Notice of Availability of the Southline Transmission Line Project Final Environmental Impact Statement (DOE/EIS-0474), New Mexico and Arizona, 69693-69695 [2015-28676]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 217 / Tuesday, November 10, 2015 / Notices monitor individual Indian land leases and other types of leases not covered under the tribal regulations according to the Part 162 regulations. Accordingly, the Federal and tribal interests weigh heavily in favor of preemption of State and local taxes on lease-related activities and interests, regardless of whether the lease is governed by tribal leasing regulations or Part 162. Improvements, activities, and leasehold or possessory interests may be subject to taxation by the Navajo Nation. Dated: November 2, 2015. Kevin K. Washburn, Assistant Secretary, Indian Affairs. [FR Doc. 2015–28476 Filed 11–9–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4337–15–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Bureau of Land Management DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY Western Area Power Administration [LLNM930000 L51010000.ER0000 LVRWG14G0790 14XL5017AP] Notice of Availability of the Southline Transmission Line Project Final Environmental Impact Statement (DOE/ EIS–0474), New Mexico and Arizona Bureau of Land Management, Interior; Western Area Power Administration, DOE. ACTION: Notice of availability. AGENCY: In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), as amended, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Western Area Power Administration (Western) have prepared a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Southline Transmission Line Project (Project), and by this notice are announcing its availability. DATES: Neither the BLM nor Western will issue a final decision on the proposed Project for a minimum of 30 days after the date that the Environmental Protection Agency publishes its Notice of Availability in the Federal Register. ADDRESSES: Copies of the Southline Transmission Line Project Final EIS have been sent to affected Federal, State, and local government agencies as well as to other stakeholders. Copies of the Final EIS are available for public inspection at the BLM Las Cruces District Office, 1800 Marquess Street, asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:41 Nov 09, 2015 Jkt 238001 Las Cruces, New Mexico 88005; the BLM New Mexico State Office, 301 Dinosaur Trail, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87508; the BLM Arizona State Office, One North Central Avenue, Suite 800, Phoenix, Arizona 85004; the BLM Safford Field Office, 711 14th Avenue, Safford, Arizona 85546; and the BLM Tucson Field Office, 3201 East Universal Way, Tucson, Arizona 85756. The Final EIS and supporting documents are available electronically on the Project Web site at: http:// www.blm.gov/nm/southline. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mark Mackiewicz, PMP, BLM Senior National Project Manager; telephone (435) 636–3616; email: mmackiew@ blm.gov. For information about Western’s involvement, contact Mark Wieringa, Western NEPA Document Manager; telephone (720) 962–7448; email: wieringa@wapa.gov. For general information on the Department of Energy’s (DOE) NEPA review procedures or on the status of a NEPA review, contact Carol M. Borgstrom, Director of NEPA Policy and Compliance, GC–54, U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20585–0119, telephone (202) 586–4600 or toll free at (800) 472–2756, fax (202) 586–7031, email askNEPA@hq.doe.gov. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at (800) 877–8339 to contact the above individual during normal business hours. The FIRS is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to leave a message or question with the above individual. You will receive a reply during normal business hours. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Southline Transmission, LLC (Southline), the proponent, has filed a right-of-way (ROW) application with the BLM pursuant to Title V of FLPMA, proposing to construct, operate, maintain, and eventually decommission a high-voltage, alternating current electric transmission line. The BLM and Western agreed to be joint lead agencies in accordance with 40 CFR 1501.5(b). Western is a power-marketing agency within the DOE and is also a participant in the proposed Project with Southline. The proposed Project would consist of two sections. The first section would entail construction of approximately 240 miles of new double-circuit 345kilovolt (kV) transmission line in a 200foot ROW between the Afton Substation, south of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Apache Substation, south of Willcox, Arizona (Afton-Apache or New Build Section). The second section would PO 00000 Frm 00062 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 69693 entail the upgrade of approximately 120 miles of Western’s existing SaguaroTucson and Tucson-Apache 115-kV transmission line in a 100-foot existing ROW to a double-circuit 230-kV transmission line in a 100 to 150-foot ROW (Apache-Saguaro or Upgrade Section). The Upgrade Section would originate at the Apache Substation and terminate at the Saguaro Substation northwest of Tucson, Arizona. Both new permanent ROWs and temporary construction ROWs would be required in the New Build Section and in some portions of the Upgrade Section for the transmission line, access roads, and other permanent and