Energy Connect Project Releases Documents
Special to the Post | 6/8/12
The San Juan Energy Connect Project has released two important documents that describe steps in the project, the scoping report and the route refinement report. The purpose of the scoping report is to describe the scoping process the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) used to fulfill its obligation to conduct environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in accordance with federal agency policies and procedures.

This report describes the manner in which the BLM notified the public about the scoping process, held scoping meetings, solicited comments, analyzed scoping comments, and identified issues that would be analyzed in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) document being prepared to fulfill the NEPA requirements. The purpose of scoping is to obtain input on the issues, impacts, and alternatives that should be evaluated in the EIS. The scoping process also provides an opportunity to educate the public about the proposed project and for the BLM to gauge the concerns of those who have a stake in the resources in the project area.

Routing new transmission lines requires an open and comprehensive process that balances various factors including electric system planning, economics, the natural and cultural environment, public involvement, regulatory requirements, land rights, and engineering.

Tri-State has followed a thorough routing process in an effort to minimize impacts to land use and natural or cultural resources. The route refinement report documents the process used to develop route alternatives for the project from the Macro Corridor phase to the identification of the preliminary preferred and alternative routes proposed for consideration in the EIS that will be prepared by the BLM.
Tri-State is requesting right-of-way (ROW) grants from the BLM and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), as well as financial assistance from the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), for the project. The Western Area Power Administration (Western) is involved with the project, since the new power line will connect to the Western-owned Shiprock Substation.

Prior to making a decision to act on the requested action, federal agencies including the BLM, BIA, RUS, and Western, are required to conduct review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), and Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in accordance with federal agency policies and procedures. The BLM is the lead federal agency for NEPA, NHPA, and ESA review and compliance.

The BIA, RUS, Western, and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe are cooperating agencies in these processes.

In support of the NEPA process, work is underway to describe alternatives that will be evaluated in the Draft EIS. Biological and cultural resource field surveys have begun and will continue throughout the summer. Information on other aspects of the environment, including land uses, recreation, views, and other resources will be collected throughout the summer and fall. Information gathered will be used to determine project effects. This information will be used to develop a Draft EIS for the project that is expected to be published for public review and comment in the spring of 2013.

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