Will new wind project impact emergency communications?

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Will new wind project impact emergency communications?

Date: 03/01/2022     Category: News & Media     Author: Hannah Ashton     Publication: Times-News    

Original Post ➡️

TWIN FALLS — Could a wind project affect 911 communications?

State and local agencies have expressed concerns that the Lava Ridge Wind Project could interfere with emergency communications.

An up to 400-turbine operation on 73,000 acres of public land in south-central Idaho, the Lava Ridge Wind Project is moving through the Environmental Impact Statement process. Required by U.S. environmental law, the first step is public scoping, the period when agencies, organizations and individuals can submit comments about the project.

More than 1,400 comments were submitted regarding the Lava Ridge Wind Project. Of those comments, 96% were from individuals, 3% from organizations, and 1% from agencies.

Southern Idaho Regional Communications Center—SIRCOMM—and Project Mutual Telephone both expressed concerns that the project could interfere with their operations.

“I spent 32 years in law enforcement. Sometimes you only have one chance to key a mic and ask for assistance on a situation, you might not get another opportunity to do that,” said Twin Falls County Commissioner Jack Johnson, who serves on the SIRCOMM Joint Powers Board. “If that one chance you have is blocked or interfered with, that could be a life threatening situation.”

The Idaho Military Division, which contains the Idaho Office of Emergency Management, also submitted a public comment regarding microwave radio transmission paths.

“The services carried on these paths are vital as they service statewide emergency services, law enforcement, federal/state/county agency customers,” the division wrote. “Any interruption or degradation of signal would be detrimental and will not be allowed to happen.”

SIRCOMM dispatches emergency services for 41 different agencies across four counties. The center also works with Idaho State Police, public works departments, street and highway departments, county disaster services and more.

The center wrote that compromised coverage discovered during the construction phase could “prove disastrous.”

“Once compromise has been realized, efforts to repair the compromise may not be swift enough to avoid the disruption of emergency services to that region, which could impact human life and safety,” SIRCOMM wrote.

Johnson said there have been previous communications issues in the general area of the project proposal. Geography and atmospheric conditions can impact transmission.

“It’s already hard for emergency services to communicate in that area,” he said.

Magic Valley Energy hired a third party to complete a land mobile emergency services report. In May, SIRCOMM received the report, which included a list of recommendations.

Johnson said some of the options included adding a new repeater site or optimizing a base station, which might not be financially feasible. Repeater towers allow stations that are not within line-of-sight range to communicate.

“It may therefore be appropriate to begin consideration and discussion about whether these potential costs should be part of overall project expense,” SIRCOMM wrote in its public comment.

Public scoping comments

Idaho Transportation Department

  • “The District recommends that the routes used to deliver and construct the wind turbines be identified, and a plausible prediction of heavy construction and delivery vehicles be provided. Once these routes and predicted, analysis should be accomplished to predict distress on the State, Federal, and LRI routes. If deemed necessary, preventative maintenance measures should be accomplished on routes indicating significant premature failure.

American Bird Conservancy 

  • “The sheer scale of the amount of grouse habitat that would be lost if the Lava Ridge Wind project is constructed as proposed demands that risk to this imperiled species be thoroughly evaluated and addressed.”
  • “Clean energy projects on public lands should not contribute to the continuing decline of our nations birds.”

Shoshone-Bannock Tribes

  • “The Tribes have significant concerns with the development of public lands in the pursuit of profit at the expense of Treaty rights, cultural resources, local communities, and a myriad of wildlife species and their habitats. For these reasons, the Tribes must oppose the Proposed Action and request that the BLM deny the proponents request to construct this enormous wind energy project, in the heart of the Tribes homelands and Idaho’s sage grouse habitat.”

Magic Valley ATV Riders

  • “To restrict and eliminate our right to recreate on public lands is a disservice to the recreation community and citizens of Idaho.”

Idaho Chapter of Safari Club International 

  • “Wildlife habitat is disappearing at an accelerating rate and we prefer that BLM not add to the problem.”
  • “This project can only have a detrimental effect on migrating pronghorn, not to mention other important species including sage grouse and pygmy rabbits.”

Twin Falls County Historic Preservation Commission

  • “The enormity of the proposed wind farm with the hundreds of massive wind turbines, sprawling corridors, miles of transmission lines, seven substations, and hundreds of miles of roads and pathways poses a huge threat to cultural resources and historical sites within Twin Falls County, within the proposed project area itself, and beyond the perimeters of the planned energy project.”


  • “Many of us have lived in the immediate area for many decades. We have observed, with the exception of Elk, a general decrease in the amount of wildlife in the area. This project with its 380 miles of roads will simply finish them all off.”


  • “I’m currently a sophomore out at The College of Southern Idaho studying Renewable Energy System Technologies and one of the big focuses in out class is wind turbines. Having a huge wind farm right at our backdoor would not only benefit us as a community but it would also help benefit our program with a bunch of hands on experience involving mechanical drives, hydraulics, climbing, and rigging.”


  • “I am all for the wind project. There is a lot of miss information being spread about wind power that is simply not true.”


  • “I don’t think you will find to many areas in the lower 48 that would be better choices for renewable energy production.”