On November 5, 2008, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc., (Tri-State) filed a preliminary application for a right-of-way grant with the BLM Farmington Field Office. The preliminary right of-way application is for the construction, operation, and maintenance of a new 230 kilovolt (kV) overhead electric transmission line, two new substations, expansion of an existing substation, and access roads. The proposed, about 65-mile transmission line, called the San Juan Basin Energy Connect Project, would be located between Shiprock, New Mexico, and Ignacio, Colorado, across Federal, State, Tribal, and private lands. It would improve reliability of the transmission system and deliver electricity generated at existing facilities to meet increasing demand in the San Juan Basin.
Increasing electric load growth in the San Juan Basin region of Colorado and New Mexico in commercial, residential, and industrial sectors has put a strain on the existing electrical system. Tri-State is proposing to construct a 230 kV transmission line from the Farmington area in northwest New Mexico to Ignacio, Colorado. Tri-State is pursuing the Project to:
• Improve electric system reliability with a high voltage transmission path from Colorado into northern New Mexico.
• Provide electric system capacity to support the La Plata Electric Association’s (La Plata Electric) requested transmission capacity.
• Directly improve the load-serving capability and reliability of the electric system serving La Plata Electric, Empire Electric Association (Empire Electric), and San Miguel Power Association.
Tri-State is requesting right-of-way grants to authorize use of specific public lands from the BLM; Southern Ute Indian Tribe (Southern Ute) tribal lands from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA); and State lands from the New Mexico State Land Office. Tri-State is also requesting approval from La Plata County for the operation and construction of the transmission line on private properties located in La Plata County. Tri-State is requesting financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (Rural Utilities). Tri State is requesting approval from the Western Area Power Administration (Western) to interconnect its proposed 230 kV transmission line to Western’s Shiprock Substation and also to locate the new Three Rivers Substation on Western’s reserved area within BLM lands.
Prior to making a decision, Federal Agencies, including the BLM, BIA, Rural Utilities, and Western, are required to conduct environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966, as amended, and Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 in accordance with Federal Agency policies and procedures. The BLM is the lead Federal Agency for NEPA, NHPA, and ESA review and compliance. Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) preparation is a joint process between the BLM and cooperating agencies. Cooperating agencies include the BIA, Rural Utilities, Western, Southern Ute, La Plata County, the New Mexico State Land Office, and the Navajo Nation.