[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 115 (Friday, June 14, 2013)]
[Pages 35954-35956]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-14110]



Bureau of Land Management

[LLNM930000 L51010000.ER0000 LVRWG13G0690]

Notice of Availability of the Final Environmental Impact 
Statement for the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project in New Mexico 
and Arizona and Proposed Resource Management Plan Amendments

AGENCY: Bureau of Land Management, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability.


SUMMARY: In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969, as amended (NEPA), and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act 
of 1976, as amended (FLPMA), the BLM has prepared a Final Environmental 
Impact Statement (EIS) and Proposed Resource Management Plan (RMP) 
amendments for the SunZia Southwest Transmission Line Project 
(Project), and by this notice is announcing its availability.

DATES: BLM planning regulations state that any person who meets the 
conditions as described in the regulations may protest the Proposed RMP 
amendments. Protests must be filed within 30 days of the date that the 
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publishes its Notice of 
Availability in the Federal Register.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the Final EIS/Proposed RMP amendments have been 
sent to affected Federal, State, tribal, and local government agencies, 
public libraries in the Project area, and to interested parties that 
previously requested a copy. A list of the locations where copies of 
the Final EIS/Proposed RMP amendments are available for public 
inspection can be found in the ``SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION'' section 
    A limited number of copies of the document will be available to 
those who request one. To request a copy, contact Adrian Garcia, BLM 
Project Manager, BLM New Mexico State Office, 301 Dinosaur Trail, Santa 
Fe, NM 87508-1560. Interested persons may also review the Final EIS/
Proposed RMP amendments on the Internet at www.blm.gov/nm/sunzia. All 
protests of the proposed RMP amendments must be in writing and mailed 
to one of the following addresses:

             Regular mail:                       Overnight mail:
BLM Director (210), Attention: Brenda    BLM Director (210), Attention:
 Williams, P.O. Box 71383, Washington,    Brenda Williams, 20 M Street
 DC 20024-1383.                           SE., Room 2134LM, Washington,
                                          DC 20003.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Adrian Garcia, Project Manager, 
telephone 505-954-2000; address BLM, New Mexico State Office, 301 
Dinosaur Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87508-1560; email agarcia@blm.gov. Persons 
who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the 
Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 to contact 
the above individual during normal business hours. The FIRS is 
available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to leave a message or question 
with the above individual. You will receive a reply during normal 
business hours.

analyze a right-of-way project application by SunZia Transmission, LLC, 
(Applicant) for the location of two parallel overhead 500 kilovolt (kV) 
electric transmission lines from the proposed SunZia East Substation 
site in Lincoln County, New Mexico, to the existing Pinal Central 
Substation in Pinal County, Arizona. The proposed Project would include 
two new, single-circuit 500 kV transmission lines located on Federal, 
State, and private lands. One of the 500 kV transmission lines would be 
constructed and operated as an alternating current (AC) facility 
transmission line, and SunZia could construct and operate the other 
line as either an AC or direct current (DC) facility. Once constructed, 
the Project would be in operation year-round. The Applicant has applied 
for a right-of-way grant term from the BLM of 50 years and is 
evaluating options for a lease term of 50 years or greater on State and 
private lands.
    The requested right-of-way width would be typically 400 feet to 
accommodate a separation of 200 feet between the two lines. However, it 
could be up to 1,000 feet wide in areas where terrain poses engineering 
or construction constraints. Engineering studies would determine those 
requirements as part of the plan of development. In addition to the 
SunZia East Substation site, up to three new substations would be 
constructed and operated at the following sites on private or State 
lands: The proposed Midpoint Substation site near Deming, New Mexico, 
in Luna County; the proposed Lordsburg Substation site near Lordsburg, 
New Mexico, in Hidalgo County; and the proposed Willow-500 kV 
Substation site, near Willcox, Arizona, in Graham County.
    The lengths of the varying Project alternative routes considered 
and evaluated in the Final EIS/Proposed RMP amendments range between 
about 460 and 530 miles. The BLM has identified a preferred alternative 
route, the length of which is about 515 miles. It is estimated that 
about 185 miles, or 36 percent, of the right-of-way for the preferred 
route is located on Federal lands administered by four BLM Field 
Offices in New Mexico (Las Cruces, Socorro, Rio Puerco, and Roswell), 
as well as Federal lands administered by two BLM Field Offices in 
Arizona (Safford and Tucson). The BLM preferred route would cross about 
135 miles of Federal lands in New Mexico and 50 miles of Federal lands 
in Arizona. About 273 miles of the BLM preferred alternative route 
would fall within designated utility corridors. The BLM's New Mexico 
State Office has been designated the lead office for this right-of-way 

