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Idaho's political leadership weighs in on Magic Valley wind project

Luke Papez of Magic Valley energy stands behind a truck giving a talk about a proposed wind farm.
Rachel Cohen
Boise State Public Radio
Luke Papez, the project director for Magic Valley Energy, speaks about the proposed Lava Ridge Wind Farm outside the Bureau of Land Management office in Twin Falls in 2022.

Several of Idaho’s federal and state politicians are weighing in on a wind farm proposal in the Magic Valley that’s currently moving through an environmental review.

Earlier this week, Gov. Brad Little, Lt. Gov. Scott Bedke, U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson and Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo wrote a letter to the Bureau of Land Management’s Idaho State Director Karen Kelleher voicing their concerns over the Lava Ridge Wind Project.

It would include up to 400 turbines on BLM land in Jerome, Lincoln and Minidoka counties and would produce up to 1,000 megawatts of power.

The concerns stated in the letter include how the turbines might impact the ability to fight wildfires in the sagebrush ecosystem and how trucking the structures to the project site could affect Idaho’s roads.

“If all these concerns are not addressed,” the political leaders wrote, “it is unlikely we will be able to support this project moving forward.”

In response, Magic Valley Energy, the company proposing the project, said several of the points raised in the letter are addressed in the BLM’s draft Environmental Impact Statement released last month.

“The draft EIS addresses these questions, and shows that implementation of BLM preferred alternatives will avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts to important resources. This is a good example of how the public process led by the BLM can lead to a compromise all sides can appreciate,” said Luke Papez, the senior director of project development, in a written statement.

Magic Valley Energy’s estimates show Idaho would receive about $4 million annually in tax revenue once Lava Ridge is operating. The company said the project would help Idaho contribute to a renewable supply of domestic power in the West.

But, those stated benefits have not lessened local opposition.

On Thursday, a resolution reiterating that view was introduced at the Idaho Statehouse. It was approved for printing by the House Resources and Conservation Committee.

“The basic concern locally, I think, is that their interests are going to be overlooked by the feds when the BLM sites this,” said Rep. Jack Nelsen (R-Jerome) who introduced it to the committee. Rep. Lance Clow (R-Twin Falls) is also a sponsor.

The resolution also asks Gov. Brad Little and Attorney General Raúl Labrador to take legal actions available in encouraging the BLM to reject the project.

In January, the BLM’s draft EIS revealed the agency favors two slightly smaller turbine arrangements, which it says will help mitigate some of the impacts of the project. Comments are due in response by March 21.The federal agency will likely make a decision on the project this fall.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2023 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.

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