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The Lava Ridge Wind Project would change the landscape of south-central Idaho. Arguably, forever.
This isn’t us embellishing the facts, or speaking in hyperbole. It would be the reality of blasting into the Earth to stand up as many as 400 wind turbines across up to 114 square miles between Twin Falls and Shoshone that would, in many cases, be taller than even the Space Needle that serves as the centerpiece of the Seattle skyline. The gigantic, mostly steel structures with three whirling rotor blades would be visible from nearly everywhere across the Magic Valley.
That’s 114 square miles, or nearly 6.5 times bigger than the size of the city of Twin Falls. Just think about that for a moment.
Yet another sign of the proposed project’s massive scope: It would require nearly 500 miles of new roads to connect the siting corridors in the largest of four proposed alternatives from the Bureau of Land Management.
While some folks have already made up their minds against Lava Ridge, for those reasons or others, there’s also this to consider: “What I have learned over the last four decades is that energy development in Idaho, when done right, benefits all of us – both economically and environmentally,” Peter Richardson, a Boise-based energy attorney for some four decades and chair of the Idaho Energy Freedom Advisory Council, told us.
The economic impact, according to preliminary estimates in 2021 from Magic Valley Energy, would be significant. In addition to $80 million in tax revenues for the surrounding districts during the construction phase, Lava Ridge, once operational, would generate nearly $4 million annually for schools, roads, cemeteries and fire districts in Jerome, Lincoln and Minidoka counties.
Environmentally, Lava Ridge would require little to no water and produce little to no carbon emissions. The wind turbines are also “compatible with farming and ranching operations” and wind projects have, in fact, “have helped many Idaho farms and ranches stay solvent,” Richardson said.
So, if money talks, Lava Ridge might sound good to you. If you’re especially concerned about the climate, you probably like the idea of introducing more clean energy.
Those aren’t compelling arguments to the opposition – which includes the Stop Lava Ridge citizen group that met again this week to encourage locals to speak out against the project during a 60-day public comment period that began last month and runs through March 21.
They favor a fifth alternative included in the 1,000-page-plus draft version of the Environmental Impact Statement released last month: Scrap it.
As John Arkoosh, a Magic Valley rancher and fierce opponent of the project, told the Times-News this week: “The current administration is trying to impose their will on the unwilling public in Idaho.”
For Stop Lava Ridge and other like-minded locals, the wind project isn’t worth the risk to wildlife and grazing and would be a blight on the state’s pristine lands – all to produce power to serve mostly homes in Southern California.
Let California put the turbines in their ground, they say.
Does the promise of an economic boost for Idaho outweigh what would be obvious damage to the Magic Valley’s visual aesthetics and the accompanying noise of 740-foot-tall turbines?
That’s for you to decide. While the Times-News is deeply reporting on Lava Ridge – and we will through the public comment period and, if green-lighted, well beyond – you shouldn’t mistake prominent front-page reporting for our support.
The front page is for reporting the facts and providing a space for voices on both sides of the project to have their say.
The Opinion page is for supporting – and this board is still researching the hundreds of pages of the draft EIS to inform our stance based on the facts. We encourage you to do the same.
Do your homework. Go to an open house. Read our reporting. Ask questions.
You can read the draft EIS and learn more about Lava Ridge on the BLM’s website (https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/2013782/510) ahead of informational open houses scheduled this month in Shoshone (Feb. 22, 2 p.m., at the Lincoln County Community Center, 201 South Beverly St.) and Twin Falls (Feb. 23, 5 p.m., at Canyon Crest Event Center, 330 Canyon Crest Dr.).
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