[[Page 35955]]

    In September 2008, the Applicant submitted a right-of-way 
application to the BLM requesting authorization to construct, operate, 
maintain, and commission two electric transmission lines on public 
    On May 29, 2009, the BLM published in the Federal Register (74 FR 
25764) a Notice of Intent (NOI) that initiated the public scoping 
process for the Project. Three scoping periods, including public 
meetings, were conducted for the Project between June 2009 and April 
    Issues and potential impacts to specific resources were identified 
during scoping and stakeholder meetings, including:
     Engineering and construction restraints;
     Corridor alignments and alternatives;
     Effects to sedimentation in rivers, soil erosion, and 
alteration of watersheds;
     Effects to wildlife habitats, migratory birds and 
waterfowl, other bird species, bighorn sheep, and deserts and 
     Management of invasive plant species and ensuring 
effective reclamation;
     Effects to cultural resources and archaeological sites;
     Effects to Native American traditional cultural properties 
and respected places;
     Effects to visual resources and existing viewsheds;
     Conflicts with current land use plans;
     Impacts on Wilderness areas, livestock grazing and 
ranching, property values, off-highway vehicle use, and military use;
     Effects to rural lifestyles, tourism, and socioeconomic 
conditions; and
     Effects on sensitive areas such as Wilderness areas, 
wildlife refuges, national forests, and military withdrawn lands and 
    On May 25, 2012, the EPA's Notice of Availability of the Draft EIS/
RMP amendments for the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project was 
published in the Federal Register (77 FR 31355), initiating a 90-day 
public comment period. The BLM held public meetings in June and July of 
2012 in Corona, Socorro, Truth or Consequences, Deming, and Lordsburg, 
New Mexico; and in Safford, Benson, Tucson, San Manuel, and Eloy, 
    Alternative routes for the proposed transmission lines were divided 
into four route groups that contain various alternative segments, or 
subroutes. These are:
    Route Group 1: SunZia East Substation to Midpoint Substation--
Consists of subroutes 1A, 1A1, 1A2, 1B1, 1B2, 1B2a, and 1B3.
    Subroute 1A2 (230.3 miles), the BLM preferred alternative, proceeds 
northwest from the proposed SunZia East Substation site then continues 
into Torrance County, about 4 miles north of the Gran Quivira Unit of 
Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, and then enters Socorro 
County, east of the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge. Subroute 1A2 
crosses the Rio Grande north of Socorro, and then turns south along an 
existing transmission line path into Sierra County. The route continues 
south to the proposed Midpoint Substation site, near Deming, New 
Mexico. Subroute 1A2 parallels about 141 miles of existing or 
designated utility right-of-way, and crosses about 108 miles of public 
land administered by the BLM.
    Route Group 2: SunZia East Substation to Midpoint Substation--
Generally east of White Sands Missile Range and through the Fort Bliss 
Army Base within Lincoln, Otero, Do[ntilde]a Ana, and Luna Counties. 
This group of alternatives was considered during the expanded scoping 
period of 2010, and then eliminated from detailed study in the Draft 
EIS/RMP amendments because routes under this group of alternatives 
would require traversing lands under the jurisdiction of Fort Bliss. 
Fort Bliss has indicated that overhead transmission lines through its 
