Tucson, Ariz. – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) earlier today issued published the long-awaited Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on the SunZia Transmission Line Project. BLM is the lead federal agency coordinating right of way permitting.
The project, proposed by SunZia Transmission, LLC, will result in the construction and operation of up to two 500-kilovolt transmission lines connecting a new substation in Socorro or Lincoln County, N.M., with the Pinal Central Substation in Pinal County. The completed project is expected to increase electricity transport capacity between the two states and beyond, potentially bringing 4,500 megawatts of transmission to the regional grid.
Following guidelines set out in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the DEIS analyzes a number of alternative routes and includes a preferred alternative route selected by BLM. The preferred alternative follows and crosses the San Pedro River in several sensitive riparian areas, a plan opposed by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, several local stakeholder groups and SunZia Transmission itself. The San Pedro River valley is one of the largest corridors for migrating birds in the country and home to a number of mammal species.
“After months of delay, BLM has unfortunately released a draft EIS with a flawed preferred alternative that will damage a precious Southern Arizona resource,” Grijalva said. “We can’t move forward without keeping the environment in mind. BLM’s current preferred alternative for Route Group 4 is more about future development interests than finding the least intrusive route for this current project, as the law demands.”
Grijalva also expressed concern about the impact to rural communities from the construction of a 1,400-foot-wide transmission corridor with up to eight 135-foot towers every mile.
“We have to protect the resources of the San Pedro River watershed and keep in mind the communities that call this unique place home,” Grijalva said.“The NEPA process is so important exactly because these considerations were often forgotten or ignored in the past, to the detriment of entire regions of the country. We need, and the public demands, a final route that has the fewest negative impacts to archaeological resources, migratory birds and rural communities. It is critical that BLM thoroughly reaches out to stakeholders and the affected community for comments before releasing a final EIS. The credibility of the process depends on incorporating those comments in the final decision.”
The public has a 90-day period to submit additional comments. For the draft EIS and more information, visit http://www.blm.gov/nm/st/en/prog/more/lands_realty/sunzia_southwest_transmission/deis/sunzia_deis_volume.html
The BLM official overseeing the process is:
Bureau of Land Management
SunZia Transmission Line Project
P.O. Box 27115
Santa Fe, NM 87502-0115