Not big fans: Three counties affected by Lava Ridge Wind project withhold support

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Not big fans: Three counties affected by Lava Ridge Wind project withhold support

Date: 08/22/2022     Category: News & Media     Author: Lorien Nettleton     Publication: Idaho State Journal    

An EcoFlight tour flies over some existing wind turbines July 21, 2021, during a Lava Ridge Wind proposal tour flight near Buhl.PAT SUTPHIN/TIMES-NEWS

SHOSHONE — Two counties independently passed resolutions recently to not support the proposed construction of up to 400 wind turbines on 73,000 acres of public land in south-central Idaho.

With the resolutions, Lincoln and Minidoka counties join Jerome County, whose commissioners passed a similar resolution on July 25.

“The commissioners share the concerns of Lincoln County citizens and therefore the Board of Commissioners is opposed to the project,” the Lincoln County resolution said.

On the same day, Minidoka County Commission passed a resolution saying they could not support the project.

Lincoln County Commissioner Rebecca Wood said that the resolution was an effort to make the concerns of the citizens known, and to ask the BLM to study specific impacts the project may have.

“The majority have made it clear that they really don’t want a windmill project,” Wood said. “And so our biggest thing was to make sure that the BLM knew where the citizens stood, and to mention the items in our resolution that we really want them to check in to and pay special attention to when they’re doing their EIS and their studies for it.”

In their resolution, Lincoln County asked the BLM to analyze what impacts on the aquifer the construction would have. The area is largely rocky, and the bases for many of the approximately 400 towers could require blasting.

Lincoln’s resolution also asked the BLM to study the impact to Native American and Japanese American cultural sites, such as the Minidoka Internment Camp. Plans originally called for a turbine to be placed 1.8 miles from the National Historic Site.

LS Power and Magic Valley Energy applied to the Bureau of Land Management for permits for the massive wind energy project on public lands. Following the federal permitting process, the BLM collected input for a draft Environmental Impact Study, which would help determine whether BLM could approve or deny the project.

The draft EIS was originally scheduled for release in August for a 45-day period of public review and comment. Due to several additional areas of study requested by the public, county leadership, and other stakeholders, the draft EIS is now expected to be released in November.

Jerome County Commissioner Charles Howell said the commission had originally wanted to wait until the EIS was released before making a statement.

“But then they kept moving the date back,” Howell said. “The public was looking for something more from us to reassure them that their views were being heard, and we decided, well, we’d better put something out so that the public knows we’re listening to them and taking care of their objections.”

Howell said he has heard a lot from the citizens of Jerome about the proposed wind project but hasn’t heard from anyone who is in favor of it.

“I have not heard one person in the community support the project,” Howell said.

In the Jerome resolution, commissioners ask the BLM to study several aspects, including the impacts on the Jerome County Airport and the possibility of interruptions to emergency communications of the Southern Idaho Regional Communications Center (SIRCOM).

Minidoka County Commissioner Kent McClellan said other concerns about the proposed project were the impacts on cattle grazing and wildfires.

“We’re concerned about the effect on cattle grazing,” McClellan said. “And being able to fight fires with the towers being so tall, and being able to get airplanes in there to stop fires.”

McClellan said other concerns included impact to wildlife, and the cost of the power the turbines produce. Each of the resolutions requested a study of what impact the visual intrusion the 400 turbines might have.

“I think we’ll get used to seeing the towers,” McClellan said, “but I don’t want to see them out there.”