administered lands would have substantial impacts to military 
operations and would not be compatible with its mission; therefore, 
Fort Bliss would not grant a right-of-way across lands under its 
    Route Group 3: Midpoint Substation to Willow-500 kV Substation--
Consists of subroutes 3A, 3A2, and 3B. Subroute 3A2 (123.9 miles), the 
BLM preferred alternative, is a variation of Subroute 3A. The subroute 
proceeds west from the proposed Midpoint Substation site then crosses a 
115 kV transmission line and U.S. Route 180 about 7.5 miles north of 
Deming. From that point, Subroute 3A2 proceeds southwesterly then turns 
northwest to parallel a 345 kV transmission line and pipeline adjacent 
to the Hidalgo Substation site. The subroute then heads west, to cross 
the New Mexico-Arizona state line from Hidalgo County into Greenlee 
County. The subroute proceeds west into Graham County and south of the 
Hot Well Dunes Recreation Area, then continues through the San Simon 
Valley to the proposed Willow-500 kV Substation site. Subroute 3A2 
parallels about 42 miles of existing or designated utility corridors, 
and crosses about 62 miles of public land administered by the BLM.
    Route Group 4: Willow-500 kV Substation to Pinal Central 
Substation--Consists of subroutes 4A, 4B, 4C1, 4C2, 4C2a, 4C2b, 4C2c, 
and 4C3. Subroute 4C2c (161.2 miles), the BLM preferred alternative, 
follows an existing 345 kV transmission line corridor from the Willow-
500 kV Substation site southwest, crossing the San Pedro River about 12 
miles north of Benson, Arizona. The route then continues northwesterly, 
crossing the northeast corner of Pima County, then follows a westerly 
path through Pinal County, north of Oracle toward the Tortolita 
Substation, about 25 miles northwest of Tucson. From that point, 
Subroute 4C2c parallels about 90 miles of existing utilities (including 
about 72 miles of existing electrical transmission lines). Subroute 
4C2c parallels about 90 miles of existing or designated utility 
corridors, and crosses about 15 miles of public land administered by 
the BLM.
    The Final EIS/Proposed RMP amendments also analyze the 
environmental consequences of a no action alternative. The no action 
alternative means that the BLM would deny the right-of-way application 
for the construction and operation of the proposed SunZia transmission 
project and would not amend any land use plans. Project facilities, 
including transmission lines and substations, would not be built and 
existing land uses and present activities in the Project study area 
would continue. This alternative does not consider the potential for 
additional actions that could occur, depending on the decision for the 
proposed action or alternatives.
    The BLM worked with the applicant and the cooperating agencies to 
identify alternative routes that would conform to existing land use 
plans and alter the impacts to affected resources. Where the Project 
does not conform to BLM RMPs, land use plan amendments are proposed to 
bring the proposed Project into conformance. Proposed plan amendments 
would comply with applicable Federal laws and regulations and apply 
only to Federal lands and mineral estate administered by the BLM. Plan 
amendment alternatives were considered, including multiple-use 
corridors of varying widths. The BLM preferred alternative is to amend 
existing RMP visual resource management (VRM) decisions and right-of-
way avoidance areas, as described in the Final EIS/Proposed RMP 
amendments. There are two proposed plan amendments for the BLM 
preferred alternative:

[[Page 35956]]

