Sun Zia Transmission Lines To Cross the Rio Grande at Escondida.

What is SunZia and how could it affect the Middle Rio Grande Valley?

  • SunZia’s Transmission Project is a proposed, new, approximately 520-mile long 500 kilovolt (kV) extra high-voltage transmission line that will interconnect from south of Corona, NM, traverse the Rio Grande at Escondida, and continue to Pinal County, Arizona, near the Palo Verde Nuclear Generation Plant.  The line would be strung on structures measuring 100-170 feet tall, with a typical span of 1400 feet, and an anticipated right-of-way width of 400 to 1000 feet.
  • In the Middle Rio Grande Valley, SunZia’s massive power transmission line will cross the Rio Grande one mile south of Escondida bridge, and continue between M Mountain and Strawberry Peak before heading south, close to Box Canyon.
  • This project is not likely to deliver jobs to New Mexico, but would harvest our wind resources, scar our landscape, and deliver energy to Arizona, California, and beyond.
  • Sun Zia is a private corporation, not a public utility, proposing a merchant transmission line through New Mexico to Arizona and California. Once SunZia builds its transmission lines, it is free to sell them to the highest bidder.
  • The proposed corridors of the Sun Zia transmission line will run between two historic sandhill crane roost sites, located within a mile of the proposed line and supporting about 300 sandhill cranes each.  The location of the line being so close to these roosts will cause Sandhill Crane mortalities from collisions and will negatively impact use of the area for roosting and foraging. The northern crane roost is protected by two RGALT conservation easements funded through USFWS – NAWCA.

SunZia RG Crossing and Roost Sites

Is SunZia’s energy “green”?

  • There is no requirement in the federal and Arizona permits for SunZia to use the lines primarily for renewable energy transmission, as they have claimed to be their intent since 2008.
  • Further, the proposed power transmission line does not promote power generation close to the source of consumption, nor does it provide energy to New Mexico.

SunZia’s potential effect on Habitat/Health/Land Values in our Area:

  • SunZia proposes to take Right of Way by exercising the Power of Eminent Domain, not for a public utility use, but a private company benefit, setting a dangerous precedent that will negatively impact private property rights in New Mexico. This will include lands protected by conservation easements; the Rio Grande Agricultural Land Trust (RGALT) currently holds 23 conservation easements that protect private lands in the area.
  • 20 of the conservation easements were funded by USFWS-North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grants for migratory bird protection. Others in the area and beyond provided non-federal match required for the grant ($3.5M).
  • SunZia transmission lines pose challenges to the work of Save our Bosque Task Force, RGALT, Rio Grande Return, and over 100 partners who have worked over the past 20+ years to protect, restore, and enhance the fragile and threatened Rio Grande ecosystem.  At the foundation of all their work is the belief that private lands are a critical component of effective landscape-scale conservation, benefiting both people and wildlife.
  • Allowing one line through a new area opens that area up to other lines/ the Middle Rio Grande Valley could become a corridor littered with unsightly power lines.

SunZia’s potential effect on Migratory Birds

  • Bird strikes and deaths are very likely with birds crossing high voltage lines, sometimes many times per day- the lines cross a major flyway.
  • As illustrated by this map from a GPS tracking study done by Dan Collins, Migratory Bird Coordinator for the USFWS, the Middle Rio Grande is one of the most important migratory corridors in western North America.  Over 350 species of birds are funneled through the Middle Rio Grande, and it is a key component to the health of western North American bird populations.

Sandhill Crane GPS tracking map

  • Cranes see poorly at night and their ability to see lines varies depending on moon stage, cloud cover, fog and ambient light. Generally, they are much more likely to strike lines at night and in fog because of the light conditions -cranes are regularly flushed at night by predators.
  • Birdwatching and ecotourism are major economic drivers in the Middle Rio Grande and in New Mexico.  These transmission lines could threaten that income stream, as they threaten birds.

What can be done?

    • Speak up – write letters to your legislators, or as appropriate to other entities (such as MRGCD).  We are all part of the Middle Rio Grande community, and the disadvantages placed on rural communities with a project like SunZia have not been adequately studied.
    • Reach out – besides writing letters, attend meetings, talk to your friends and neighbors about this issue, contact the newspapers, write letters to the editors of newspapers.  Educate yourself and others, and do what you can to slow down the Sun Zia permitting process – there have not been enough public information, meetings, route change suggestions, etc for wise decisions to be made.    

Legislators Contact Info. 

US Senators:

Martin Heinrich                      Alex_Eubanks@heinrich.senate.gov

Tom Udall                          Michelle_Kavanaugh@tomudall.senate.gov

US House Representatives:

Steve Pearce                            joe.martinez@mail.pearce.house.gov

Ben Ray Lujan                        Levi.Patterson@mail.house.gov

Michelle Lujan-Grisham        Poqueen.Rivera@mail.house.gov

NM  Governor

Susana Martinez                     ben.cloutier@state.nm.us

NM State Rep (State District 49)

Gail Armstrong                       gail@gailfornewmexico.com

NM State Senator

Howie Morales                       Howie.morales@nmlegis.gov

Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District Board Members’ Contact Info

Mike Hamman, CEO              mikeh@mrgcd.us

John Kelly, Chairperson         j.p.kellymrgcd@gmail.com

Valerie Moore                         vmoore.mrgcd@gmail.com

Glen Duggins                          glen.mrgcd@gmail.com

Derek Lente                            Lente.mrgcd@gmail.com

Karen Dunning                       karendunning.mrgcd@gmail.com

Joaquin Baca                           joaquinbaca.mrgcd@gmail.com

Beverly Dominguez Romero  romero.mrgcd@gmail.com

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