Top NM officials on opposite sides on line issue

September 4, 2013 • State News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Gov. Susana Martinez and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich are on opposite sides when it comes to the placement of the SunZia transmission project in southern New Mexico, an issue with implications for the military, the environment and the economy.

At issue is whether the proposed 500-mile power line to south-central Arizona would cross the White Sands Missile Range, which Martinez said would jeopardize the long-term future of White Sands and of nearby Holloman Air Force Base.

The Defense Department [auth] has said routing SunZia across the range would interfere with low-flying military aircraft, while creating difficulties when shooting down missiles during tests.

Martinez urged the Bureau of Land Management in an Aug. 16 letter to route SunZia around White Sands, The Albuquerque Journal ( ) reported.

Project backers have said doing that would lead to years of delay for a new environmental study, and Heinrich said in an Aug. 19 letter to the BLM that that adoption of the military’s position against routing the line through White Sands could kill SunZia and hinder private investment in transmission development.

Both sides argue that jobs are at stake.

Dave Goodman, planning and environmental coordinator for the BLM in New Mexico, said the agency hopes to make a decision by late September or early October.

“We’ll consider any new information we get before that decision is made,” he said.

SunZia representatives say the DOD’s proposal to bury the line is technically unfeasible and cost prohibitive.

Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., also supports the Defense Department’s stance on SunZia, while Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., wants the sides to compromise.

SunZia spokesman Ian Calkins said project leaders are willing to implement other mitigation measures, such as adjusting the height of transmission structures and modifying tower spans.

According to SunZia, the $1.2 billion project would “enable the development of renewable energy resources including wind, solar, and geothermal generation by creating access to the interstate power grid in the Southwest.”

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