The proposed Lava Ridge wind project - one of the largest in the nation - could ultimately shrink.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management's two preferred alternatives call for a smaller project area and fewer turbines, the agency said Jan. 20 in announcing that the project's Draft Environmental Impact Statement is available.
Release of the Draft EIS triggered a comment period through March 21. A Final EIS could come as soon as this summer, and a Record of Decision in the fall.
The preferred alternatives seek to balance clean energy production with reduced potential for impacts on historic, cultural, tribal and land-use values, BLM's Twin Falls District said in a release.
Magic Valley Energy LLC, an affiliate of LS Power, seeks authorization to build the project in Jerome, Lincoln and Minidoka counties. It would be about 25 miles northeast of Twin Falls, mainly on public land.
The developer's preferred Alternative B calls for up to 400 turbines on 197,474 acres and sites all components within a series of corridors. Each corridor would be about a half-mile wide and cover 84,385 acres.
A 500-kilovolt line would connect to Idaho Power Co.'s Midpoint Substation, or at a new substation within a right-of-way corridor.
Associated infrastructure - all on public land - would include new and improved roads, power lines and substations as well as facilities for operations and maintenance and battery storage. Generation capacity would be 1 gigawatt or more. Lava Ridge would be one of the country's biggest wind projects.
BLM prefers smaller-scale alternatives C and E. Identifying a preferred alternative does not imply it will be incorporated into a final decision, the agency said.
The Draft EIS "provides ample data to show the preferred alternatives will reduce potential impacts to grazing allotments, wildlife and places of cultural importance," Luke Papez, Magic Valley Energy senior director of project development, said in a release. And it "clearly outlines the benefits of the project," including its economic impact and clean-energy contribution. He could not be reached.
Alternative C calls for a project area of 146,389 acres and up to 378 turbines. It removes some siting corridors in the southwestern and northern portions to avoid or minimize potential impacts to Wilson Butte Cave, Minidoka National Historic Site and associated impact on the Native American and Japanese American communities. It also removes siting corridors to reduce the potential to fragment wildlife habitat.
Alternative E's smaller project area and fewer turbines - 122,444 acres and up to 269 turbines - aim to lessen bat and bird mortality, and potential conflicts with livestock grazing, BLM said. This alternative also would reduce the visual impact to the historic site by removing siting corridors directly east.