The ongoing controversy about and around the SunZia high voltage power line route did not have to occur. Four years ago, SunZia came to our state and told the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense and all New Mexicans that they wanted to build a high voltage power line, and they would find a reasonable and feasible route that recognized the needs of testing at White Sands Missile Range.
Well, SunZia did not; but they still can.
To be sure, the SunZia-BLM preferred power line route does protect (1) BLM wilderness study areas; (2) fish and wildlife service areas; (3) national park areas; and (4) the Sevilleta Refuge Area – but not test areas for White Sands Missile Range.
During the scoping meetings, the resource inventory meetings, the impact assessment and mitigation planning meetings, as well as the compare-alternatives meetings, WSMR repeatedly stated: “In the absence of mitigated concepts, the SunZia Preferred Route has known significant impacts on WSMR missions.”
The record does show WSMR responded in writing that any proposed route that encroached on critical testing would require significant mitigation. Nevertheless, BLM found in favor of SunZia with a proposed route that does significant harm to critical testing at the missile range.
For many of those tests, WSMR is the only place in the nation with the land and airspace required.
Recently, a high level Department of Defense and Department of Interior mitigation working group was created. The purpose of this mitigation working group is to focus on how not to harm WSMR.
As early as March 2010, WSMR questioned the scoping documents, but was rebuffed by SunZia and BLM. With the creation of the mitigation working group, perhaps a more objective effort will occur.
While SunZia describes the transmission line as a big job-creation project, those with a long history in job creation and economic development don’t see it that way.
The Chambers of Commerce of Alamogordo, Las Cruces and El Paso understand the negative impact that Southern New Mexico will experience if the proposed route is approved.
Job creation numbers of 24,000-35,000 jobs are pie-in-the-sky numbers. The hard facts are that job creation in New Mexico will be closer to 240 jobs, rather than 24,000 jobs.
Now, with the SunZia high voltage power line route controversy in the open for the public to observe, the mitigation working group can and should design a route that will allow for all the critical testing that occurs at WSMR to continue. Such an outcome is the only way people in New Mexico and across the nation will benefit.