VAL VERDE COUNTY, Texas – In the wide-open spaces of Val Verde County lies the Devils River, one of the last pristine, wild rivers in Texas. Recently, it was at the center of a monthslong negotiation.
"Absolutely. It's a major win for us and for future generations of Texas and for anyone else who cares about the wide-open spaces in our state,” explained Julie Lewey, with the Devils River Conservancy.
The group, made up of landowners along the Devils River and concerned citizens, is calling it a win after negotiations with two energy companies ended with two potential wind farm projects near the river, being scrapped.
For months, the Devils River Conservancy has promoted its "Don’t Blow it" campaign in an effort to keep wind farms from calling Val Verde County, and specifically those areas around the Devils River, home. While the group supports renewable energy, its members believe the massive turbine towers could potentially affect the river’s water quality and may be better served at another location in Texas.
"It also has the possibility of disrupting ground water flows in karst aquifer systems like we have in Val Verde County,” said Lewey.
While Val Verde County is home to one wind farm already, additional wind projects also faced resistance from the city of Del Rio, home to Laughlin Air Force Base.
“[It’s] one of the busiest airports for takeoffs and landings in the United States, when they're flying,” explained Skip Baker, who heads up military affairs for Del Rio’s Chamber of Commerce.
The city, whose economy relies heavily on Laughlin, worried about the effects of the near-500-foot structures.
"Wind farms create quite a bit of problems for the low-level flying,” said Baker.
After recent negotiations, the two energy companies involved opted to pull out of their respective projects.
E.ON energy has yet to comment, while Richard Walker of RD Energy Group, said,
“While opposition from some parties was a factor in our decision to end development efforts on a project in Val Verde County, a lack of electric transmission capacity in the area as indicated by study results received from ERCOT was the overriding factor.”
Still, the Devils River Conservancy is applauding the energy companies’ decision.
"The degree of corporate responsibility has been incredibly surprising and refreshing,” said Lewey.