TWIN FALLS — A proposed wind turbine project is facing some opposition due to its proximity to the Minidoka National Historic Site. Now, advocates are speaking out to highlight why preserving the space is important for so many individuals.
Magic Valley Energy proposed the "Lava Ridge Wind Project", and it would bring 400 wind turbines to the Jerome area and cover roughly 73,000 acres of land owned by the Bureau of Land Management.
Although the wind farm would not directly be on National Park property, it would be encroach on the historical footprint of the original Minidoka War Relocation Center, which held over 13,000 Japanese American citizens during World War II.
“You never want to be in the position of opposing renewable energy, and it’s something that we definitely need," said David Inoue, the Executive Director of the JACL (Japanese American Citizens League). "Not just our country needs it, but the world needs it, but we think there are better ways to do this.”
If approved the turbines would be roughly one to two miles away from the Minidoka National Historic Site's visitor center.
For many Japanese Americans, especially those sent there, the site is very sacred ground. David Sakura's incarceration at Minidoka began in 1942, less than a year after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He had not even finished kindergarten when, at the age of six, he and his family were removed from their small logging community in Eatonville, Washington. They were first taken to a detention camp in Seattle in May 1942 and then transported to Minidoka in September by train on a 35-hour journey.
Despite only being six, Sakura can also recall when his father left to fight in the war and told him he was the head of the family and to look after his mother and two younger brothers.
For Sakura, the proposed project strikes a very personal chord. “It was a land where we left part of our spirit, and that land is sacred to the spirit that we left behind,” said Sakura.
The memories from that experience are still so vivid that he can even remember his address during his time there, Block 15, Building 8, Room E.
“Even now, I’m approaching 86 years old, I can still remember, 15, 8, E," said Sakura. "It’s as if I have been tattooed by the federal government, in my memory, to never forget that address.”
For those who have gone to revisit the site, it's still a very poignant memory facing what they went through.
“It is a reminder of what happened," said Inoue. "It’s a painful reminder, but in that same way, it’s also a part of the healing that has happened for many people.”
Upon his arrival to Minidoka, Sakura noted how different the Idaho landscape was to Washington. Previously surrounded by forests and snow-capped mountains, he was now in the middle of a desolate environment.
That feeling of being completely isolated from the outside world is something all of those who were incarcerated felt. Sakura remembers the song, "Don't Fence Me In" by Cole Porter being a popular tune among others living there at the time because it gave them a feeling of hope.
Sakura thinks that the wind turbine project would ruin the immersion of what it was like at Minidoka over 70 years ago and that feeling of being alone and secluded.
Especially due to the sheer height of these wind turbines.
“It would degrade and destroy that sense of isolation and desolation," said Sakura. "Something that I really wanted my children and grandchildren to appreciate, that we were living under difficult conditions.”
Sakura went on to explain how this Lava Ridge Wind Project feels like a broken promise by the government to Japanese Americans and that it demeans the memory and hardship so many people experienced at Minidoka.
"I know the financiers are well-meaning, but if they would think about what the impact of their wind farm might be if they sited next to the Gettysburg National Monument, or the Shanksville Airline crash site, it would degrade from the memory."
Since this proposed project is still in the planning phase, the JACL is looking for more support in their efforts to stop this project.
You really need allies in a fight, because part of why incarceration happened back during World War Two is that we had nobody standing up for us, with us," said Inoue. "If that’s the case, you’re just going to get run over.”