Santa Fe, NM–The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is releasing a Final Environmental Impact Statement (Final EIS) that provides a comprehensive analysis of potential environmental impacts for the proposed SunZia Southwest Transmission Line Project in New Mexico and Arizona, and identifies a preferred alternative for the project. If built, the project would enable the development of currently stranded energy resources, including wind and solar, by creating access to the interstate power grid and adding 3,000 to 4,500 megawatts of electric capacity to the desert Southwest region.
SunZia Transmission, LLC, has proposed to build, operate, and maintain two parallel overhead 500 kilovolt transmission lines across federal, state and private lands from the proposed SunZia East Substation in Lincoln County, N.M., to the existing Pinal Central Substation in Pinal County, Ariz. The transmission lines in the preferred alternative would be 515 miles in length. The SunZia project would provide additional reliability for the existing transmission system, increase transfer capacity in areas of limited or no existing transfer capability, and provide access to market for future energy sources, including renewables.
“The preferred alternative has been identified after a thorough environmental analysis and an extensive public involvement process – and we appreciate the input that has helped site this project,” said Jesse Juen, BLM’s State Director for New Mexico. “The existing grid system in the region has not been upgraded in over 30 years, and this proposed project has the potential to improve the reliability and efficiency of the western electrical grid and deliver energy, including wind and solar, throughout the West.”
In the preferred route, the transmission lines would parallel existing utility infrastructure and use existing roads wherever possible to minimize new disturbance and reduce impacts to sensitive resources and to military operations. Additional mitigation measures are described in the Final EIS and will continue to be developed as the project moves forward.
After coordination with the Department of Defense, the BLM selected a preferred alternative that includes a modification to the route near the White Sands Missile Range. The proposed alternative route is about 30 miles north of the missile range and does not cross any of the White Sands’ 2.2 million acres of withdrawn federal lands. In addition, the BLM and Department of Defense have recently established a Technical Working Group to analyze additional mitigation measures to address potential impacts to the missile range and the “northern call-up area.”
The preferred alternative route, as described in the Final EIS, would amend two Resource Management Plans (RMPs) in New Mexico -- the BLM’s Socorro Field Office RMP of 2010 and the Las Cruces Mimbres RMP of 1993. Amendments to both RMPs would adjust to existing decisions on visual resource management and right-of-way avoidance areas.
Release of the Final EIS follows an extensive public involvement process initiated by the BLM in 2009. Comments received on the Draft EIS, which was released in May 2012, are addressed and responded to in the Final EIS.
The Notice of Availability for the Final EIS and proposed amendments to the RMP is published in today’s Federal Register, opening a 30-day protest period as well as a 60-day period for governors’ review. Pending the outcome of those processes, the BLM, as the lead federal agency on the project, will issue a Record of Decision. These documents are available online at www.blm.gov/nm/sunzia. Complete information on the opportunity to protest the land use plan amendments associated with the project is also provided at this website.
All protests must be in writing and mailed to the following address: BLM Director (210), Attention: Brenda Williams, P.O. Box 71383, Washington, D.C. 20034. For more information on the project or the opportunity to protest its planning decisions, contact the BLM Project Lead Adrian Garcia at 505-954-2199.
Printed and digital copies of the Final EIS and proposed amendments are also available at the following locations:
- BLM, Las Cruces District Office, 1800 Marquess Street, Las Cruces, New Mexico 88005-3370
- BLM, Roswell Field Office, 2909 West Second Street, Roswell, New Mexico 88201-2019
- BLM, Socorro Field Office, 901 South Highway 85, Socorro, New Mexico 87801-4168
- BLM, Rio Puerco Field Office, 435 Montano Road NE., Albuquerque, New Mexico 87107-4935
- BLM, New Mexico State Office, 301 Dinosaur Trail, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87508-1560
- New Mexico State Land Office, 310 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504-1148
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Regulatory Division, 4101 Jefferson Plaza NE., Albuquerque, New Mexico 87109-3435
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 500 Gold Avenue SW., Albuquerque, New Mexico 87102-3118
- BLM, Gila District Office, 1763 Paseo San Luis, Sierra Vista, Arizona 85635‑4611
- BLM, Tucson Field Office, 3201 East Universal Way, Tucson, Arizona 85756
- BLM, Safford Field Office, 711 14th Avenue, Safford, Arizona 85546-3337
- BLM, Arizona State Office, One North Central Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona 85004‑4427
- Arizona State Land Department, 1616 West Adams, Phoenix, Arizona 85007‑2614
- Arizona Game and Fish Department, 5000 West Carefree Highway, Phoenix, Arizona 85086-5000