Last week the National Audubon Society released our Bird and Transmission Report, presenting our strategy for how to build out needed renewable energy infrastructure while avoiding the worst impacts to birds. In the report is a discussion of the Sunzia Transmission line that serves as a case study for how a project can be designed to achieve this goal.
Since the release of the report, we have heard concerns from Audubon members in New Mexico and Arizona about our support for this controversial project. The concern is a demonstration of the care and compassion that our members hold for bird life in the Southwest, and we applaud it. Therefore, we feel it is only fair to explain how we came to our position. The following will hopefully provide background on the most sensitive aspects of the project and shed some additional light on our position.
Rio Grande Crossing – In its early days, the proposed route for the line would have seen it cross the Rio Grande in New Mexico immediately north of Bosque del Apache refuge. Based on observed crane movements in the region, we felt strongly that this location presented a high risk of collision for Sandhill Cranes and migratory waterfowl, causing us to oppose the route.
When the Department of Defense requested the line move North to avoid White Sands Missile Range, the new proposed location (North of Bernardo) was in an area with much less frequent crane usage and much lower collision risk. Combine this with the commitment by the company to deploy advanced avian collision avoidance systems on the lines as they cross the river corridor, and the risk of collision has been greatly reduced.