temporary Project components. The proposed Project would involve the interconnection with and expansion and upgrade of 14 existing substations in southern Arizona and New Mexico, as well as the potential construction of a new 345-kV substation facility in New Mexico. The Project would also include installation of a fiber optic network communications system. Fee ownership would only be considered for substations or substation expansions; all other land rights acquired on nonfederal lands would be through easements or leases. The New Build Section (Afton-Apache) would include construction and operation of: • 205 miles of 345-kV double-circuit electric transmission line as well as associated roads and ancillary facilities in New Mexico and Arizona with a planned bidirectional capacity of up to 1,000 MW. This section is defined by endpoints at the existing Afton ˜ Substation, south of Las Cruces in Dona Ana County, New Mexico, and Western’s existing Apache Substation, south of Willcox in Cochise County, Arizona; • 5 miles of 345-kV single-circuit electric transmission line between the existing Afton Substation and the existing Luna-Diablo 345-kV transmission line; • 30 miles of 345-kV double-circuit electric transmission line between New Mexico State Route 9 and Interstate 10 east of Deming in Luna County, New Mexico, to provide access for potential renewable energy generation sources in southern New Mexico. This segment of the proposed Project is included in the analysis, however, development of this segment would be determined at a later date; • One potential new substation on approximately 25 acres of land in Luna County, New Mexico (proposed Midpoint Substation), to provide an intermediate connection point for future interconnection requests; and E:\FR\FM\10NON1.SGM 10NON1 asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 69694 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 217 / Tuesday, November 10, 2015 / Notices The Upgrade Section (ApacheSaguaro) would include: • Replacing 120 miles of Western’s existing Saguaro-Tucson and TucsonApache 115-kV single-circuit electric wood-pole H-frame transmission lines with a 230-kV double-circuit electric steel-pole transmission line. This section is defined by endpoints at the existing Apache Substation, south of Willcox in Cochise County, Arizona, and the existing Saguaro Substation, northwest of Tucson in Pima County, Arizona; • 2 miles of new build double-circuit 230-kV electric transmission line to interconnect with the existing Tucson Electric Power Company Vail Substation, located southeast of Tucson and just north of the existing 115-kV Tucson-Apache line; and • Interconnection with and upgrade of 12 existing substations along Western’s existing Saguaro-Tucson and Tucson-Apache 115-kV lines in Arizona. Substation expansions would be required for installation of new communications equipment, new 230kV bays with transformers, breakers, switches, and ancillary equipment. In some cases expansion may require a separate yard. Environmental and social concerns and issues were identified through both the initial public scoping and Draft EIS comment periods. The issues addressed in the Final EIS that shaped the Project’s scope and alternatives include, but are not limited to: • Air and climate • Biological resources • Cultural resources • Health and safety • Noise • Land use (including farmlands and military operations) • Recreation • Socioeconomics and environmental justice • Special designations • Wilderness characteristics units • Trails • Visual • Transportation In addition to the Proponent Preferred Action, Southline also submitted the Proponent Alternative route for the New Build Section of the proposed Project, both of which were the product of extensive stakeholder outreach. In addition to the Proponent Preferred Action, the Proponent Alternative and the No Action Alternative, the BLM and Western are considering local alternatives and route variations. To simplify the analysis of alternatives, the Project area has been divided into four major route groups: (1) Afton Substation VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:41 Nov 09, 2015 Jkt 238001 to Hidalgo Substation (New Build Section); (2) Hidalgo Substation to Apache Substation (New Build Section); (3) Apache Substation to Pantano Substation (Upgrade Section); and (4) Pantano Substation to Saguaro Substation (Upgrade Section). Route Group 1: Afton to Hidalgo (New Build Section). This route group includes two sub-routes and five local alternatives. Both sub-routes are approximately 140 miles long. Local alternatives range between approximately 9 and 43 miles long. The ˜ route group crosses portions of Dona Ana, Grant, and Hidalgo counties in New Mexico. Three of the four local alternatives were identified by Southline and represent routing options developed to avoid localized environmental conflicts along the international border. The fourth local alternative provides a co-location option with the proposed SunZia Southwest Transmission Line Project. Route Group 2: Hidalgo to Apache (New Build Section). This route group includes two sub-routes, four route variations and eight local alternatives. Both sub-routes are approximately 95 miles long. Route variations and local alternatives range between approximately 1 and 54 miles long. The alternatives in this group cross portions of Hidalgo County in New Mexico and portions of Cochise, Greenlee, and Graham