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Bureau of Land Management trims size of Idaho wind farm project

Robert Besser
14 Jun 2024

TWIN FALLS, Idaho: The preferred alternative for a proposed large-scale wind energy farm in southern Idaho by the federal Bureau of Land Management would shrink its size by nearly half and move it farther from a national historic site.

Government leaders, local ranchers, and people have opposed the proposed Lava Ridge wind farm. They said the project endangers the Minidoka National Historic Site, used to detain Japanese Americans during World War II.

The agency released its final environmental review last week, detailing its preferred alternative to the original wind turbine plan. The revised plan proposes reducing the number of wind turbines from 400 to 241 and limiting the maximum height of the electricity-generating turbines to 660 feet, KTVB-TV reported.

Additionally, the plan positions the closest turbine nine miles away from the historic site. The agency explained that the adjustments in the corridor configuration would help preserve the visitor experience of the remote nature of the WWII site.

The proposal, moved in 2020, stated that the farm would be built within about two miles of the historic site's visitor center. Nonprofit organization, Friends of the Minidoka, was worried the project could destroy the historical experience of the site.

Robyn Achilles, the organization's executive director, said the Biden administration disregarded most of the historical research sent to them to better protect the historic site.

The Biden Administration has permitted renewable energy projects on public lands by 2025 as part of its response to climate change. Magic Valley Energy, a New York-based LS Power subsidiary, proposed the Lava Ridge energy project. It said economic activity in the area would increase partly by creating jobs and increasing local government tax revenues.

Luke Papez, senior director of project development for LS Power, said the agency's new preferred alternative strikes a balance between protecting environmental resources and the need for additional domestic energy production.

The Bureau released its draft environmental impact statement in early 2023 with two alternatives. That elicited more than 11,000 public comments and 1,400 scoping comments in 90 days.

The final environmental review's alternative reduces the "area disturbed" by nearly 50 percent, from 8,395 acres to 4,492 acres.

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