Taos Broadband Project


To meet increased demand for telecommunications services in northern New Mexico, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative established a Telecommunications Division to provide reliable and modern mobile phone, long-distance calling, and high-speed Internet services to residents and businesses in underserved areas in Taos, Colfax, and Rio Arriba Counties in New Mexico. KCEC's Taos Broadband Project involved the installation of approximately 2,100 miles of new broadband fiber-optic cable. 

The main route comprised approximately 920 miles of aerial fiber-optic installations and 565 miles of buried installations comprising the main route, fiber-optic drops directly to homes and businesses accounting for the remainder. Tierra provided right of way, cultural resource, and environmental services in support of this important project for the citizens of northern New Mexico.

The project was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Broadband Initiative Program and was located on lands under the jurisdiction of multiple State and Federal agencies, including the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT), the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, the U.S. Forest Service's (USFS's) Carson National Forest (CNF), the New Mexico State Land Office (NMSLO), the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Taos Pueblo, and Picuris Pueblo. Consultation was required with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Other sensitive project considerations included proximity to the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and the San Antonio Wildlife Study Area.

In total, the Taos Broadband Project included 42 miles located on BLM-managed land, 148 miles on USFS land, 15 miles on NMDGF land, 19 miles on NMSLO land, 90 miles within the Taos and Picuris Pueblos, and 122 miles located on NMDOT land, with the balance located on private lands.

Right of Way and Mapping Services

Tierra provided high-resolution GIS mapping products based on global positioning system (GPS) data for all of KCEC's existing and proposed facilities located on public lands, including new aerial and subsurface installations within NMDOT highway rights-of-way (ROWs). Legal descriptions were provided for all segments on public lands that were not located within NMDOT ROWs. These maps were used for all environmental and cultural resource documents and submittals and for encroachment permits issued by NMDOT. Tierra's GIS Department prepared additional plan, profile, and other exhibit maps associated with NMDOT permit applications.

Carson National Forest & BLM Taos Field OfficeTierra researched KCEC and USFS records to verify existing Special Use Permits and Grants of Easements for all facilities located within CNF- and BLM-managed lands and to identify any segments that were not covered by existing ROW agreements. Segments not covered by a permit or easement were illustrated on the project maps and were provided, with legal descriptions, to the CNF and BLM for consideration for the development of a Master Special Use Permit and for Grants of Easements for all KCEC facilities. The Master Special Use Permit has been issued by the CNF, and the BLM is expected to provide Grants of Easements for all facilities as well. A Vegetation Management Plan was required by the CNF as part of the conditions of the Categorical Exclusion. This plan was prepared by Transmission & Distribution Services, Inc., as a subconsultant for Tierra and approved by the CNF.

NMDOT Permits—With more than 120 miles of new fiber-optic cable to be installed within NMDOT highway ROWs, there were approximately 2,700 individual overhead crossings, underground crossings, and parallel locations that would require individual permit applications and exhibits, according to NMDOT procedures. After meetings and discussions with Districts 4 & 5, it was agreed that Tierra would be allowed to submit applications by highway (that is, one application package for all overhead crossings, one application for all underground crossings, one application for all overhead laterals, and one application for underground laterals) for each individual highway impacted by the project. GIS maps and associated data tables denoting GPS coordinates, highway mileposts, distances, offsets, etc. were provided for each crossing and each lateral installation. In total, more than 750 applications were submitted to NMDOT, reviewed, and approved to complete the project. Prior to submitting applications, Tierra's Environmental Planning and Cultural Resources staff was required to complete field surveys, provide reports, and obtain clearances from the New Mexico State Historic Preservation Office and the NMDOT Environmental Division for approximately 200 individual NMDOT encroachments.