counties in Arizona. The four route variations and eight local alternatives were identified by the BLM and Western and represent routing options developed to avoid localized environmental conflicts around Lordsburg and Willcox Playas. Route Group 3: Apache to Pantano (Upgrade Section). This route group includes the upgrade of the existing Western 115-kV line between the Apache and Pantano substations; the line measures about 70 miles between these two substations. There is one local alternative identified by Southline that represents routing options designed to avoid residential development in the Benson area. Route Group 3 crosses portions of Cochise and Pima counties in Arizona. Route Group 4: Pantano to Saguaro (Upgrade Section). This group includes the upgrade of the existing Western 115kV line between the Pantano and Saguaro substations; the line measures about 50 miles between these two substations. There are one route variation and ten local alternatives in Route Group 4. The alternatives in this group cross portions of Pima and Pinal counties in Arizona. Nine of the ten local alternatives proposed by the BLM and Western in this route group are PO 00000 Frm 00063 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 options for replacing the portion of the existing Western line that crosses over Tumamoc Hill in Tucson. The route variation and the tenth local alternative are routing options near the Tucson International Airport and Marana Regional Airport, and were proposed by the lead agencies to address potential conflicts with future airport expansion and economic development plans as well as removing the existing line from a dense residential development with encroachments. The Final EIS also considers two substation alternatives (Midpoint North and Midpoint South) proposed by Southline; they are options for the location of the proposed Midpoint Substation located within Route Group 1. Both alternative locations would be in Luna County, New Mexico. For the New Build Section, the Agency Preferred Alternative consists of a combination of the ProponentProposed Action, Proponent Alternative, and agency local alternative segments within Route Groups 1 and 2. The route was selected by the BLM and Western as the Agency Preferred Alternative because it would maximize use of existing and linear ROWs by paralleling existing and proposed infrastructure and transmission lines; eliminate the need for plan amendments through conformance with existing land use plans; minimize impacts to military operations at and near the Willcox Playa; and minimize impacts to sensitive resources. Public and agency comments on the Draft EIS expressed concern that portions of the Agency Preferred Alternative in the New Build Section would parallel the SunZia Southwest Transmission Line project, a project not yet constructed. Additional comments expressed concern about potential avian conflicts along the southeastern side of the Willcox Playa. The Agency Preferred Alternative for the Final EIS takes all comments received on the Draft EIS into consideration and suggests appropriate mitigation to be used to avoid sensitive resources as well as residential and economic development conflicts in the area. The Agency Preferred Alternative for the Upgrade Section consists of a combination of Proponent-Proposed Action and local alternatives at Tumamoc Hill and near the Marana Airport within Route Groups 3 and 4. The route was selected because it would maximize the use of the existing ROW and facilities currently used for Western’s Saguaro-Tucson and TucsonApache 115-kV transmission lines; minimize impacts to sensitive resources at Tumamoc Hill; and minimize impacts E:\FR\FM\10NON1.SGM 10NON1 asabaliauskas on DSK5VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 217 / Tuesday, November 10, 2015 / Notices to military training operations at the Marana Airport. The BLM requires mitigation measures and conservation actions to achieve land use plan goals and objectives. The sequence of mitigation action would be the mitigation hierarchy (avoid, minimize, rectify, reduce or eliminate over time, or compensate) identified by the CEQ (40 CFR 1508.20), BLM’s Draft Regional Mitigation Manual, section 1794, and as described in the Final EIS. Certain alternatives, if selected, may require compensatory mitigation for those implementation-level activities that result in impacts the agencies cannot adequately avoid, minimize, rectify, reduce, or eliminate over time (i.e., residual impacts). The BLM, Western, Southline, and cooperating agencies worked together to develop routes that would conform to existing Federal land use plans. No plan amendments are required for the Upgrade portion of the proposed Project in Arizona or the Agency Preferred Alternative for the New Build Section in New Mexico, as described in the Final EIS. The BLM and Western have utilized the NEPA comment period to assist the agencies in satisfying the public involvement requirements under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (16 U.S.C. 470(f)), as provided for in 36 CFR 800.2(d)(3). The agencies have also consulted with Indian tribes on a government-togovernment basis in accordance with Executive Order 13175 and other policies. Ongoing Native American tribal consultations will continue to be conducted in accordance with law and policy, and tribal concerns, including impacts on Indian trust assets, will be given due