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EIS Public Comments are an Essential Part of the Process

The recently released draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Lava Ridge Wind Project is generating a lot of interest for residents of the Magic Valley and surrounding areas, so now is a good time to review how environmental analyses and decisions come about to ensure you know how to add your voice in decisions that impact Idaho communities and our state’s natural resources. 

In addition to tracking the public process for Lava Ridge, Idaho Energy Freedom is also tracking upcoming EIS public comment periods in the energy field, and has paid close attention to clean energy projects in the past. 

We strongly encourage all Idahoans to review the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that is relevant or of interest to you and make an informed opinion to share with decision makers. 

Upcoming public comment periods

Updating the 2012 Western Solar Plan
Public comment period: Dec. 20, 2022 through Feb. 6, 2023
Location: Statewide (regional impact to several western states)
Lead agency: BLM

The Bureau of Land Management is considering updates to its 2012 Western Solar Plan that included six southwestern states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah—and is seeking comment regarding expanding its solar planning to include five additional states: Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming.

*Virtual public comment collection will take place on Feb. 13, 2023, from 12:30-3:30p.m. Mountain Standard Time. Please register in advance:

The Hells Canyon Project
Public comment period: Anticipated until August 2023
Location: Snake River in Washington and Adams counties, Idaho, & Wallowa and Baker Counties, Oregon
Lead agency: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

On July 21, 2003, Idaho Power filed an application for a new license for the Hells Canyon Project which consists of three developments of dams, reservoirs, and powerhouses (Brownlee, Oxbow, and Hells Canyon). In order to assess the new and revised (2020) fish-related protection, mitigation, and enhancement measures proposed under the settlement, the Oregon and Idaho water quality certificates, and the draft biological assessments, Commission staff intends to prepare a draft and final supplemental EIS in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.

Preparing a Programmatic EIS for Solar Energy Planning and Amending Resource Management Plans for Renewable Energy Development
Public comment period: Dec. 8, 2022 through Feb. 6, 2023
Location: Statewide
Lead agency: Idaho DEQ

This permit renewal would establish monitoring requirements, place limits on nutrient and hydraulic loading, and renew conditions established by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to protect public health and the environment. As part of the permitting process, the permittee was also required to show that its operation would not cause public health or environmental concerns.

Some completed EISes with public comment periods of note

Columbia River System Operation 
Date decided: Sept. 30, 2020
Location: Oregon – Idaho
Lead agency: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and Bonneville Power Administration signed a joint Record of Decision that commits the agencies to implementing immediate and long-term actions related to the ongoing operations, maintenance and configuration of 14 federal dams that compose the Columbia River System.

Jackpot Solar Project
Date Operational: Jan. 26, 2023
Location: Twin Falls County
Lead agency: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Jackpot Solar, which began commercial operation in Jan. 2023, provides energy to Idaho Power through a 20-year power purchase agreement. Idaho Power is working toward its Clean Today, Cleaner Tomorrow goal of providing 100% clean energy by 2045. When the company buys certified renewable energy as it’s doing here, it sells the associated renewable energy credits (RECs) to offset power supply costs and to keep customer prices low.

B2H Boardman to Hemingway Pipeline
Date Decided: Feb. 2018 
Location: Oregon – Idaho
Lead agency: BLM

The Boardman to Hemingway Transmission Line includes an approximate 300 mile (275 miles in Oregon) electrical transmission line (primarily 500 kilovolt (kV)) that crosses five counties in Oregon, Morrow, Umatilla, Union, Baker, and Malheur counties. Approved related or supporting facilities include the Longhorn Substation in Boardman, Oregon, communication stations, access roads, pulling and tensioning sites and construction laydown areas.
*On Feb. 1, 2023, the Idaho Public Utilities Commission released notice that Idaho Power submitted an permit application to the commission for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for this project. If someone wishes to intervene, they must do so in writing by Feb. 21, 2023. Details are in the notice.

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