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Exploration of Lava Ridge Wind Project continues, geologist weighs in on environmental impact

Posted at 5:44 PM, Sep 22, 2022

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — Southern Idaho has the potential to become the location of one of the most prominent renewable energy sources in the country. Now, the fate and future of the Lava Ridge wind project lies in the hands of the Bureau of Land Management.

BLM tasked a resource advisory council to help determine the environmental outcome of the project. The council on voted August 11 to form a subcommittee to investigate and compile research about the project in order to create a recommendation for BLM.

The subcommittee held its third meeting on September 22 to continue conversation on the future of Magic Valley energy's wind project.

Lava Ridge and Salmon Falls projects

“It is a wide variety of issues and potential impacts that the subcommittee has learned about,” said Public Affairs Specialist Heather Tiel-Nelson.

BLM officials want public interaction with these meetings and made this process as transparent as possible. Members of the advisory council consist of local residents of the Magic Valley.

RELATED: BLM held its second meeting on the Lava Ridge wind projects as more counties come out in opposition

“It's a citizen-based advisory council comprised of all different interests. They represent from live stock grazing to dispersed recreation to environmental interests to tribal and elected officials,” said Tiel-Nelson.

Issues raised to BLM include grazing issues, take of animals such as birds and bats, and blasting of the are causing damage to Idaho's aquifers.

College of Southern Idaho geologist professor Shawn Willsey knows the importance of Idaho's aquifers and the value they add to southern Idaho.

“It provides a lot of water for our agricultural areas and our communities as well so it’s an incredibly important resource and one that we hopefully as citizens and government entities are doing a good job of like protecting and taking care of,” said Willsey.

Though blasting is a concern, the foundations needed for these turbines to be deep enough for stable construction wouldn't reach the underground water source.

“The depth to the ground water is at least 250 (feet) and in some places closer to 400 feet so the aquifer is not even near the surface. The blasting, the way I understand it, and the excavation of rock would take place maybe within down to a depth of 20 to 30 feet,” said Willsey.

The next subcommittee meeting takes place on October 19. For more information on the meeting, click here. For more information on the wind project, click here.