The hard work that's gone into proposing a new national park to protect Ice Age fossils and rare plants in northwest Las Vegas might be erased if more power lines are allowed to cross the park area, backers of the park said Thursday.
They're worried about NV Energy's desire for right of way in an area that's being considered for national monument status, which would protect fossils of mammoths, North American jaguars and other creatures as well as plant species such as buckwheat and bearpoppy.
"We are asking NV Energy to come up with some alternatives that would be more acceptable," North Las Vegas Mayor Shari Buck said. "We've worked hard on this national park monument, and we don't want transmission lines going across the monument."
Officials from the cities of North Las Vegas and Las Vegas have joined with Clark County, the Paiute tribe, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Air Force and a group called Protectors of Tule Springs to champion the proposal.
It calls for designating 11,000 acres bordering the Desert National Wildlife Refuge and the Sheep Mountain Range. The area is rich with fossilized animals that roamed the valley 200,000 years ago, and it's viewed as a potential bonanza for scientific research, as well as a unique tourist draw.
"Imagine power lines running through Red Rock," Buck said. "Nobody would've stood for that."
"You're going to unravel this entire coalition if there is legislation for a right of way there," said Jill DeStefano, founder of Protectors of Tule Springs. "It just makes me sick to my stomach."
Backers visited with Nevada's congressional delegation last week to alert them to the power line proposal.
The new transmission line will be necessary to deliver power from Amargosa Valley solar projects, NV Energy spokeswoman Jennifer Schuricht said in a statement.
The line also would support expansion of the electrical system in the north end of the valley and at the Apex industrial park.
There are power lines running across the monument area already at Moccasin Road, and the new lines would parallel those, Schuricht said. At Decatur Boulevard, the new lines would occupy a new transmission corridor running along the north edge of the proposed monument's boundary.
The existing lines are "egregious," said Lynn Davis, who manages the Nevada field office of the National Parks Conservation Association.
Ironically, though, their installation led to the excavation of thousands of fossils.
"It's something everybody's going to live with," she said.
Adding more lines there, however, could make what's supposed to be a natural area into something resembling Hoover Dam, with its crisscross network of power lines.
"That's very appropriate for Hoover Dam," Davis said. "It's not appropriate for a fossil site."
And with the additional lines, she added, "the assumption would be that the park service might be less interested."
The Air Force prefers preservation, because it would protect military flight paths from encroaching development between Nellis and Creech Air Force bases and training ranges.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said the idea is promising, but a spokesman also cautioned that "we'll have to take this one step at a time." His office did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
No legislation to establish the monument has been introduced.
Contact reporter Alan Choate at achoate@review journal.com or 702-229-6435.