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Magic Valley wind project moves forward, BLM considers alternatives

A map by the Bureau of Land Management that shows where wind turbines in the Lava Ridge Wind Project could be placed
Bureau of Land Management
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A Bureau of Land Management map of the Lava Ridge Wind Project from June of 2021

As plans for a large Magic Valley wind farm move forward, officials are balancing renewable energy production and cultural and environmental impacts.

The Lava Ridge Wind Project would include about 400 turbines, mostly on Bureau of Land Management land in Jerome, Lincoln and Minidoka counties.

The BLM is assessing developer Magic Valley Energy’s proposal. This week, the agency shared some alternative turbine arrangements based on public comments it received during the scoping period last fall.

The Biden Administration is pressing for more renewable energy development on public lands, with the goal of permitting at least 25 gigawatts of solar, wind and geothermal energy by 2025.

Lava Ridge would be Idaho’s largest wind farm to date, producing roughly 1,000 megawatts of power.

More than 1,000 people submitted comments about the wind project to the BLM last fall. One of most comment themes included impacts to the nearby Minidoka National Historic Site.

The non-profit Friends of Minidoka, many family members of Japanese Americans formerly incarcerated at the Minidoka War Relocation Center and those once incarcerated themselves are opposed to the project because of how it would change the historic footprint of the site. The National Park Service raised concerns, too.

Friends of Minidoka said nearly all turbines, as they’re currently laid out, would be visible from the Historic Site.

Martin said at least one alternative proposal addresses that concern in his presentation.

“Particularly, we focused on reducing the amount of turbines that would be sighted near Wilson Butte Cave and the Minidoka National Historic Site,” he said.

Other public comments focused on environmental justice and livestock grazing. Another alternative BLM shared focuses on reducing potential impacts to sage grouse.

The BLM plans to release an environmental impact statement on the project this summer.

As of last year, before the BLM’s scoping process was extended, Magic Valley Energy had planned on getting the wind turbines up and producing energy by the end of 2024.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio

As the south-central Idaho reporter, I cover the Magic and Wood River valleys. I also enjoy writing about issues related to health and the environment.