ALBUQUERQUE — Wildlife groups fear a proposed river crossing for a $2 billion power line project that will funnel wind and solar energy from rural spots in New Mexico and Arizona to larger markets could be a death trap for migratory birds.
The project plans to place high-voltage power lines and towers near three wildlife refuges that provide a seasonal roosting-and-foraging bridge for migrating birds, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have already approved a small stretch of the project that would cross the Rio Grande in the Socorro area.
Cecilia Rosacker, executive director of the Rio Grande Agricultural Land Trust, has called the area a critical passage for migrating birds on their way to Mexico.
The power lines would run through one of the narrowest passages between the Ladd S. Gordon Waterfowl Complex, Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge and the Bosque del Apache, located between Albuquerque and Las Cruces.
The lines would cross between two long, narrow sandbanks where migratory cranes come to rest.
“If you want to maximize bird kill, that’s the place to put them,” Rosacker said.
The project includes bird conservation plans like limiting the highest-levels of wires in sensitive areas and using sun-reflective diverters to keep birds away, said Tom Wray, SunZia’s project manager.
SunZia also offered finance efforts to lure birds away from power lines and lead them to alternative feeding zones.
“The BLM-approved plan is readily available to these groups, and we’d be happy to meet with them if they have other ideas on mitigation,” Wray said. “They’ve never contacted us that I’m aware of.”
The project is expecting to receive permits from the New Mexico State Land Office later this year.