consideration. The BLM has also completed, with Western input, formal consultation under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Based on the environmental analysis in this Final EIS, the BLM will decide whether to authorize the Proponent Preferred Action, Agency Preferred Alternative, alternatives, or any combination thereof on Public Lands. The Administrator will decide whether Western would use its borrowing authority to partially finance and/or hold partial ownership in the resulting transmission facilities and capacity. Western will consider the environmental analysis as the Project Development and Finance Phases are completed, as outlined in the Transmission Infrastructure Program Federal Register Notice of Procedures (79 FR 19065–19077, April 7, 2014) VerDate Sep<11>2014 19:41 Nov 09, 2015 Jkt 238001 Comments on the Draft EIS received from the public and internal agency review were considered, and document revisions were incorporated as appropriate into the Final EIS. Public comments resulted in the addition of clarifying text, but did not result in substantial changes to the proposed Project or the impact analysis between the Draft and Final EIS. Authority: 40 CFR 1506.6, 40 CFR 1506.10, 43 CFR 1610.2. Mark A. Gabriel, Administrator, Western Area Power Administration. Aden Seidlitz, Acting State Director, Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico. [FR Doc. 2015–28676 Filed 11–9–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4310–FB–P 69695 BLM, on a variety of planning and management issues associated with public land management in New Mexico. Planned agenda items include a welcome by the Chair, and presentations and discussions related to the New Mexico Copper Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement; the Prehistoric Trackways National Monument Record of Decision and planning process; lands with wilderness characteristics; Restore New Mexico; and grazing permit renewals. A halfhour public comment period, during which the public may address the RAC, will begin at 11:30 a.m. All RAC meetings are open to the public. Depending on the number of individuals wishing to comment and time available, the time for individual oral comments may be limited. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Melanie Barnes, Acting Deputy State Director, Lands and Resources. Bureau of Land Management [FR Doc. 2015–28541 Filed 11–9–15; 8:45 am] [LLNML00000 L12200000.DF0000 16XL1109AF] BILLING CODE 4310–FB–P Notice of Public Meeting, Las Cruces District Resource Advisory Council Meeting, New Mexico DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Bureau of Land Management, Interior. ACTION: Notice of public meeting. [NPS–WASO–BSD–COMM–19682; PPWOBSADC0, PPMVSCS1Y.Y00000 (166)] AGENCY: In accordance with the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM), Las Cruces District Resource Advisory Council (RAC) will meet as indicated below. DATES: The RAC will meet on December 8, 2015, at the BLM Las Cruces District Office, 1800 Marquess Street, Las Cruces, New Mexico from 8:30 a.m.–12 p.m. The public may send written comments to the RAC at the BLM Las Cruces District Office, 1800 Marquess Street, Las Cruces, NM 88005. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Deborah Stevens, BLM Las Cruces District, 1800 Marquess Street, Las Cruces, NM 88005, 575–525–4421. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1–800–877–8229 to contact the above individual during normal business hours. The FIRS is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to leave a message or question with the above individual. You will receive a reply during normal business hours. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The 10member Las Cruces District RAC advises the Secretary of the Interior, through the SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00064 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 National Park Service Proposed Information Collection; National Park Service Concessions National Park Service, Interior. Notice; request for comments. AGENCY: ACTION: We (National Park Service, NPS) will ask the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to approve the information collection (IC) described below. As required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 and as part of our continuing efforts to reduce paperwork and respondent burden, we invite the general public and other Federal agencies to take this opportunity to comment on this IC. This IC is scheduled to expire on November 30, 2016. We may not conduct or sponsor and a person is not required to respond to a collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number. DATES: To ensure that we are able to consider your comments on this IC, we must receive them by January 11, 2016. ADDRESSES: Send your comments on the IC to Madonna L. Baucum, Information Collection Clearance Officer, National Park Service, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Room 2C114, Mail Stop 242, Reston, VA 20192 (mail); or madonna_baucum@nps.gov (email). Please include ‘‘1024–0029’’ in the SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\10NON1.SGM 10NON1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 217 (Tuesday, November 10, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 69693-69695]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-28676]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Bureau of Land Management

DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

Western Area Power Administration

[LLNM930000 L51010000.ER0000 LVRWG14G0790 14XL5017AP]


Notice of Availability of the Southline Transmission Line Project 
Final Environmental Impact Statement (DOE/EIS-0474), New Mexico and 
Arizona

AGENCY: Bureau of Land Management, Interior; Western Area Power 
Administration, DOE.

ACTION: Notice of availability.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969 (NEPA), as amended, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act 
of 1976 (FLPMA), as amended, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and 
the Western Area Power Administration (Western) have prepared a Final 
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Southline 
Transmission Line Project (Project), and by this notice are announcing 
its availability.

DATES: Neither the BLM nor Western will issue a final decision on the 
proposed Project for a minimum of 30 days after the date that the 
Environmental Protection Agency publishes its Notice of Availability in 
the Federal Register.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the Southline Transmission Line Project Final EIS 
have been sent to affected Federal, State, and local government 
agencies as well as to other stakeholders. Copies of the Final EIS are 
available for public inspection at the BLM Las Cruces District Office, 
1800 Marquess Street, Las Cruces, New Mexico 88005; the BLM New Mexico 
State Office, 301 Dinosaur Trail, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87508; the BLM 
Arizona State Office, One North Central Avenue, Suite 800, Phoenix, 
Arizona 85004; the BLM Safford Field Office, 711 14th Avenue, Safford, 
Arizona 85546; and the BLM Tucson Field Office, 3201 East Universal 
Way, Tucson, Arizona 85756. The Final EIS and supporting documents are 
available electronically on the Project Web site at: http://www.blm.gov/nm/southline.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mark Mackiewicz, PMP, BLM Senior 
National Project Manager; telephone (435) 636-3616; email: 
mmackiew@blm.gov. For information about Western's involvement, contact 
Mark Wieringa, Western NEPA Document Manager; telephone (720) 962-7448; 
email: wieringa@wapa.gov. For general information on the Department of 
Energy's (DOE) NEPA review procedures or on the status of a NEPA 
review, contact Carol M. Borgstrom, Director of NEPA Policy and 
Compliance, GC-54, U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue 
SW., Washington, DC 20585-0119, telephone (202) 586-4600 or toll free 
at (800) 472-2756, fax (202) 586-7031, email askNEPA@hq.doe.gov.
    Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may 
call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at (800) 877-8339 to 
contact the above individual during normal business hours. The FIRS is 
available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to leave a message or question 
with the above individual. You will receive a reply during normal 
business hours.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Southline Transmission, LLC (Southline), the 
proponent, has filed a right-of-way (ROW) application with the BLM 
pursuant to Title V of FLPMA, proposing to construct, operate, 
maintain, and eventually decommission a high-voltage, alternating 
current electric transmission line. The BLM and Western agreed to be 
joint lead agencies in accordance with 40 CFR 1501.5(b). Western is a 
power-marketing agency within the DOE and is also a participant in the 
proposed Project with Southline.
    The proposed Project would consist of two sections. The first 
section would entail construction of approximately 240 miles of new 
double-circuit 345-kilovolt (kV) transmission line in a 200-foot ROW 
between the Afton Substation, south of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and 
