SunZia Map

A map of the proposed SunZia project.

The SunZia Project consists of two extra-high voltage electric transmission lines and substations that will transport primarily renewable energy from Arizona and New Mexico to customers and markets across the southwestern United States. The project may enable expansion of renewable energy resources in those states, including wind, solar and geothermal, which are under-developed due to lack of transmission service.

The length of the proposed route is approximately 460 miles.  For SunZia, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires alternative routes be evaluated in an environmental impact statement (EIS) Audubon has previously expressed concern that the proposed route for the SunZia transmission line will likely have negative effects on the migratory, wintering, and breeding bird populations that use the Socorro Valley. The Socorro Valley has been identified as the most critical landscape in the annual cycle of the Rocky Mountain Population of Sandhill Cranes (approx 20,000 annually in the population) due to the density of wintering birds in one location, the limited availability of foods (natural and wintering), and the small size of this wintering area.

The Bureau of Land Management released a draft of their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in May of 2012. Audubon submitted comments on the draft, highlighting negative impacts to wildlife in the Socorro Valley among other environmental concerns. The final EIS was released in June of 2013. Audubon is continuing to examine alternatives to the proposed routes which would mitigate negative effects on wildlife.  The Record of Decision is anticipated to be signed in September 2013.  The ROD will include the BLM's decisions on (1) whether to approve SunZia's application for right-of-way on federal lands, and (2) whether to approve proposed land use plan amendments for the BLM's RMPs.

For more information on this project and how you or your chapter can help make sure our energy future is wildlife-friend, contact your local Audubon state offices - Audubon Arizona and Audubon New Mexico and visit the BLM's website.