By: Biol Hitandehui Tovar
Coastal Conservation Coordinator
On September 10, 2011 Sonoran residents were briefed on a project that could have significant impact on the region. That project, “LT 6 April-cucapah,” supported by the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE,) intends to erect high-voltage line towers to connect Mexicali-Caborca to the national electrical grid.
If enacted, the project would place these high-voltage towers, approximately 60 meters in height, along the coastal road, passing by the Pinacate and Gran Desierto and the Upper Gulf and Colorado River Delta Biosphere Reserves, and the Adairs Bay Ramsar Site, all of which are federal “Natural Protected Areas,” and in the case of the Ramsar Site, have international protections as well. It is important to note that there is no plan to offer access to power to any town or customer along the proposed power-line route.
For four years, the National Commission of Protected Natural Areas (CONANP) has stated repeatedly its opposition to the project, suggesting an alternative route that would cross nearer to Sonoyta and the international border, where the environmental impact would be significantly reduced. CFE has rejected this alternate route, claiming the cost to install would be greater.
Given that CONANP has refused to support this project, CFE has sought approval from the ejidatarios and residents of the area in question. Prior to the briefing on September 10, CFE claimed to have nearly 90% approval from regional residents. However, project details had not been explained to them until the briefing last month, a briefing organized by CEDO and the Adairs Bay Wetlands Network (REHBA.)
CEDO presented factual information to local residents and ejidos about the project, clearly explaining that these towers will have no direct benefit to anyone along their route, as no access to the power they carry will be distributed locally. During the briefing, the ecological and aesthetic value of the area in question was discussed.
Nowhere else in the State of Sonora do towers of this magnitude exist. Their installation could have serious impact on the affected ecosystems, both short and long-term. The Federal Government also has already invested and plans to invest a significant resources in this area i to incubate eco-tourism along the established scenic drive and to develop renewable energy sources.
This region is one of the few worldwide where the sun shines 365 days a year, suggesting that solar energy may be a more viable energy resource. Use of alternative energy sources should be encouraged by the government not as a novelty but as the norm, as has been done so well in the communities of Chiapas, Oaxaca and elsewhere.
Questions to be answered while pondering approval of this project should include: Can local energy users reduce their consumption? How does this project affect the landscape and ecosystem? Are there viable alternatives to the route currently selected that would have a lesser impact? Why is a project affecting so many federal natural protected areas being considered?
Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans - CEDO, Inc.
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Centro Intercultural de Estudios de Desiertos y Océanos - CEDO, A.C.
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Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, México C.P. 83550
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