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Utility pulls out of Idaho wind farm project likely killing it

NV Energy has decided to back out of what would have been the largest wind farm in Idaho.

The Nevada utility was working with RES America Development to build the China Mountain Wind Project with anywhere from 170 to 200 wind turbines in Elko County and Idaho. But the BLM deferred a decision on the project earlier this year while it considered how to keep sage grouse from listing under the Endangered Species Act.

The decision by the utility likely ends the project that was expected to generate up to 425 megawatts of electricity on more than 25,500 acres of BLM-administered lands and 10,700 acres of State and private lands on the Idaho-Nevada border south of Twin Falls.

The project has support from local ranchers and business leaders in Twin Falls. But environmentalists and anti-wind power activists joined together to oppose the wind farm.

“When you drive down I-84 you can see wind facilities that were built in the best places for energy development – where it benefits local landowners and has low impact on wildlife,” said Lara Rozzell, an energy associate for the Idaho Conservation League.

The China Mountain project was sited within one of two important sage-grouse strongholds biologists say is essential for the long-term survival of sage-grouse. It lies within a large preliminary priority habitat area that contains approximately 42 percent of the sage-grouse population in a key Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ sage-grouse management zone.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined in 2010 that sage grouse was warranted but precluded from listing under the Endangered Species Act. In a subsequent stipulated settlement agreement, the Service indicated it would re-evaluate the status of sage-grouse in 2015.