Got this email from the Aravaipa Property Owners Association, which includes not only home owners and ranch owners, but the Nature Conservancy as well. Basically, Big Electricity wants to build transmission lines in and about the most naturally diverse riparian zone in the state. (Some say the entire country ...)
October 13, 2011-- Information for APOA from Friends of the Aravaipa Region (FAR)
TOPIC #1: SUNZIA SOUTHWEST TRANSMISSION PROJECT
1) CHALLENGE TO THE STATEMENT OF PURPOSE AND NEED FOR THE PROPOSED PROJECT. The BLM has now gone 28 months with a highly speculative and misleading description of the proposed project. The BLM has essentially been acting as a marketing agent for SunZia, referencing in BLM scoping documents potential renewable energy resources 20 times, and never mentioning once the imminently pending fossil fuel resources that are already permitted and only awaiting transmission capacity. This systematic bias was challenged by the Winkelman and Redington NRCDs in a formal Request for Correction petition in July. The Request was denied by the New Mexico BLM office in August, and is now under appeal with the Washington D.C. based Information Resources division of the BLM. This is an important issue, because the BLM has convinced most of the media, the public, and various stakeholders that the environmental benefits of the proposed project will justify the environmental costs.
2) EFFORTS TO COORDINATE LOCAL CONSERVATION PLANS AND POLICIES WITH THE BLM- The Winkelman and Redington NRCDs were unable to get the BLM to recognize the Conservation Districts as coordinating agencies, and gave no assurances that the plans and policies of the two Districts would be addressed in the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The two Districts understand that this situation may end up with legal action at some point, so they recently sent a letter to the BLM explicitly summarizing all of the issues that they expect to see addressed in the draft.
3) DRAFT EIS- This could be completed and released at any time, and there may be pressure to expedite the release of this draft, since national infrastructure projects are such a hot political item lately. If the Aravaipa route is the option designated in the draft, opponents will only have 90 days to comment and/or take legal action to try to block the issuance of the final EIS. Any leads on potential legal assistance will be welcomed. The Arizona portion of this Aravaipa route would be 175 miles long, with 130 miles of that being entirely new corridor unassociated with any preexisting transmission lines, pipelines, roads or any other utilities. This is the equivalent of opening a new 130-mile freeway for off road vehicles, with a significant portion of that running right through the confluence of three federally designated wilderness areas, bisecting the wildlife migration corridors connecting these wilderness areas, and then descending into the San Pedro River Valley to traverse this major avian migration corridor in prime Southwest Willow Flycatcher habitat, and then ascending westward into the Black Hills through prime Sonoran Desert Tortoise habitat.
TOPIC #2- CONSERVATION DESIGNATION FOR SAN PEDRO RIVER
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service met with the public at CAC Aravaipa on September 22 regarding a possible federal conservation designation for a 4-mile-wide strip of land along the river running from 10 miles south of Cascabel to Winkelman. Cathy, Phil, and Charlie all attended, and can give you their impressions. The ranching community for the most part appears to be too mistrustful of federal agencies to allow this to take place at the federal level. However, unless some sort of strong designation takes place, it is likely that the San Pedro will eventually be exploited and fragmented in the same way that the San Cruz was. The San Pedro is the last remaining major north/south riparian zone and avian migration corridor remaining between the Rio Grande and Colorado Rivers.
TOPIC #3- REGION 3 OPEN SPACE COMMITTEE
Pinal Partnership has started holding meetings to discuss and plan the implementation of the Open Space and Trails portion of the Pinal County Comprehensive Plan. The chair person for our region in eastern Pinal County is Celeste Andresen of San Manuel. One regional meeting has already been held in Mammoth, and another is planned to take place on October 27th at the CAC Aravaipa campus, room A-119, from 6 to 7:30 PM. The last meeting started and finished on time, and all interested parties are welcomed to attend.
For more information on any of the above topics, feel free to send an email inquiry to Friends of the Aravaipa Region at: