DURANGO — The Bureau of Indian Affairs confirmed dates for public hearings on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Desert Rock Power Plant, which have hinged on publication of a notice of availability.

The notice will publish in the Federal Register on June 20, which starts the 60-day comment period on the draft EIS, said Harilene Yazzie, regional NEPA coordinator for the BIA Navajo region. Residents also can view hard copies of the document at several locations or request a personal copy. It ends Aug. 20.

The BIA plans to give a 30-minute presentation before starting the public hearings, she said. Technical experts will be on hand to answer questions, as will representatives from all agencies involved in assembling the draft EIS.

Afterwards, staff will take comments from the public. They respond to them in writing after the comment period ends. Translators are available at all hearings on the Navajo Nation and may be on hand at meetings off the reservation.

"It would be nice to have the discussions (at the hearing) related to the technical document and the draft EIS as opposed to the merits of the project," said Yazzie. "That would be our biggest request. If a person is not discussing the draft EIS, it's very difficult to respond."

Omar Bradley, executive director of the BIA Navajo Region, said his office decided to extend the traditional 45-day comment period by 15 days because it contains so much information. It has taken three years for it to be completed.

"We wanted to have a thorough comment period for people to really be able to look through it and recognize the nature of it and the complexity of the project," he said.

People who wish to comment on the draft EIS can mail comments to: Harilene Yazzie, Regional NEPA Coordinator, Desert Rock Energy Project EIS, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Navajo Regional Office, P.O. Box 1060, Gallup N.M. 87305. They can e-mail them through the project Web site: www.desertrockenergy.com. They can also give them in person at the hearings.

Hearings have been scheduled for the following dates at times:

  • 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., July 17, the Farmington Civic Center

  • 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., July 18, Ute Mountain Casino, Towoac, Colo.

  • 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., July 18, the Iron Horse Inn, Durango, Colo.

  • 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., July 19, Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, Albuquerque

  • 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., July 20, Larrazolo Auditorium, Runnels Building, Santa Fe

  • 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., July 23, Chapter House, Shiprock

  • 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., July 23, Chapter House, Nenahnezad

  • 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., July 24, Chapterhouse, Burnham

  • 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., July 24, Veterans Memorial Center, Sanostee

  • 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., July 25, Navajo Nation Museum, Window Rock, Ariz.

    The Desert Rock Energy Company — formed of Houston-based developer Sithe Global and the DinĂ© Power Authority, a Navajo Nation enterprise — wants to build a 1,500-megawatt coal-fired power plant near Burnham. They received a draft air permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection agency last spring and the EIS marks the second of several steps needed to move forward with the project. Plant owners hope to start construction next year.

    Lisa Meerts: lmeerts@daily-times.com