Energy Environmental Group, a subsidiary of EC Source Services, has finished environmental restoration along the 155-mile 345 kV Western Spirit Transmission Line in central New Mexico, recording zero environmental violations during the two-year project. The Western Spirit Transmission line, constructed by EC Source, a MasTec company, is the largest renewable project in American history. EEG’s team provided EC Source construction crews with environmental planning, training, and oversight to protect native species, archaeological sites, rivers, and local communities while keeping construction on schedule for Pattern Energy to energize the line last December.
“This project was a remarkable marriage of construction and environmental protection from the beginning,” said Raina Johnson, senior environmental manager for EEG. “Environmentally speaking, among the highest risk construction activities is building access roads; road-building crews and equipment are first to touch the site, and the majority of violations occur there.”
According to Johnson, Jon Flintoff, the access road superintendent for EC Source, and Mike Cleveland, the construction manager, and their teams were highly attuned to moving into potentially sensitive areas, like archaeological sites, and made sure environmental protocols were in place ahead of time. EC Source built hundreds of miles of roads during the project and invested over 500,000 man-hours to construct the line, all without a single recordable injury or environmental violation.
The Western Spirit Transmission line connects a group of Western Spirit Wind projects to the grid managed by Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) near Albuquerque. Pattern Energy and the New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority developed the project now owned by PNM.
“This project crossed tribal lands, 1,200 feet of the Rio Grande River, and historical sites, which required EEG to juggle permitting, seasonal restrictions, inspections and negotiations with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, and state and county officials,” said Michael Childers, vice president of Operations for EC Source. “EEG’s work kept construction on schedule and avoided environmental violations, any of which could’ve stopped work and cost millions of dollars.”
To ensure EC Source construction crews could adhere to the project timeline, EEG’s work included creating plans for protecting endangered species like the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, obtaining special use permits for crossing bodies of water and mitigating dust, negotiating compensation for the restoration of trees removed, and outreach to the Isleta Pueblo tribe. In the following months, Johnson notes EEG will continue inspections and close out the final storm water permit open on the job site.
Since completing the Western Spirit Transmission line project, Johnson and EEG have begun the pre-construction environmental planning phase of Pattern Energy’s 500kV SunZia Transmission project.