     Socorro RMP (2010), Socorro Field Office: Modifications to 
existing VRM decisions and/or to right-of-way avoidance area decisions; 
     Mimbres RMP (1993), Las Cruces District Office: 
Modifications to existing VRM decisions and/or to right-of-way 
avoidance area decisions.
    Comments on the Draft EIS/RMP amendments received from the public 
and internal BLM review were considered and incorporated as appropriate 
into the Final EIS/Proposed RMP amendments. The BLM received more than 
900 comment submittals during the Draft EIS/RMP amendments comment 
period, which contained more than 2,000 unique comments. The Final EIS/
Proposed RMP amendments include responses to all substantive comments 
and revisions to the EIS. In response to comments, modifications, 
including the following, were made to alternatives analyzed in the 
Draft EIS/RMP amendments, including the BLM preferred alternative:
     Route Group 1 (Lincoln, Torrance, and Socorro counties, 
New Mexico): The alternative alignment for Subroute 1A1 was modified to 
increase the distance between the proposed transmission lines and 
military operations at the White Sands Missile Range. This is Subroute 
1A2, the BLM preferred alternative that is described in the Final EIS.
     Route Group 3 (Hidalgo County, New Mexico; Greenlee, 
Graham, and Cochise counties in Arizona): Sensitive environmental 
resources near the Lordsburg Playa and the Peloncillo Mountains 
Wilderness were identified as issues associated with Subroute 3A1, 
which was identified as the BLM preferred alternative in the Draft EIS. 
Subroute 3A2, identified as the BLM preferred alternative in the Final 
EIS, avoids these sensitive environmental resources. Subroute 3A2 is 
the same as Subroute 3A, with a modification to a segment of the 
alignment in the vicinity of the Hot Well Dunes Recreation Area.
     Additional considerations for National Scenic and Historic 
Trails were included. Instructions for filing a protest with the 
Director of the BLM regarding the Proposed RMP amendments may be found 
in the ``Dear Reader'' letter of the Final EIS/Proposed RMP amendments 
and at 43 CFR 1610.5-2. Email and faxed protests will not be accepted 
as valid protests unless the protesting party also provides the 
original letter by either regular or overnight mail postmarked by the 
close of the protest period. Under these conditions, the BLM will 
consider the email or faxed protest as an advance copy and it will 
receive full consideration. If you wish to provide the BLM with such 
advance notification, please direct faxed protests to the attention of 
the BLM protest coordinator at 202-245-0028, and emails to Brenda_Hudgens-Williams@blm.gov.
    All protests, including the follow-up letter to emails or faxes, 
must be in writing and mailed to the appropriate address, as set forth 
in the ADDRESSES section above.
    Copies of the Final EIS/Proposed RMP amendments are available for 
public inspection during normal business hours at the following 

 BLM, Las Cruces District Office, 1800 Marquess Street, Las 
Cruces, NM 88005-3370
 BLM, Roswell Field Office, 2909 West Second Street, Roswell, 
NM 88201-2019
 BLM, Socorro Field Office, 901 South Highway 85, Socorro, NM 
 BLM, Rio Puerco Field Office, 435 Montano Road NE., 
Albuquerque, NM 87107-4935
 BLM, New Mexico State Office, 301 Dinosaur Trail, Santa Fe, NM 
 New Mexico State Land Office, 310 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa 
Fe, NM 87504-1148
 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Regulatory Division, 4101 
Jefferson Plaza NE., Albuquerque, NM 87109-3435
 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 500 Gold Avenue SW., 
Albuquerque, NM 87102-3118
 BLM, Gila District Office, 1763 Paseo San Luis, Sierra Vista, 
AZ 85635-4611
 BLM, Tucson Field Office, 3201 East Universal Way, Tucson, AZ 
 BLM, Safford Field Office, 711 14th Avenue, Safford, AZ 85546-
 BLM, Arizona State Office, One North Central Avenue, Phoenix, 
AZ 85004-4427
 Arizona State Land Department, 1616 West Adams, Phoenix, AZ 
 Arizona Game and Fish Department, 5000 West Carefree Highway, 
Phoenix, AZ 85086-5000

    Before including your phone number, email address, or other 
personal identifying information in your protest, you should be aware 
that your entire protest--including your personal identifying 
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you can 
request that your personal identifying information be withheld from 
public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

Jesse Juen,
State Director, New Mexico.
[FR Doc. 2013-14110 Filed 6-13-13; 8:45 am]