SunZia and the Section 106 Process
On behalf of Archaeology Southwest, Southwest Field Representative Andy Laurenzi attended an Arizona-New Mexico Consulting Parties meeting convened by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to discuss the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project. Numerous agency personnel from Arizona and New Mexico and several tribal representatives attended.
The SunZia project proposes to develop a new transmission corridor that could include two 500kV transmission lines extending from near Roswell, New Mexico, to the Pinal Substation in central Arizona. Originally described as a renewable energy project designed to bring wind-generated electricity from the Roswell area to markets in Arizona and southern California, the project is now subject to intense criticism regarding its actual purpose. Tim Vanderpool recently reported on the controversy in the Tucson Weekly. A guest column by San Pedro valley resident Lisa Vogel in the Arizona Daily Star described likely detrimental impacts to the valley.
The consulting party meeting occurred in response to frequent comments by Archaeology Southwest and the National Trust for Historic Preservation encouraging the BLM to initiate the Section 106 consulting process. Although the project was proposed in 2009, the first meeting with all consulting parties occurred only last week, three years later. Unfortunately, BLM has decided that consultation will occur only with respect to the development of a programmatic agreement.
The BLM’s narrow interpretation of its compliance responsibilities is a missed opportunity to provide more substantive information that could assist with the development of alignment alternatives and final alignment locations. During the meeting, Nancy Brown of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation raised concerns regarding BLM’s legal liability, given their narrow perspective on consultation requirements.