Apache Substation, south of Willcox, Arizona (Afton-Apache or New Build 
Section). The second section would entail the upgrade of approximately 
120 miles of Western's existing Saguaro-Tucson and Tucson-Apache 115-kV 
transmission line in a 100-foot existing ROW to a double-circuit 230-kV 
transmission line in a 100 to 150-foot ROW (Apache-Saguaro or Upgrade 
Section). The Upgrade Section would originate at the Apache Substation 
and terminate at the Saguaro Substation northwest of Tucson, Arizona. 
Both new permanent ROWs and temporary construction ROWs would be 
required in the New Build Section and in some portions of the Upgrade 
Section for the transmission line, access roads, and other permanent 
and temporary Project components.
    The proposed Project would involve the interconnection with and 
expansion and upgrade of 14 existing substations in southern Arizona 
and New Mexico, as well as the potential construction of a new 345-kV 
substation facility in New Mexico. The Project would also include 
installation of a fiber optic network communications system. Fee 
ownership would only be considered for substations or substation 
expansions; all other land rights acquired on non-federal lands would 
be through easements or leases. The New Build Section (Afton-Apache) 
would include construction and operation of:
     205 miles of 345-kV double-circuit electric transmission 
line as well as associated roads and ancillary facilities in New Mexico 
and Arizona with a planned bidirectional capacity of up to 1,000 MW. 
This section is defined by endpoints at the existing Afton Substation, 
south of Las Cruces in Do[ntilde]a Ana County, New Mexico, and 
Western's existing Apache Substation, south of Willcox in Cochise 
County, Arizona;
     5 miles of 345-kV single-circuit electric transmission 
line between the existing Afton Substation and the existing Luna-Diablo 
345-kV transmission line;
     30 miles of 345-kV double-circuit electric transmission 
line between New Mexico State Route 9 and Interstate 10 east of Deming 
in Luna County, New Mexico, to provide access for potential renewable 
energy generation sources in southern New Mexico. This segment of the 
proposed Project is included in the analysis, however, development of 
this segment would be determined at a later date;
     One potential new substation on approximately 25 acres of 
land in Luna County, New Mexico (proposed Midpoint Substation), to 
provide an intermediate connection point for future interconnection 
requests; and

[[Page 69694]]

    The Upgrade Section (Apache-Saguaro) would include:
     Replacing 120 miles of Western's existing Saguaro-Tucson 
and Tucson-Apache 115-kV single-circuit electric wood-pole H-frame 
transmission lines with a 230-kV double-circuit electric steel-pole 
transmission line. This section is defined by endpoints at the existing 
Apache Substation, south of Willcox in Cochise County, Arizona, and the 
existing Saguaro Substation, northwest of Tucson in Pima County, 
Arizona;
     2 miles of new build double-circuit 230-kV electric 
transmission line to interconnect with the existing Tucson Electric 
Power Company Vail Substation, located southeast of Tucson and just 
north of the existing 115-kV Tucson-Apache line; and
     Interconnection with and upgrade of 12 existing 
substations along Western's existing Saguaro-Tucson and Tucson-Apache 
115-kV lines in Arizona. Substation expansions would be required for 
installation of new communications equipment, new 230-kV bays with 
transformers, breakers, switches, and ancillary equipment. In some 
cases expansion may require a separate yard.
    Environmental and social concerns and issues were identified 
through both the initial public scoping and Draft EIS comment periods. 
The issues addressed in the Final EIS that shaped the Project's scope 
and alternatives include, but are not limited to:

