The SunZia Transmission project is the proposed construction of appoximately 500 miles of two single-circuit 500 kV transmission lines, associated substations, and service roads over 530 miles of public land and private property. Although the project is intended to connect and deliver electricity generated in Arizona and New Mexico to population centers in the Desert Southwest, its implementation poses a real threat to local communities and wildlife.
The San Pedro Valley and Aravaipa Canyon are two of the most prominent natural features in the landscape over which the SZT is proposed. The San Pedro River is a free-flowing river that carves the migratory route for a number of bird species and is home to mammalian species including coyotes, deer, javalina, bobcats, and mountain lions. The power lines and new access roads that are so integral to the SunZia Transmission project will severely impact the natural habitat of these animals that regularly travel from the foothills to the river for food and water throughout the year. New access roads will also alter the natural run-off patterns of rainwater during monsoon season, resulting in unintended flooding, and will encourage increased vehicle traffic, including the use of off-road vehicles (ORV) which have already wreaked havoc on the fragile southwestern landscape. Further, there is fear that the transmission towers of SZT will disrupt the natural pattern of wildfires in Arizona and New Mexico, increasing the growth of highly combustible vegetation and resulting in more serious wildfires later.
Promoters of SunZia tout the project’s necessity for economic stimulus and renewable energy production in Arizona and New Mexico. However, there is no green energy production included in the project’s plan. In light of the history of extractive industry and pollution behind the project’s developer and its parent company, Southwestern Power Group and MMR Group respectively, there is much skepticism surrounding the renewable aims of the project. While the project would indeed create jobs, opponents point to the seasonal and specialized quality of the work involved, noting that the jobs generated will not likely go to local residents. The loss of property values caused by the presence of imposing transmission towers and lines further thwarts the economic benefits embedded in the project’s proposal.
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