A hundred-million-dollar project to build an electricity transmission line from northwestern New Mexico to southwestern Colorado has some residents on board and some still concerned.
The federal Bureau of Land Management held an open house at the Sky Ute Event Center in Ignacio Tuesday afternoon to get public feedback on the San Juan Energy Connect project. It has released a draft environmental impact study and is taking comments on the agency’s preferred plan and a proposed plan.
The nearly 65-mile line is estimated to cost about $113 million and would cross federal, tribal, state and private land. The 230-kilovolt transmission line would start at the Shiprock coal-generated power plant in the Farmington area and end at the Iron Horse Substation near Ignacio.
Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association Inc. is a wholesale electric power supplier owned by 44 electric cooperatives. La Plata Electric Association is a member and would benefit from increased capacity.
Gary Torres, field office manager for the BLM, said the new line will take existing capacity and move it to Ignacio to electrify the gas and oil fields and residences.
Hope Vail owns land just south of Ignacio, near where the line will run. She runs a small hay operation, but her major concern is impact to wildlife. The area has a concentration of gas and oil wells, along with power line easements and cell towers.
“I used to see a lot of elk and deer, and now not very many right around where I live,” she said. “And there’s some wetlands that kind of skirt their route (of the line).”
John Hansen, BLM wildlife biologist, said the agency routed the line to avoid the wetland area, and it will be planting grasses and shrubs for the animals to eat.
“We tried to minimize any cutting of woodland area, tried to keep those intact,” he said. “We also will implement a reclamation plan to stabilize the soils and provide forage.”
John Waconda, agency superintendent for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, has worked with members of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe on the project and said many previous concerns and questions have been addressed. The Tribal Council plans to meet Monday with representatives of Tri-State and Parametrix, a consulting firm.
The Bureau of Land Management is accepting public comments until April 28. A final environmental impact report is expected in November.