The dangers of powerlines

UNDERGROUNDING … Back when Tri-State Generation and Transmission – a co-op utility (which I like) that seems mired in the dark ages of coalfired generation (which I don’t like) – decided to run a generation line from Nucla to Telluride through San Miguel County a dozen or so years ago, I was a commissioner. And our Land Use Code required powerlines to be undergrounded. It was an epic battle that saw Gov. Owens and a Republican-led legislature change the rules in the middle of the game, taking away local control of powerlines (can you believe, it was the Republicans who took away local control, one of their long-time political mantras?) and gave the decision to a three-person Public Utilities Commission, appointed by the governor … One of the main arguments the county and mesa landowners presented to the PUC was the option of direct burial, common in Europe, which would have been cheaper than aboveground power towers. One of the issues I testified to as a witness in the PUC hearings was the danger of fires with abovegrounding. However, my testimony was ignored, and the avoided cost of fires from undergrounding (which took place over the mesa portion of the route, but in heavy concrete bunkers which cost a bundle) was never figured into the cost equation between Tri-State and its affected SMPA owner-customers … Now we learn that the Camp Fire – the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California and the sixth worst ever in the United States – is attributed to the failure of a PG&E transmission tower, according to a Dec. 7 story in the Sacramento Bee. Journalist Dale Casler says the report has led to a lawsuit and “a steep decline in parent company PG&E Corp.’s stock price amid speculation that the company, already facing billions in claims from last year’s wine country fires, could be in deep financial distress.” … According to a June 8 Reuters story by Steve Gorman, “A dozen of the wind-driven blazes that swept northern California’s wine country last fall, killing 46 people in the deadliest firestorm in state history [pre-Camp], were sparked by PG&E-owned power lines” … And it’s not just in California. According to the Texas Wildfire Mitigation Project, powerlines have caused more than 4,000 wildfires in Texas in the past three and a half years. … How long can Tri-State and the PUC ignore the danger from aboveground powerlines and not begin calculating the avoided-cost value of powerline undergrounding?

JANNELI MILLER … A ride down to Dolores to get a load of wood from Val Truelsen’s sawmill this winter gave me a chance to visit my old professor friend, Janneli F. Miller. I met her when she was teaching at Western Colorado University, before it upgraded from Western State. She had been a midwife, and got so interested in the subject she went on to get a doctorate in medical anthropology from the University of Arizona and work with the Rarámuri (those Mexican indigenous folks we call the Tarahumara) … Her dissertation thesis fascinated me. As I understand it, she documented her belief that unassisted childbirth was the indigenous norm among the people she studied, and it was only with the entrada of European colonists that midwifery came to be the standard. She recorded how pregnant Rarámuri women did not want any psychic energy not their own around the very private ritual of childbirth – not even close family or spouses. Instead, she explained, they would go alone into the nearby forest and hang from the branch of a tree to let gravity assist with the baby’s delivery. It was only with the introduction of Western ideas that midwives began to operate in Rarámuri country. And it was the narco-trafficking that made going alone into the forest a dangerous activity that has led to the cessation of indigenous childbirthing customs … For a while, Janneli taught at Fort Lewis. But a few years ago she left and settled in Montezuma County, writing for the Four Corner Free Press and building up her own alternative medical practice based on Mayan wisdom … For Janneli it’s a return to her pre-academic life as a women’s health care practitioner that began in Oregon in the ’70s with the Oregon Midwifery Council. She began her training in Belize in 2008 and received her certification in Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy eight years later … ATMAT are non-invasive, external massage techniques to help guide abdominal organs into position for optional health. Effective for both women and men, the techniques improve organ function by releasing physical and emotional congestion. Making use of anatomy, physiology, herbology, naprapathy and ancient Mayan healing methods, ATMAT can address common health complaints, as well as improve the flow of chi and fluids to the circulatory, lymphatic and nervous systems. … During her three years living with the Rarámuri, Janneli focused on women’s reproductive health, traditional midwifery, and indigenous healing practices, including ethnobotany. She continues her efforts to reduce maternal and infant mortality worldwide by promoting culturally appropriate reproductive health services. She is working on a manuscript about her experiences in the Sierra Madre and returns to the region as often as possible. Part of her practice involves preparing herbal tinctures and other remedies … I myself have incorporated her male tonic tincture into my daily regimen. It contains man vine root (Securidata diversifolia), balsam bark (Myroxylon pereira) and corn silk (Zea mays) in a solution of brandy … Janneli recently moved her office to just outside Dolores. Contact her at 970-275-1590 or visit

UTE YOUTH SKI WEEKEND … Youngsters from the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute recreation programs and their chaperones – about 50 folks in all – got to ski for free at the Telluride Ski Resort last month under a program spearheaded by the Telluride Institute and its Ute Reconciliation project (thanks, Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk, Audrey Marnoy, Durfee Day, Mandy White) … The ski area supplied tickets and instructors (thanks, Bill Jenkins, Jeff Proteau, Lisa Morgan, Kyle Lusk). Telluride Sports provided equipment (thanks, Nathan Frerichs, Amanda Cole). Telluride Alpine Lodging provided lodging (thanks, Jenny, Chris, Lisa) … Thanks to Manuel Heart for helping pay for food. Thanks to Pamela & John Lifton-Zoline for supplying cooked chickens. And most of all, thanks to White and Lopez-Whiteskunk for serving as hosts … It’s exciting to be able to continue cultural exchanges and sharing with our Ute neighbors.

The multi-talented Art Goodtimes writes from San Miguel County, Colo.


Bailing wire twisted, turned
Knotted symmetrically
I don’t even know the conjugation
For what the pliers inspired
In that thin metal column
But it held fences
Transcended politics
Conducted electricity
Wired together communities

— Zoey McKenzie
Shiprock, N.M.

From Art Goodtimes.