The Socorro County Board of County Commissioners has passed an emergency ordinance banning the sale and use of stick-type rockets, helicopters and aerial spinners, missile-type rockets, ground audible devices, firecrack­ers and display fireworks within the unincorporated areas of the County.

However, the County will allow the sale, but limits the use of, cone fountains, crackling devices, cylindri­cal fountains, flitter sparklers, ground spinners, illumi­nating torches, toy smoke devices, wheels and mines fireworks “to areas that are paved or barren or that have a readily accessible source of water for use by the home­owner or the general public.”

The commissioners’ action is based upon current drought indices published by the National Weather Service as well as other data supplied by the U.S. Forest Service that severe and extreme drought conditions affect Socorro County, and that “there exists an immedi­ate danger to the public health, safety and welfare of the County if the sale and use of fireworks is not restricted.”

The ordinance will be in effect for 30 days, or until if and when the commissioners determine that weather conditions have improved and conduct an emergency hearing to reverse the ordinance.

At a meeting in 2019, Socorro County commissioners were given a graphic example of the size of SunZia’s proposed transmission towers compared to a pickup sitting at its base.
John Larson | El Defensor Chieftain

In other business, the commissioners passed Resolution 2022-56, approving the request of SunZia Transmission LLC to use certain roads in Socorro County. The resolution recognizes that the additional volume of traffic on the county roads may result in repairs, improvements and associated expenses to the county and that SunZia be responsible for repairing any damage done as a result of its usage.

“The construction, oper­ation and maintenance of the transmission lines will require access to, ingress and egress to and from, and crossings of county-owned right-of-way and county held right-of-way ease­ments,” the resolution states, and gives SunZia and its contractors the right to use the county roads to trans­port “structures, materials, construction equipment and supplies related to the con­struction of the transmission lines, and, if necessary, to improve same and to cross over the county roads with the conductors and cables of the Transmission Lines”

In short, SunZia will be responsible for reshaping, repairing, and/or modifica­tion of the county roads that must be performed resulting from road usage that is more than the usual and custom­ary maintenance operations performed as routine main­tenance by the county.

The SunZia project consists of two electric transmission lines spanning parts of New Mexico and Arizona. When completed, the 520-mile transmission project will provide an opportunity to deliver up to 4,500 MW of renewable energy from New Mexico and Arizona.

“They’re pretty much on the road to getting things done, but we don’t know how far along they are,” County Manager Michael Hawkes said. “It’s something that’s been two years in the process since we signed an agreement with them allow­ing the transmission lines cut through the county.”

Currently, SunZia is looking to run the transmis­sion lines between Socorro and Magdalena behind M Mountain and Strawberry Peak, up to the county line with Valencia.

“You can see north of Socorro County where they’ve already come across the interstate with some of those,” he said. “They iden­tified where they’re running those lines and of course, a lot of that was authorized by the state. The govern­ment gave them pretty much the green light on all they wanted way back when.”

That was when the coun­ty decided to acquiesce and make a formal agreement with SunZia.

“They had to go through several different regulatory bodies to get things done and in between that time there could’ve been some changes,” he said. “Some of those things they didn’t give us updates on.”