County asks BLM for management plan update before considering more wind farms
Credit: Lorien Nettleton | 10 Jan. 2022 | magicvalley.com ~~
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Twin Falls – A recent surge in wind and solar energy mega-projects proposed on public lands in Idaho has Twin Falls County commissioners wondering whether a 40-year-old management plan adequately addresses this new potential use of public lands.
On Monday, the Twin Falls County Board of Commissioners voted to send a letter to the Bureau of Land Management asking the agency to update the 1982 Management Framework Plan for Twin Falls County. The request was one they hope will provide more local considerations in how large-scale projects like the proposed Salmon Falls wind energy project are evaluated.
“Our hope is it pauses the project so the resource management plan can be re-done, taking into account these large-scale projects,” Commissioner Jack Johnson said.
Salmon Falls is the second project that L.S. Power has applied for on public lands in southern Idaho. Its bigger sibling, Lava Ridge, is proposed for an area spanning areas of Minidoka, Lincoln and Jerome counties. Lava Ridge is bigger, more well-known, and further along in the permitting process – the Draft Environmental Impact Statement is expected to be made public at the end of January.
While Salmon Falls is about 18 months behind Lava Ridge in the federal application process, it has not yet entered the scoping period, when agencies, organizations and the public can request studies be done to take into account all the impacts of such a large project.
The company announced Monday its planning to develop a second wind energy project rural Twin Falls County, named the Salmon Falls Wind Project.
Commissioners say the Management Framework Plan was comprehensive for its time, but its current value is limited – energy production from sources such as wind and solar – were not factored into the original plan.
“It is impossible for LS Power’s proposal to be in conformance with the Management Framework Plan because nothing analogous to wind turbines was mentioned,” the letter said.
The plan has seen several amendments and should reflect current uses, BLM spokesperson Heather Tiel-Nelson said.
“Certainly a couple of our management plans … are dated, but they’ve been amended through the years so they do remain fairly current as far as identifying where renewable energy projects could be proposed,” Tiel-Nelson said.
“These are big decisions being made, they need to have updated studies and plans for the area,” Commissioner Don Hall said. “If we were asking the federal government to do something on their land, they would say, ‘Well, we’ve got to do an updated plan before we do that,’ which makes sense.”
After Lava Ridge, people have started becoming more aware of the projects being proposed across southern Idaho. Several other projects are in pre-approval stages and have not been made public.
“We have received several applications that are in various stages in this process for renewable energy projects, everything from wind to solar,” Tiel-Nelson said.
“As these pick up steam, there’s a lot of these planned. And for whatever reason, they’re targeting Idaho to do these,” Johnson said. “We’ve heard overwhelmingly from our citizens in our county; they don’t want these on public lands.”
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