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Magic Valley commissioners say residents are opposed to proposed wind farms

Edith Kopp, wind farm
Molly Messick
/
StateImpact Idaho
File photo of a wind farm near American Falls.

County commissioners in the Magic Valley are increasing their attention to proposed wind farms in their communities.

Commissioners in Lincoln, Jerome and Minidoka counties said they are hearing an abundance of negative feedback from constituents about the proposed Lava Ridge Wind Project that could bring about 400 turbines to the region.

“Most of those comments have come from people who live in the area, or hunt in the area, or graze in the area, or have some times to it, whether recreation or some form,” said Minidoka County Commissioner Wayne Schenk at the Bureau of Land Management’s Lava Ridge subcommittee meeting last week.

Jerome County Commissioner Ben Crouch said he has only heard from residents who are against the project.

Still, the commissioners of the three counties where the turbines will be located are waiting until the BLM releases its draft environmental impact statement, or EIS, this fall before officially weighing in. At that point, they could choose to sign a joint resolution.

“We feel strongly that before making a position, that we wait for the EIS so that we have all information in front of us,” said Lincoln County Commissioner Rebecca Wood.

The EIS will consider impacts on wildfire, recreation, grazing and historic properties, among other things. When the draft report is released, another public comment period will open.

Wood said while she, too, has heard mostly from people in the community who are against the project, she has also talked with several people who are in favor of it, whether because of the tax benefits to the local communities or because of the development of renewable energy.

Wood also noted counties have participated heavily in the EIS process. Each of the three counties has a representative on the BLM’s Lava Ridge subcommittee.

During last week’s meeting, one member asked what would happen if the counties ended up opposing the project.

Mike Courtney, the BLM’s Twin Fall District Manager, said if the commissioners had issues the agency could address, those would be reflected in the final EIS.

“If they’re just opposed,” Courtney said, “that’s something we’ll have to weigh in the decision-making process.”

The Twin Falls County Commissioners are not waiting for the BLM’s EIS on a different wind farm before coming out against it.

The Salmon Falls Wind Project is being proposed in rural Twin Falls County by the same company that’s looking to develop Lava Ridge, Magic Valley Energy, and it’s not as far along as Lava Ridge; the roughly 280 turbines could come online in 2026.

The commissioners unanimously passed a resolution against the project last week after more than 150 people showed up to a public comment forum last month to voice opposition to the project.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2022 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.