 Air and climate
 Biological resources
 Cultural resources
 Health and safety
 Noise
 Land use (including farmlands and military operations)
 Recreation
 Socioeconomics and environmental justice
 Special designations
 Wilderness characteristics units
 Trails
 Visual
 Transportation

    In addition to the Proponent Preferred Action, Southline also 
submitted the Proponent Alternative route for the New Build Section of 
the proposed Project, both of which were the product of extensive 
stakeholder outreach. In addition to the Proponent Preferred Action, 
the Proponent Alternative and the No Action Alternative, the BLM and 
Western are considering local alternatives and route variations. To 
simplify the analysis of alternatives, the Project area has been 
divided into four major route groups: (1) Afton Substation to Hidalgo 
Substation (New Build Section); (2) Hidalgo Substation to Apache 
Substation (New Build Section); (3) Apache Substation to Pantano 
Substation (Upgrade Section); and (4) Pantano Substation to Saguaro 
Substation (Upgrade Section).
    Route Group 1: Afton to Hidalgo (New Build Section). This route 
group includes two sub-routes and five local alternatives. Both sub-
routes are approximately 140 miles long. Local alternatives range 
between approximately 9 and 43 miles long. The route group crosses 
portions of Do[ntilde]a Ana, Grant, and Hidalgo counties in New Mexico. 
Three of the four local alternatives were identified by Southline and 
represent routing options developed to avoid localized environmental 
conflicts along the international border. The fourth local alternative 
provides a co-location option with the proposed SunZia Southwest 
Transmission Line Project.
    Route Group 2: Hidalgo to Apache (New Build Section). This route 
group includes two sub-routes, four route variations and eight local 
alternatives. Both sub-routes are approximately 95 miles long. Route 
variations and local alternatives range between approximately 1 and 54 
miles long. The alternatives in this group cross portions of Hidalgo 
County in New Mexico and portions of Cochise, Greenlee, and Graham 
counties in Arizona. The four route variations and eight local 
alternatives were identified by the BLM and Western and represent 
routing options developed to avoid localized environmental conflicts 
around Lordsburg and Willcox Playas.
    Route Group 3: Apache to Pantano (Upgrade Section). This route 
group includes the upgrade of the existing Western 115-kV line between 
the Apache and Pantano substations; the line measures about 70 miles 
between these two substations. There is one local alternative 
identified by Southline that represents routing options designed to 
avoid residential development in the Benson area. Route Group 3 crosses 
portions of Cochise and Pima counties in Arizona.
    Route Group 4: Pantano to Saguaro (Upgrade Section). This group 
includes the upgrade of the existing Western 115-kV line between the 
Pantano and Saguaro substations; the line measures about 50 miles 
between these two substations. There are one route variation and ten 
local alternatives in Route Group 4. The alternatives in this group 
cross portions of Pima and Pinal counties in Arizona. Nine of the ten 
local alternatives proposed by the BLM and Western in this route group 
are options for replacing the portion of the existing Western line that 
crosses over Tumamoc Hill in Tucson. The route variation and the tenth 
local alternative are routing options near the Tucson International 
Airport and Marana Regional Airport, and were proposed by the lead 
agencies to address potential conflicts with future airport expansion 
and economic development plans as well as removing the existing line 
from a dense residential development with encroachments.
    The Final EIS also considers two substation alternatives (Midpoint 
North and Midpoint South) proposed by Southline; they are options for 
the location of the proposed Midpoint Substation located within Route 
Group 1. Both alternative locations would be in Luna County, New 
Mexico.
    For the New Build Section, the Agency Preferred Alternative 
consists of a combination of the Proponent-Proposed Action, Proponent 
Alternative, and agency local alternative segments within Route Groups 
1 and 2. The route was selected by the BLM and Western as the Agency 
Preferred Alternative because it would maximize use of existing and 
linear ROWs by paralleling existing and proposed infrastructure and 
transmission lines; eliminate the need for plan amendments through 
conformance with existing land use plans; minimize impacts to military 
operations at and near the Willcox Playa; and minimize impacts to 
sensitive resources. Public and agency comments on the Draft EIS 
expressed concern that portions of the Agency Preferred Alternative in 
the New Build Section would parallel the SunZia Southwest Transmission 
Line project, a project not yet constructed. Additional comments 
expressed concern about potential avian conflicts along the 
southeastern side of the Willcox Playa. The Agency Preferred 
Alternative for the Final EIS takes all comments received on the Draft 
EIS into consideration and suggests appropriate mitigation to be used 
to avoid sensitive resources as well as residential and economic 
development conflicts in the area.
    The Agency Preferred Alternative for the Upgrade Section consists 
of a combination of Proponent-Proposed Action and local alternatives at 
Tumamoc Hill and near the Marana Airport within Route Groups 3 and 4. 
The route was selected because it would maximize the use of the 
existing ROW and facilities currently used for Western's Saguaro-Tucson 
and Tucson-Apache 115-kV transmission lines; minimize impacts to 
sensitive resources at Tumamoc Hill; and minimize impacts

