The successful siting of a long-haul transmission project is a lengthy, complex process.
New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority and Pattern Development representatives will work with land, engineering, and environmental specialists to study and review many variables that will determine a route for the Western Spirit Transmission Line. This process includes review and evaluation of potential project impacts, involving federal, state and local managed lands, heavily populated communities, recognized tribal lands, areas with high resource value, known cultural resources, water resources, and federal and state protected species. In addition, engineering considerations such as corridor width and terrain the project may traverse will also be evaluated. After receiving additional stakeholder input and conducting further environmental studies, we will identify a preferred route, as well as alternative routes.
In June of 2016, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted Pattern Development the authority to sell transmission rights on the Western Spirit Transmission Line. Receiving this authority from FERC allows Pattern Development to negotiate market-based rates with potential customers of the project, likely energy generators in New Mexico or utilities and other load serving entities in the West.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) completed their review of the relevant portion of the Western Spirit Transmission Line and issued a Grant of Easement in March 2017. Since 2015, Western Spirit has been working closely with the Pueblo and its Tribal Council. The BIA concluded their analysis of the grant under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and issued a Notice of Decision in January 2017
A comprehensive suite of biological and cultural resource studies was conducted for the Western Spirit Transmission Line project. Biological studies conducted include an avian risk assessment of the project. This assessment identified areas of the project where bird flight diverters will be installed, to reduce the potential risk of avian collisions. Prairie dog colony and raptor nest surveys were conducted, and minimization measures have been implemented into the project design to reduce impacts.
Waters of the U.S. surveys were conducted for the project to identify streams and wetlands. Impacts to those features have been minimized to the greatest extent possible. The results of the surveys were coordinated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the New Mexico Environment Department, Surface Water Quality Bureau and the Isleta of Pueblo Environmental Department.
Cultural resource surveys were completed for the project and avoidance and minimization measures were implemented into the project design to reduce potential impacts.
An Environmental Assessment was conducted for the project crossing of the Bosque/Rio Grande River. The Bureau of Reclamation issued a Finding of No Significant Impact for the project in 2018. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also concurred with the Bureau of Reclamation’s determination that the project “may affect but is not likely to adversely affect” several threatened and endangered species at the Bosque/Rio Grande River crossing.
An Environmental Assessment was also completed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the Isleta Pueblo section of the project. The Bureau of Indian Affairs issued a Finding of No Significant Impact for the project crossing of the Isleta Pueblo in 2017.
The project also crosses New Mexico State Lands. Cultural Surveys of 100 percent of the State Land’s crossings were conducted and the results coordinated with the New Mexico State Land Office and the State Historic Preservation Officer. The State Historic Preservation Officer concurred with the New Mexico State Land Office’s proposed avoidance and minimization measures included in the project design. The New Mexico State Land Office was also provided the results of the prairie dog colony and raptor nest surveys.