Idaho’s top elected officials, some state legislators and local stakeholders last week expressed concerns about or voiced solid opposition to the proposed Lava Ridge Wind Project, which calls for installing up to 400 massive wind turbines on federal, state and private lands northeast of Twin Falls.
On Feb. 6, Gov. Brad Little and Lt. Gov. Scott Bedke joined three of Idaho’s four representatives in Washington, D.C.—Sen. Mike Crapo, Sen. Jim Risch and Rep. Mike Simpson—in issuing a letter expressing several significant concerns about the project to the Idaho office of the Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency reviewing the project.
That was followed on Feb. 9 by the Idaho House Resources and Conservation Committee voting to introduce a resolution that states its concerns about the project and its support for a “no-build option,” which is effectively a denial of the project. The resolution was printed as legislation on Feb. 13 and referred to the House Environment, Energy and Technology Committee for a hearing.
The project—proposed by a company called Magic Valley Energy, an affiliate of New York City-based LS Power—aims to construct a commercial-scale wind-energy facility on land in Jerome, Lincoln and Minidoka counties, with the affected area ranging up to 197,000 acres. The BLM is currently gathering public input on a draft environmental impact statement, which includes five alternatives, including the no-build option.
Magic Valley Energy’s wind turbines would reach a maximum height of 740 feet. The project would also include infrastructure, roads, power lines for electricity transmission, substations, maintenance facilities and a battery storage facility. It could have a generation capacity of 1,000 megawatts or more, the BLM’s draft EIS states.
The four alternatives for permitting the project outlined in the draft EIS include:
- Magic Valley Energy’s “proposed action”—called Alternative B—which would build up to 400 turbines in corridors, with the total project area spanning slightly more than 197,000 acres. The corridors would cover approximately 84,000 acres, mostly on BLM land but also reaching into state and private lands. The project’s infrastructure would disturb an estimated 9,100 acres. The intent is to connect the project to an existing Idaho Power Co. substation or a new substation.
- Alternative C, which the BLM has identified as one of its two “preferred alternatives.” It would allow a maximum of 378 turbines on a total project area of about 146,000 acres. It would remove some corridors in the southwestern and northern parts of the project area to lessen impacts on natural areas and the Minidoka National Historic Site, which commemorates more than 13,000 Japanese-Americans who were imprisoned at a relocation center there during World War II.
- Alternative D, the smallest of the proposed “action alternatives.” It would permit up to 280 turbines on an area of about 110,000 acres. The smaller scale would have less of an impact on sage-grouse and wildlife habitat, and would reduce the potential for bird mortality and conflicts with livestock grazing operations, the BLM stated.
- Alternative E—the BLM’s second preferred alternative—which would permit a maximum of 269 turbines on a project area of about 122,000 acres. Its smaller scale would have the same benefits as Alternative D, the BLM has concluded.
In their letter to BLM Idaho State Director Karen Kelleher, Little, Bedke, Crapo, Risch and Simpson state that Idahoans “cherish the concept of multiple and mixed uses on their public lands,” but that projects need conservation measures, predictability and support from local communities.
“These deep-rooted values are compromised by a piecemeal approach to large-scale generation projects on public lands,” the letter states. “Dedicating hundreds of square miles of public lands to a specific use will have a long-term effect on recreation, grazing, sporting uses, and the land in general.”
The elected leaders state that they believe the BLM’s public outreach efforts have been “insufficient.”
“As it stands today, the local community predominantly has not shown support for this development,” the letter states.
Other concerns noted by the group include impacts on existing electricity customers, increased wildfire risk, impacts of construction on Idaho roads and highways, and impacts on supplies of water, concrete and other materials also valued by other businesses.
“If all these concerns are not addressed, it is unlikely we will be able to support this project moving forward,” the letter states.
The House resolution introduced last week also lists numerous concerns about the Lava Ridge project, while noting that it is designed to send power to Nevada and California. It points to a lack of housing to support a construction workforce; impacts on wildlife, recreation, hunting and agriculture; impacts on the Minidoka National Historic Site; and public opinion against the project.
It resolves that Little and Attorney General Raul Labrador review the project “to assure that the interests of Idaho are foremost in the final decision.”
It concludes: “Be it further resolved that the Legislature considers the concerns of Idaho and the Magic Valley justification to support a no-build option.”
If the resolution is adopted by the Legislature, it would be advisory in nature, not binding.
Members of a BLM Idaho Resource Advisory Council subcommittee—a panel compiling information and conducting research on the Magic Valley Energy proposal —also expressed concerns during a meeting Wednesday, Feb. 8, to discuss the project.
Subcommittee member Chad Colter, representing tribal interests, said more surveys need to be done to identify archaeological sites in the area. If sites aren’t identified in advance, he argued, they would be destroyed by the development.
“Does this project really need to be this big?” he asked.
