Draft environmental impact statement delayed for Southline project

The draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the Southline transmission project planned for southern New Mexico and Arizona will not be issued until at least October, a U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) official told TransmissionHub Jan. 9.

“It has taken a lot more time to get the data that we need [and] to entertain alternatives,” Mark Mackiewicz, national project manager for the BLM, said. “We’ve been working with our local field offices and a number of cooperators and getting their input on alternatives.”

Overall, he said the process is moving ahead quite well and stressed that the delay is not a matter of reduced need for the line.

BLM and co-lead agency Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) completed the scoping phase of the EIS July 2012 and issued the final scoping report in September 2012.

BLM’s New Mexico office is taking the lead in considering potential federal land use plan amendments the project may require because the project will cross federal lands managed by the BLM and other agencies as well as state and private lands.

As planned, the project consists two segments of high-voltage power line totaling approximately 360 miles.

The first segment is a new double circuit 345-kV line from a substation in Afton, N.M., south of Las Cruces, to a substation in Apache, Ariz., south of Willcox, Ariz. The 225-mile Afton-Apache segment would provide up to 1,500 MW of capacity at an estimated cost of $325m, according to TransmissionHub data.

The second segment involves upgrading and rebuilding approximately 130 miles of existing 230-kV transmission lines between the Apache substation and the Saguaro substation northwest of Tucson, Ariz. The Apache-Saguaro segment would provide capacity for an additional 1,000 MW of electricity at an estimated cost of $225m.

Both line segments are currently expected to enter service in 2015.

The project will be constructed, operated, and maintained by Southline Transmission, a subsidiary of Hunt Power, which develops and invests in entrepreneurial electric and gas utility opportunities. Hunt Power is part of a larger privately held group of entities managed by the Ray L. Hunt family. Black Forest Partners is the project manager for Southline Transmission.

Issuance of the DEIS will be announced in the Federal Register and advertised in the local and regional media. Public comments will be accepted for 90 days, during which public meetings or hearings will be held to receive comments on the adequacy of the DEIS. The BLM and WAPA will review and consider all comments received on the DEIS and modify it as appropriate before issuing the final EIS.