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UPDATE: Stop Lava Ridge & Salmon Falls Wind Projects

Stop Lava Ridge is a group of Magic Valley citizens organized to oppose the Lava Ridge Wind Turbine Project (read more about the project here. Formed by Dean Dimond, John Arkoosh, Karen Rogerson, Janet Keegan, and Perry VanTassell, their mission is to “educate people about the project, share ways people can help stop the project, and advocate our cause to local and state government leaders.” Although “many believe that the project is approved and there is nothing we can do,” Stop Lava Ridge wants to let the people of the Magic Valley know that “we CAN do something, and we will do everything we can to protect our homes, lands, and livelihoods.”

The people of Stop Lava Ridge have been hard at work championing the cause of the people of Idaho, our communities, habitats, historical sites, and all that lives in “our wonderful, beautiful desert,” as Joan Hurlock, a member of the organization, so admiringly describes it. The following is a brief synopsis of the organization’s happenings.

Following Stop Lava Ridge’s first public meeting on May 19, which was described as a success with the room overflowing into the hallway, petitions in opposition of the project were created, and representatives have been sent to many meetings with county commissioners including in Lincoln, Minidoka, Jerome, and Twin Falls counties. 

On May 23, Magic Valley Energy, LLC, a subsidiary of New York-based LS Power, made a presentation on their proposed Lava Ridge Wind Turbine Project to the Jerome County Commissioners. One question from the commissioners that stood out was about Jerome’s new airport and if the FAA (Federal Aviation Association) had been notified yet. LS Power senior project director Luke Papez replied that the application had been completed, yet he failed to mention in the meeting that it had not yet been approved.

The commissioners also asked about the emergency response telecommunications. Papez responded that he didn’t know of any issues with emergency communications, and that he had spoken with the appropriate authorities; however, when asked about SIRCOMM (Southern Idaho Regional Communications), Papez said that he didn’t know what that was. It leaves one wondering who the appropriate authorities were whom he had contacted if it wasn’t SIRCOMM.

After the meeting, Papez took questions from the audience. Diana, a concerned citizen, asked, “Where are the man camps going to be placed for the seven hundred construction workers?” 

“Man camps?” Papez replied. “They wouldn’t be necessary. The communities would absorb the workers and their families.”

Diana then asked Papez a follow-up question: “Are you aware of the housing and labor shortages in the small adjacent towns?” To which Papez replied, “The local land owners should take this opportunity to open up apartments or build RV parks for the workers.”

Apparently, Magic Valley Energy plans on transitioning hundreds of out-of-state workers to our Magic Valley without any intention of housing them themselves.

Earlier this month, news talk show host Bill Colley on KLIX made this comment about the wind turbine project: “In an age when we have a lot of people divided politically, it’s one of those issues that brings a lot of people together because party affiliation doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to people’s feelings on this, especially when they are opposed to it.” Evidence of our communities banding together is seen in the formation of two more groups who are also opposed to the projects, Friends of Minidoka and Stop Salmon Falls. 

The Friends of Minidoka traveled to Lincoln and then Minidoka county commissioners on May 16th to express how the Lava Ridge Wind Turbine Project would negatively affect the Minidoka National Historic Site and the surrounding areas. The site is the home of the Minidoka Incarceration Camp that held 13,000 Japanese-Americans from the west coast during WWII. The proposed wind project has placed the site on the list of “The 11 Most Endangered Historic Places” published by the National Trust of Historic Preservation. The Friends of Minidoka are fighting hard to preserve the site’s memories, views, and sacredness.

Twin Falls County Commissioners: Brent Reinke, Don Hall and Jack Johnson
Joan Hurlock presenting closing arguments
900 signatures opposing both wind projects

The Stop Salmon Falls organization has gathered over nine hundred signatures on their petition, which was presented to the Twin Falls County Commissioners in a special meeting on June 14th. The meeting was organized by Joan Turlock, and she was given one hour and up to ten speakers to plead the community’s case against the wind projects. The speakers and the topics they addressed were as follows:

Introduction by Joan Hurlock 

  1. Julie Koyle- State Ordinances on Land Use
  2. Ron James – Impact to Cultural Resources
  3. Carol MacNeil – Concerns of Recreational Users
  4. Brian Olmstead – Impact to Water Resources
  5. Chase Lanting – Impact on Emergency Services
  6. Josh Williamson – Impact to Grazers
  7. Jim O’Donnell – Aviation and Airport Concerns
  8. Mark Doerr – Impacts to Wildlife, Additional Aviation Concerns
  9. Terry Halbert – Quality of Life
  10. Hilber Nelson – Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy

Conclusion by Joan Hurlock 

The room was again overfull with people in the hall trying to squeeze inside. 

No media was present at the meeting.

The next day, June 15, the Recreation Advisory Committee (RAC) had an onsite field trip hosted by the BLM Shoshone office. Approximately one hundred people attended and were taken across the proposed site of the project, from the National Historic Site to Wilson Butte and Sid Butte. Many experts were invited to discuss the impact the turbines would have on the area, including the landscape and wildlife migration. Cody Marten, the BLM Field Manager with the Shoshone office, explained the Lava Ridge Wind Turbine Project is still in the middle of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS was projected to be completed early this fall but it is taking longer than the initial expectation. The result of the EIS will greatly impact the feasibility of the project coming to fruition.

On July 7, the BLM is having a Zoom meeting to discuss the project from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. They will take comments from the public starting at 4:00 pm. See more info, including how to join the meeting, here. Please attend and give us a report. Please submit a report to news@mvlibertyalliance.org.

If you would like to stay up-to-date on the Lava Ridge Wind Turbine Project, you can join the Stop Lava Ridge group on Facebook.

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