Opinions about the proposed China Mountain Wind Project are mixed. But they are all based on the same central question: How will it affect the way of life for those who live and play in the sprawling landscape of Brown’s Bench?
More than three dozen people showed up at a public meeting Thursday in Twin Falls to learn more about the 425-megawatt project, which, if approved, would scatter turbines across 30,700 acres in southern Idaho and northern Nevada. The meeting, organized by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, provided an outlet for people to provide comments and gain a better understanding about the proposal.
Both support and a skeptical eye toward the project were present at the event.
Tom Gilbertson of Twin Falls likes to frequent the region for hunting trips and to photograph wildlife.
He’s not entirely opposed to the project, but he still has concerns about the long-term environmental effect on his sportsmen activities.
“I see elk and deer and I’m just afraid if they put too many of those things up there, it’s going to kind of destroy the area,” he said. “It’s really a beautiful area.”
Even so, Gilbertson also said he recognizes the need for future energy sources, adding that he’s well aware of the wind from his time bow hunting there.
Others were less guarded and more optimistic.
Stan Mai, president of the 400-member Magic Valley ATV Riders, said the organization supports the project. The group’s backing of the wind project comes chiefly because all the roads for ATVs will remain open for riders to use, he said.
“To be perfectly honest it’s probably not my favorite thing, but it’s something that I think is needed,” Mai said. “It’s going to change the landscape, the visuals, but I think it’s an appropriate use.”
Mark Alexander of Filer, who does jeep and motorcycle riding in the region, echoed that, saying he doesn’t see anything problematic with the project.
Elsewhere in Idaho, wind projects have had a mixed reception. Eastern Idaho residents irritated by the growth of wind farms pressed lawmakers this session for a moratorium on such projects to study the issue further.
Lawmakers rejected that effort, though, saying wind project approval is a local decision. Rep. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls, who was at Thursday’s meeting, said he’s glad the moratorium effort failed, adding that the China Mountain project will help the economy.
This project will provide about 750 jobs during the construction phase and 50 jobs for operations and maintenance when finished, said Suzanne Leta Liou, development manager for RES America Developments Inc., the firm overseeing the project.
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