The Bureau of Land Management is accepting comments on the proposed 1,000-megawatt wind energy project, which could put as many as 400 turbines across 114 square miles between Twin Falls and Shoshone.
A group called Stop Lava Ridge is holding a meeting on Thursday to share information about the BLM’s draft environmental impact statement and to give people guidance on how they can effectively deliver feedback to the BLM.
The Lava Ridge proposal has been met with widespread opposition in the Magic Valley. The boards of commissioners of Lincoln, Jerome and Minidoka counties have all said they cannot support the proposal.
The Stop Lava Ridge group on Facebook has nearly 3,000 members and that number grows daily.
Dean Dimond’s farm is just north of the Minidoka National Historic Site east of Eden. He is just one of the thousands of people who would be directly affected by the proposed wind project. He said the group whose effort to prevent Lava Ridge from progressing is made up of regular folks who like the area as it is and don’t want to see it changed.
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“We’re all just normal citizens,” Dimond said. “We’re not politicians, we’re not group organizers and all that stuff, so it’s been a real learning curve for all of us to figure out what we needed to do to try and gather more people and get more and more involved.”
Lava Ridge would be the first wind farm on public lands in Idaho, but there are other projects in the pre-proposal stage.
Dimond is one of many people who sees Lava Ridge as a test case for whether the local population will have a say in what is done on public lands.
“The people of the Magic Valley have stood up and said ‘this is not what we want,’” Dimond said. “So this is going to come down to a decision as to whether the local people have a say in these projects.”
The Stop Lava Ridge meeting will feature presentations from speakers addressing just some of the aspects of the proposed project.
Local hunter Jerry Horton will talk about the biology of the public lands and the value to hunters and recreators.
Brian Olmstead, an Idaho Water Resources Board member who used to head the Twin Falls Canal Co., will talk about the project’s possible impacts on the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer.
The main portion of the meeting will help people navigate the draft EIS and will provide some guidance on the most effective ways to submit comments on the proposal.
Organizers have said that BLM District Manager Mike Courtney might even be on hand to discuss the BLM’s role in the project and answer other questions.
John Arkoosh is a rancher and holds grazing permits on the Star Lake allotment. He said he grazes cattle in the same area as his father and his grandfather did, dating back to the 1930s.
Like many grazers in the area, Lava Ridge would directly affect Arkoosh’s livelihood.
“The current administration is trying to impose their will on the unwilling public in Idaho,” Arkoosh said.
The role public comments play in the process is important, Arkoosh said. That’s why a good portion of Thursday’s meeting will be focused on how to make effective comments.
“It’s really very important, now that we have this Draft and have the opportunity to weigh in on it,” Arkoosh said. “It’s very important that people do so.”