Wednesday, February 17, 2016

SunZia plan jeopardizes White Sands’ mission

SunZia plan jeopardizes White Sands’ mission By Lt. Gov. John Sanchez / Republican, New Mexico Sunday, February 14th, 2016 at 12:02am At a time when federal funding remains extremely volatile, the importance of maintaining the federal government’s investment in New Mexico cannot be overstated. In addition to serving as our nation’s largest military installation, White Sands Missile Range provides thousands of jobs and pumps hundreds of millions of dollars into our state’s economy. It is estimated that the spending and employment impacts of WSMR contribute $4.7 million to local economies every day, totaling more than $1.7 billion annually. However, following successful efforts by SunZia and its supporters to silence opposition to their proposed transmission line route, the mission of WSMR is now in jeopardy. Contrary to the op-ed submitted by U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich last week, there is no disputing that the current plan to route SunZia through the WSMR Call-Up Area (extension area) will negatively impact the testing capabilities of the range. As a member of the New Mexico Military Base Planning Commission, I have personally visited with our base commanders and officials at the Pentagon, and they agree that the single greatest threat to the mission of our military installations is encroachment. With regards to SunZia, it is widely accepted that the transmission lines would interfere with weapon systems testing. The MIT Lincoln Laboratory report referenced by Heinrich concedes there is no mitigation for that interference aside from burying the lines. In 2013, a Joint Department of Defense and Department of the Interior Technical Working Group concluded: “While the cost to bury 35 miles would be expensive, that cost must be compared to the loss of critical testing capability important to national security. The (Technical Working Group) analysis concludes that the cost to bury the transmission lines is less than the cost to the nation to replace or replicate critical testing activities available at WSMR.” As a result of these reports and other analysis, DOD expressed preference that the entire line be buried or that the route be moved north of the Call-Up Area along Highway 60 and existing utility right of way. However, as the Journal editorial board stated earlier this month, SunZia successfully “steamrolled the opposition,” including DOD, and placed the future mission of WSMR at risk. The reality is DOD does have alternatives for testing future complex, long-range, low-level systems after SunZia is built. This testing can be done at the Woomera Test Range in Australia or it can be done at sea. The problem is New Mexicans will not be doing the work. WSMR is resourced by the Army based on a reimbursable model. Customers pay to use the range and those payments are used for personnel and equipment. If the testing and evaluation work leave WSMR, the resources go with it. Routing SunZia through the Call-Up Area is a lose-lose-lose for New Mexico, White Sands Missile Range and our country. We all agree that New Mexico should explore and develop all energy resources available in the state including oil, natural gas, wind and solar energies. If it is economically viable to harvest high wind energy in eastern New Mexico, we should do it in a way that does not interfere with our national security interests or other economic engines in the state. Consistent with the recommendation of the DOD and DOI Technical Working Group, SunZia should bury the entire route through the Call-Up Area or route the lines without impacting WSMR. It is time we bring all stakeholders to the table – SunZia, WSMR, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the New Mexico State Land Office, and private landowners – to find a win-win solution for New Mexico and the nation.

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