Important Letters

September 21, 2009
Dear Friend:
This important letter is addressed to everyone with a stake in the future of Navajo County – residents, property owners, business owners, and others. I’m writing to you on behalf of myself and an informal grassroots group of concerned citizens. Our group is called ARENA-White Mountains. ARENA stands for “Alliance for Responsible Energy of Northern Arizona.”

I am writing to you because Navajo County seems to be quickly becoming host to several large new industrial power plants. These power plants can have major impacts on our environment, our quality of life, and our economic future.
While you probably know that Iberdrola’s Dry Lake Wind Project is about to become operational, you may not realize that plans for additional power plants are proceeding quickly. Iberdrola is doing testing for expansion of their plant; a company called EcoEnergy is testing four other locations for wind power plants; and a large landowner, NZ Legacy, is seeking special use permits for combined
wind and solar power plants.

It can be hard to know what to think about all this. While developers talk about jobs and tax revenue, other people talk about jobs that don’t go to local people; economic benefits that may never materialize; flashing red lights that blight the night sky; noise and vibration; and, of course, possible loss of a very precious resource, water.
It’s the NZ Legacy applications for special use permits that we’re most concerned about today. These power plants are to be located on about 56 sections between Snowflake, Holbrook, and the Apache County line. They are extraordinary in scale. They are rated at more than 4 gigawatts – That’s four times Cholla’s rating. At that rating, the solar power plants would be several times larger than the largest operational in the world today. And these power plants are to be located in areas zoned mostly RU-20.
While there are very serious concerns about locating industrial power plants near residences, there are also very serious issues concerning water. The landowner has estimated that the solar power plants would use as much as the Cholla power plant. That’s about twice as much groundwater as is used by the City of Flagstaff. I probably don’t need to tell you: This isn’t likely to be sustainable. And I probably also don’t have to tell you what the consequences can be of depleting the aquifer – for
residents and businesses, for the environment, for the economic climate, for property values.
What can you do? Check into it and make up your own mind, of course. Then tell your elected officials and the county staff how you feel. There is a right way to go about this. We can identify Renewable Energy Zones; we can develop ordinances; we can modify the county’s comprehensive plan. We can identify procedures for evaluating projects, so that we can distinguish the ones that will
improve our economic climate, our environment, and our quality of life – from the ones that won’t.

Good places to look for information include the county website and the local newspapers. If you would like to be on our email or phone list, email We are planning open educational meetings beginning on October 5th, and we are developing a website.
Yours truly,
Gary Gumbel
[The website Gary refers to is this one, ArenaWhiteMountains. -- editor.]