It is completely reasonable that citizens of Bluff view any SITLA decision with a jaundiced eye. Take the sale of land along Comb Ridge to Lyman Family Farms: It was hinted that the land would be put to agricultural purposes, but we have yet to see sheep grazing on slick rock or melons rolling off the slope. Worse still is the planned Love’s station at the northern end of the county with all the negative impacts on nearby residents. Still, it is difficult to understand why the Bluff Town Council would object to the solar farm proposed for the Bluff Bench.
Primary concerns seem to be: the project will have negative impacts on drainage, the physical appearance will create a negative impression on visitors, the site contains historic occupation, and the location falls within the original Bears Ears National Monument. These concerns are reasonable and should not be ignored, but they do not outweigh the positive outcomes the solar farm could have for Bluff and the world as a whole.
Drainage is likely the major issue, but this could be controlled by proper design. Let’s face it, appearance is an issue with in the eye of the beholder. Many people find solar farms visually unobtrusive, if not esthetically pleasing. And visitors’ first impression when entering Bluff through Cow Canyon might be that Bluff is a progressive town eager to move away from the carbon past and into a renewable future. It might buffer their disappointment when they encounter the pink, faux pueblo at the mouth of the canyon.
Archeology is a big draw and a distinctive feature of the landscape. But the fact is, it is everywhere, and if it is the dominant concern when any project is considered, there would be no construction anywhere in the area. Artifacts on the site could be removed, cataloged, and preserved by local institutions.
As for the location with in the Bears Ears boundaries, I promoted the larger monument and worked hard to preserve its pristine nature and surpassing beauty, but I do not see a solar farm in any way marring the monument’s purpose. If we allow grazing with dimwitted cattle burping methane into the atmosphere, we may want to counteract the devastation these beasts cause.
One often hears the mantra: “Keep Bluff, Bluff.” It means something different to everyone who says it. But time moves in only one direction; you can move with it or be left behind. Bluff is a progressive community, and the town council has Bluff’s best interests in mind. But this concerns more than Bluff or San Juan County. It extends to the world at large. We live in a time of rapid change with little room for NIMBY thinking. It is our responsibility to mitigate the harm we are causing future generations. I urge the Bluff Town Council to remove their objection to the solar farm and push for its ultimate development. Who knows, it could encourage SITLA to promote more clean energy farms and fewer rock gardens.