Nara Visa residents speak out about nuclear borehole project - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Nara Visa residents speak out about nuclear borehole project

Nara Visa rancher Jimmy Valentine is afraid the borehole project would devalue his land and cattle, among other concerns (Source: KFDA) Nara Visa rancher Jimmy Valentine is afraid the borehole project would devalue his land and cattle, among other concerns (Source: KFDA)
Nara Visa is home to a small but proud population (Source: KFDA) Nara Visa is home to a small but proud population (Source: KFDA)
Nara Visa residents who oppose the borehole project  (Source: KFDA) Nara Visa residents who oppose the borehole project (Source: KFDA)
The Quay County Commission rescinded its original letter of support to Enercon (Source: KFDA) The Quay County Commission rescinded its original letter of support to Enercon (Source: KFDA)
Louis and Elaine James plan to lease some of their land to the DOE for drilling (Source: KFDA) Louis and Elaine James plan to lease some of their land to the DOE for drilling (Source: KFDA)
NARA VISA, NM -

To the unknowing eye, Nara Visa is just a couple abandoned buildings on tiny stretch of Highway 54.

Locals said the population now is around 50 people, almost all ranchers who have to drive 24 miles to get to the nearest gas station or grocery store.

"I know compared to the rest of the world we're a small drop in the bucket," said Nara Visa rancher Jimmy Valentine. "It ain't much but it's ours."

It's this emptiness, and the geology of the area, that drew the Department of Energy (DOE) to Nara Visa.

Back in October, the Quay County Commission gave its unanimous support to the DOE to drill a borehole a few miles outside Nara Visa.

But many resident said that support never existed.

"They went to our county commissioners saying they had community support up here, and they didn't," said Valentine. "That is one thing, from what I understand with this project in phase one, is they've got to have community support and they simply do not have it here."

That's been made clear at recent meetings where residents have protested the project.

"A lot of us think this is a beautiful place," said Tera Girard, who grew up in Nara Visa. "And we want to keep it that way for generations to come."

Enercon, the company in charge of the project, said this is just to see if the area geology can support the storage of nuclear waste.

"People are afraid that if they allow this project to happen that there's going to be terrible consequences for them," said Chip Cameron, Public Outreach Manager for Enercon. "We know there's no nuclear waste that's gong to be involved in this project, or coming back to this particular site."

Most Nara Visa residents find it hard to believe that if the project works, it will be abandoned as they're told.

"There's a little thing called imminent domain," said an area attorney who attended one public meeting. "What you all effectively are doing if you go through with this feasibility is you're handing the DOE a gun and you're giving them the bullets."

There are also fears of contamination, as Enercon would drill the 3 mile borehole into the Ogallala Aquifer, and the devaluation of land in a community dominated by ranching.

"Who's going to finance a ranch that's close to a nuclear waste disposal site?" asked resident Ed Hughes.

But despite all the negativity, there is a small minority that wants the project to happen.

Elaine James and her husband Louis think the science and research behind the project are exciting.

They plan to lease their land to the DOE for drilling.

"Legally what happens on our private land can happen as long as we approve it," said James. "And that's not an issue that [other people] are comfortable with. They want to be in control."

But there were enough people who pledged they're against the project that the Quay County Commission rescinded its support for it Monday.

That decision does not put an end to the fight on either side.

The DOE now has a little over four months to see if they can convince the rest of Nara Visa to change its mind.

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