[[Page 69695]]

to military training operations at the Marana Airport.
    The BLM requires mitigation measures and conservation actions to 
achieve land use plan goals and objectives. The sequence of mitigation 
action would be the mitigation hierarchy (avoid, minimize, rectify, 
reduce or eliminate over time, or compensate) identified by the CEQ (40 
CFR 1508.20), BLM's Draft Regional Mitigation Manual, section 1794, and 
as described in the Final EIS. Certain alternatives, if selected, may 
require compensatory mitigation for those implementation-level 
activities that result in impacts the agencies cannot adequately avoid, 
minimize, rectify, reduce, or eliminate over time (i.e., residual 
impacts).
    The BLM, Western, Southline, and cooperating agencies worked 
together to develop routes that would conform to existing Federal land 
use plans. No plan amendments are required for the Upgrade portion of 
the proposed Project in Arizona or the Agency Preferred Alternative for 
the New Build Section in New Mexico, as described in the Final EIS.
    The BLM and Western have utilized the NEPA comment period to assist 
the agencies in satisfying the public involvement requirements under 
Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (16 U.S.C. 
470(f)), as provided for in 36 CFR 800.2(d)(3). The agencies have also 
consulted with Indian tribes on a government-to-government basis in 
accordance with Executive Order 13175 and other policies. Ongoing 
Native American tribal consultations will continue to be conducted in 
accordance with law and policy, and tribal concerns, including impacts 
on Indian trust assets, will be given due consideration. The BLM has 
also completed, with Western input, formal consultation under Section 7 
of the Endangered Species Act with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
    Based on the environmental analysis in this Final EIS, the BLM will 
decide whether to authorize the Proponent Preferred Action, Agency 
Preferred Alternative, alternatives, or any combination thereof on 
Public Lands. The Administrator will decide whether Western would use 
its borrowing authority to partially finance and/or hold partial 
ownership in the resulting transmission facilities and capacity. 
Western will consider the environmental analysis as the Project 
Development and Finance Phases are completed, as outlined in the 
Transmission Infrastructure Program Federal Register Notice of 
Procedures (79 FR 19065-19077, April 7, 2014)
    Comments on the Draft EIS received from the public and internal 
agency review were considered, and document revisions were incorporated 
as appropriate into the Final EIS. Public comments resulted in the 
addition of clarifying text, but did not result in substantial changes 
to the proposed Project or the impact analysis between the Draft and 
Final EIS.

    Authority:  40 CFR 1506.6, 40 CFR 1506.10, 43 CFR 1610.2.

Mark A. Gabriel,
Administrator, Western Area Power Administration.
Aden Seidlitz,
Acting State Director, Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico.
[FR Doc. 2015-28676 Filed 11-9-15; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4310-FB-P