Official: Tres Amigas construction could begin early next year

Robin Fornoff

If all goes as planned, construction could begin on the $1.5 billion Tres Amigas electrical power project near Clovis sometime in the first quarter of 2012.

That’s what President and CEO Phillip Harris told a gathering of community leaders Wednesday.

Harris said construction would bring “literally hundreds” of temporary jobs to eastern New Mexico during the estimated 36 months it will take to build the first phase.

Once completed, he said, the first phase would mean at least 100 permanent jobs for the area.

“This is one of the largest privately funded projects in North America,” said Harris. “We’ve already got $10 million of our own money into it. So obviously we believe it is (going to happen).”

When finished, Tres Amigas will serve as a superstation connecting and redistributing electrical power from the nation’s three main grids, Harris said. He told the gathering Tres Amigas is close to an interconnection agreement with Xcel Energy and he expects to reach agreement with PNM, the electrical provider for western New Mexico, by the end of this year.

Harris also said private financing from Wall Street financiers appears to be on track for construction to start no later than March of next year.

Among those attending the informational session held at Farmers Electric Cooperative in Clovis: Mayor Gayla Brumfield, Curry County Commissioner Frank Blackburn, Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ernie Kos, state Sen. Clint Harden, state Rep. Anna Crook and ENMR-Plateau CEO Tom Phelps.

“We are here to back you up,” said Brumfield. “We want this project.”

Blackburn, fresh off a controversial redistricting vote Tuesday, said the county commission also supported the project.

“There’re very few things we agree on,” Blackburn said, “but we do agree on Tres Amigas.”

Harris said the superstation plan includes three phases of construction over a 10-year period. Phase one is a $400 million investment, he said. Another $300 million will be invested for phase two construction, and another $800 million to $1 billion will be invested with phase three, officials estimate.

“All of this is private funding,” Harris said. “We don’t always go running to government. We work with businesses to make it stand on its own merits.”

Plans call for building the superstation on 14,400 acres of state trust land as part of a 99-year lease signed in December 2010 by outgoing state Lands Commissioner Patrick Lyons. The property is located northeast of Clovis, south of Curry Road 19 and west of N.M. 108

Harris noted the county has agreed to improve road access to the site “as it would with any new industry or business.”

Curry County Road Superintendent Steve Reed said a rough estimate for a chip seal road would be about $150,000 per mile and initial plans call for about 3 1/2 miles of road improvement. Reed and County Manager Lance Pyle said the county is investigating several grants to pay for the cost of road construction.

Harris also said there may be local housing issues for construction crews and “as we see things start rolling out we’ll work with city and county officials to address those issues.”