Ahead of any energy development project on federal public lands, such as the installation of large-scale solar panels, wind turbines, hydropower plants, geothermal plants or nuclear power plants, the decision on whether or not the project is a fit for the proposed location is largely led by the federal government. In the case of the proposed Lava Ridge Wind Project in the Magic Valley, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has convened a committee of diverse stakeholders to prepare a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), a well-researched document that outlines the impact of a proposed project on its surrounding environment and incorporates public opinion. We anticipate the draft statement to be released on January 13, 2023.
The EIS will kick start the next phase in the public process to determine whether or not the wind energy project is a good fit for the proposed location. Lava Ridge is proposed for a site located 25 miles northeast of the City of Twin Falls that spans areas within Twin Falls, Minidoka, and Jerome counties, according to the scoping report that was released in December 2021.
The EIS is a comprehensive report that culminates extensive research by BLM in partnership with federal, state, county-wide, tribal leaders and community members, revealing details about the environmental health and development of a specific area. An EIS helps to illustrate how federal legislation might be enforced, how federal agencies contribute to local projects and provide oversight through protocols, and how the public might engage with federal agencies as part of these processes.
Any EIS is a lengthy document — typically more than 100 pages — that introduces the proposed action including its purpose and need, describes the affected environment, presents a range of alternatives to the proposed action, analyzes the environmental impact of these proposed actions, and outlines ways community members can engage with officials to make their opinions heard on the proposed actions. In short, the EIS serves as a primary decision-making and informational tool for proposed projects like the Lava Ridge Wind Project.
According to the Notice of Intent submitted by Magic Valley Energy to BLM in August 2021, the EIS for this project will analyze:
- Short-term or long-term loss of wildlife habitat, including bats and greater sage grouse, and sensitive plant species due to ground disturbance;
- Changes to visual character and scenic quality due to the development and operation of the proposed project, including any impacts to the Minidoka National Historic Site where Japanese families were incarcerated during WWII;
- Changes in access to and the quality and quantity of recreation and grazing resources for existing users;
- Changes to social and economic conditions resulting from the development and operation of the proposed project; and
- Physical, visual, and audible disturbance to historic properties and cultural properties within and outside of the project area.
The review process for the EIS is lengthy on purpose in order to ensure due diligence. Once the EIS is released for Lava Ridge, there will be a comment gathering period wherein members of the public who are affected by the proposed action are encouraged to provide feedback on the draft through written comments and public hearings.
Here’s how you can participate in the Lava Ridge comment period:
- Visit the ePlanning website: https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/2013782/510
- Email: BLM_ID_LavaRidge@blm.gov
- Mail: Lava Ridge Wind Project EIS, BLM Shoshone Field Office, Attn: Kasey Prestwich, 400 West F Street, Shoshone, Idaho 83352
- Sign up for our newsletter to stay informed about when public hearings are announced.
Exactly 30 days after the comment period closes, the BLM will announce its proposed action based on the feedback and analysis it received. Then, participating agencies will engage in a re-evaluation process if deemed necessary and a supplemental EIS will be prepared if new environmental impacts are discovered, or if the size and scope of the proposed action change. After that process, project decision makers will issue a decision on which proposed action is settled on based on the information in the EIS and public comment period.
It is imperative that people in the area participate in their civic duty to express their informed perspectives on this project and allow the process to complete its due diligence. For more information on this process and ongoing updates, sign up for our newsletter.