Minidoka County Commissioner Wayne Schenk—also a subcommittee member—said stakeholders in the region have largely determined that the project is not an appropriate use of the land and would have “detrimental effects.”
“The list goes on and on of things that have to be mitigated,” he said.
For its part, Magic Valley Energy states on its website that renewable energy is needed throughout the West. Idaho has a history of creating valuable exports, the company states, and local communities, schools, fire departments and recreation districts would benefit from tax revenues derived from the project.
Public lands would remain open for hunting and recreation after construction is completed, the company states, and efforts are being made to create “an environmentally friendly project design that includes avoiding the siting of wind turbines in environmentally sensitive areas and scheduling construction to avoid disturbing wildlife during crucial times of the year.”
The final decision will be made by the BLM. It expects to release a final EIS in the summer and to issue a decision in the fall.
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Everyone should know that the Valmy coal fired plant that was supposed to be shut down probably now will be extended with gas. It could be a solar plant with huge federal incentives or the transmission line from balmy in Nevada to Idaho could utilize the power from this wind plant. Wind is much better than coal-fired.
Kiki, read Magic Valley Energy’s website. The electricity from Lava ridge won’t go to people in Idaho. They say it will add to aodahos “exports”.
As for Valmey, IPC has already stopped taking electricity from one of the two plants (in 2019). Note that the Solar replacement of 600MW will not cover the lost 568MW for
This plane. How can that ne? Because the sun only shines in the day. So they will make up the difference with gas, and eventually 400MW storage. Fro apple as to apples basis, because of their unreliability, wind/solar have to be teamed with either storage or gas backup to be comparable to baseload coal, gas or nuclear plants. That has to be considered in their coats.
Perry/dude, please invest in a spell checker or a 12 step program to help with you you deal with your unintelligible rants.
Right on, and how many times has he criticized the IME for the same?
@aodaho......(She said "it could be a"......)
And, isn`t half a loaf better than nothing?
Kiki, not sure you notice but the article was about wind. Not solar, which i understand you have a personal, financial interest in it's success.
wrv Idaho - you hit the nail squarely on the head about Kiki's devotion to solar.
No IME coverage on this until someone wrote a letter to the paper (um, who would that have been?). 24% of respondents in this week’s IME survey indicate they know little about it. Perhaps the IME held off writing about this given that Lava Ridge has been a consistent advertiser in the paper. This is a massive project that uses public lands for public profit with little benefit to people who currently live and work in Idaho. It is refreshing to see our elected officials unified in opposition to this.
Our elected officials should present their alternatives.
Alternatives for what? Power generation for California—that’s what this is being built for. Why don’t they do offshore wind off the CA coast?
Alternatives for our local energy needs.
I do find it a wee bit hypocritical to argue against selling wind power to California while we it the Wood River Valley are using energy derived from burning coal in Wyoming (and calling it "green" energy).
But don`t get me wrong, I don`t want windmills out there. I want a regional airport at Magic to replace Friedman.[beam]
*Sun Valley Magic International*
Cheaper to con their way on to public land and cheat Idahoans.
Perry, didn't your parents ever teach you about sharing? Your views are more than a bit myopic.
HPB is a self-proclaimed expert in offshore wind, admonishing the state of CA for not considering this option? What is the downside from an Idaho business selling its product outside of Idaho? Isn't that what happens with all of our agriculture production? Have you tried to buy an Idaho potato in Idaho. Your bloviating continues and has become my entertainment on Wed & Fri. Yes, I must lead a boring life, but it includes staying up to date on current events around here and fact checking most things. Your potshots are annoying while at the same time entertaining. Keep up the BS.
Perry, IME is part of the growth machine, they censor criticism and promote out of control growth mean while putting on facade of being fair minded liberals.
My experience with the Mountain Express is quite different. Yes, they push/publish populism opinions. That said, they also allow a extremist views to dominate the conversation.
I agree with wrv Idaho.
HPB, are you taking credit for exposing this plot to take advantage of Idahoans? Where have you been?? Do you rely solely on the IME to bring you news of current events?? Wake up, go 12-step, or quietly fade into the Neverland.
Surely wind turbans should never interfere with the blight of welfare cattle grazing operations on our public lands!
Wind turbines are a blight to the landscape, the environment and are a complete sham of an energy resource. The current energy sources are laughable compared to the technology that’s been available (but would put entire industries out of business.) This - and other “green energy” measures are a vehicle for payoff. The US government has made money laundering an art form. The question to ask is who is paying who to install these steel dinosaurs on the land? And the more interesting question: How much are they getting? The manufacturer, the land owner, the BLM. All of it. Follow the money. Always follow the money.
"LS Power, a New York-based energy company, wants to construct 400 wind turbines across 75,000 acres of Idaho public lands. Contrary to local media reports, the energy generated from these turbines will not be for Idaho users but residents in California."
Welcome to the discussion.