from bisecting this irreplaceable landscape. 

Los Alamos National Labs (LANL), under the oversight of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), is proposing to construct a 14-mile, 115-Kilovolt power transmission line across the Caja del Rio Plateau, an intact landscape of immense ecological and cultural significance in the American Southwest that includes sections of the Rio Grande and the Santa Fe River. 

Why It Matters 

LANL and NNSA’s proposed project poses an imminent threat to the delicate balance of the Caja del Rio, risking irreversible damage to its ecological wonders and cultural significance. 

The Caja del Rio, spanning approximately 107,000 acres of federal public lands, serves as a vital wildlife corridor in the upper Rio Grande watershed. It supports diverse plant and animal species, including many endangered and sensitive species like western burrowing owls and gray foxes. The area is a designated Important Bird Area, part of the Western Wildway Priority Wildlife Corridor. 

The proposed EPCU powerline project would cut a 14-mile long, 200-feet wide industrial corridor across the Caja del Rio, resulting in habitat fragmentation, erosion, water quality degradation, and damage to cultural sites. The project would result in the designation of a new utility corridor and permanent easement on Santa Fe National Forest-administered lands, creating an increased opportunity for illegal off-highway vehicle use in this sensitive landscape. 

Caja del Rio mule deer fawn | Garrett VeneKlasen

Cultural & Spiritual Importance 

The Caja del Rio holds profound cultural and spiritual significance for various Pueblos and traditional Hispanic communities.  

The Caja del Rio is considered a significant region of Pueblo cultural properties, featuring ancestral housing structures, ceremonial kivas, Puebloan roads, irrigation infrastructure, petroglyphs, and other vital cultural resources. Pueblos maintain an enduring connection with the Caja del Rio landscape, utilizing its cultural resources and sacred sites through storytelling, song, pilgrimage, and prayer. Preserving the landscape's original historical and cultural context is crucial for sustaining ongoing cultural and religious access. 

The historical significance to Hispanic communities is also deeply woven into the fabric of the Caja del Rio, as exemplified by the remnants of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, a trade route that once traversed this landscape. The traditions endure today, with members of the Hispanic community engaging in hunting, herb gathering, firewood collection, religious pilgrimage, and livestock grazing on the Caja.

Caja del Rio Petroglyphs | Mike Fiebig

Immediate Threat 

To proceed with the transmission line project, the NNSA seeks to amend the recently updated Santa Fe National Forest land management plan , which includes protections for the Caja del Rio that resulted from a years-long public process involving over 250 public meetings and thousands of public comments. 

The draft Environmental Assessment for the project includes proposed amendments to the Forest Plan that would bisect the Caja del Rio Wildlife and Cultural Interpretive Management Area, which was designated to support wildlife diversity and connectivity and to maintain cultural and archeological integrity. A transmission line adjacent to the White Rock Canyon Recommended Wilderness Area could impact its values and compromise the potential for future designation by Congress.  

DEADLINE TO COMMENT: February 20, 2024 

Your Voice is Needed! We urge you to submit a comment before February 20, expressing your opposition to the proposed power transmission line through the Caja del Rio. The Caja del Rio deserves protection, not bisection.  Your comments WILL influence this decision. Remember that custom messages are the most meaningful. 

Comments may be submitted to the NNSA Los Alamos Field Office via U.S. mail, the email address listed below, or the email form at the bottom of the page:

NNSA Los Alamos Field Office 
3747 West Jemez Road 
Los Alamos, NM 87544 

Or emailed to:     

[email protected] 

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