© 2024 Boise State Public Radio
NPR in Idaho
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Report on Magic Valley wind farm due out this month

Flickr Creative Commons

A proposal to build Idaho’s largest wind farm is set to receive its most in-depth assessment to date this month, when the Bureau of Land Management releases the draft Environmental Impact Statement on the project.

The Lava Ridge Wind Project would include about 400 turbines located mostly on BLM land in Jerome, Lincoln and Minidoka counties. It could generate up to 1,000 megawatts of wind power.

During a public input period last fall, the BLM received more than 1,400 comments on the project.

“We got a lot of information from the public on issues that were important to them,” said Kasey Prestwich, the project manager in the BLM’s Shoshone Field Office. The office is preparing to release the draft EIS in mid- to late-January.

In the report, the agency will further analyze those points of concern raised in public comments, including potential impacts to cultural and historic properties like the Minidoka National Historic Site, wildlife, livestock grazing and recreation.

Other agencies with special expertise or that could be affected by the project are helping the BLM draft the report as "cooperating agencies." They include the National Park Service, the Governor's Office of Species Conservation and the counties where the turbines will be located, among others.

Lava Ridge has faced resistance from local residents, leading all the commissioners of in Jerome, Lincoln and Minidoka counties to sign on to letters stating their opposition.

Yet Magic Valley Energy, a subsidiary of New York-based energy company LS Power, which is proposing the project, says the wind farm could benefit the community through tax revenue and jobs – several hundred during construction and about 20 afterwards.

The document the BLM is preparing to release this month may indicate the direction the agency is leaning on approving the project. In the end, it could choose to approve it as it’s currently proposed by Magic Valley Energy, it could favor an alternative turbine arrangement to mitigate certain impacts or it could choose “no action,” which would amount to a rejection.

However, the EIS won’t include a final decision; the “Record of Decision” will likely be issued this fall.

The Biden Administration's goal of permitting 25 gigawatts of renewable energy on public lands by 2025 to combat climate change could factor into the outcome.

“But, we evaluate each individual project on their own merits and make decisions based on those projects themselves,” Prestwich said.

The release of the draft EIS will kick off a 60-day public comment period.

The BLM’s Lava Ridge Subcommittee, made up of local stakeholders, will hold meetings on Jan. 25 and Feb. 8 to go over the draft EIS report, where there will also be opportunities to comment.

Public open house meetings will be scheduled, likely in February, in the Magic Valley, as well as in Portland and Seattle to allow members of the Japanese American community outside of Idaho to participate.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

I cover environmental issues, outdoor recreation and local news for Boise State Public Radio. Beyond reporting, I contribute to the station’s digital strategy efforts and enjoy thinking about how our work can best reach and serve our audience. The best part of my job is that I get to learn something new almost every day.

You make stories like this possible.

The biggest portion of Boise State Public Radio's funding comes from readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

Your donation today helps make our local reporting free for our entire community.