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FUTURE OF LAVA RIDGE: Congressmen speak on controversial project

Posted at 6:38 PM, Oct 31, 2023

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — UPDATE: Senator Jim Risch released a statement on June 6 about the development in opposition to the decision by the BLM to continue with the Lava Ridge Wind Project.

“Idahoans could not be more clear that they do not support Lava Ridge. Yet, for some reason, the BLM continues to push forward this project that no one in Idaho wants,” said Risch. “This is not over—I will continue to fight this unnecessary and ill begotten project.”

From a bluff on the north edge of Dean Dimond’s farm, you can look out across the public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and see clear to the Sawtooths, shining with the season’s first snows on their peaks.

The wind is the only sound you hear.

“You can come out here on a clear winter night and it looks like you could just reach up and grab a star,” Dimond told Idaho News 6. “If you fill it full of lights, you’ll never have that again.”

Dimond has farmed his 500 acres since the 1990s. His property borders public lands managed by BLM, and he invited me out to have a look at where up to 400 wind turbines of the Lava Ridge project could end up, right alongside his property.

A proposal to install up to 400 wind turbines – each towering up to 740 feet tall – has been met with vocal opposition from Magic Valley residents who see the decision as being beyond their influence.

"That’s all we kept hearing from local commissioners to the delegates and everything else was ‘its a federal thing and we don’t have any say on it,’” Dimond said.

Last week, Idaho’s congressional delegation of Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, along with Reps. Mike Simpson and Jim Fulcher, introduced the “Don’t Develop Obstructive Infrastructure on our Terrain Act."

Known as the “Don't Do It Act,” if passed, it would halt the Lava Ridge wind energy project in the Magic Valley counties of Jerome, Lincoln and Minidoka.

In March this year, the Idaho Legislature passed a resolution in opposition to the project, and in April the commissioners from seven Magic Valley counties signed a joint resolution in opposition to developing renewable energy projects on public lands in the area.

RELATED | BLM seeks public input on Renewable Energy Strategy in Idaho

Dimond said he feels like people who live near renewable proposals on public lands deserve to have a voice.

“It is public ground, and I think it should be continued to be used for the best of the local public,“ Dimond said. “That’s why this legislation is so great because it does give the local people a voice in what goes on on these public grounds.”

In Shoshone’s Manhattan Café at lunchtime, a gentleman named Stephen was about to tuck into some grub.

Stephen, who didn’t share his last name, felt that the country’s energy infrastructure was far behind where it needed to be, and told me something needed to be done.

“This administration, and further administrations, whether they’re Democrat or Republican, are going to have to figure out how they’re going to get more renewable power,” Stephen told Idaho News 6. “Because we can’t burn coal anymore. We're basically running out of natural gas.”

In a statement from the company that proposed Lava Ridge, Magic Valley Energysaid they have “spent the last four years shaping the Lava Ridge project to incorporate community feedback, by reducing potential impacts, while maintaining the ability to contribute to the increasing demand for new energy resources.”

They added that they are “committed to creating homegrown, clean energy to support families, businesses, and industry in Idaho and the west,” and will continue “engagement with state leaders and community members to ensure the Lava Ridge project is a success for Idaho.”