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BLM asks for more public comment on China Mountain Wind Farm October 18, 2009

Federal biologists are still researching what effects a 185-turbine wind farm would have on the desert southwest of Rogerson.

But the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is now asking for more public comment on the proposal, this time on a modification to the resource management plan that governs whether the agency can even consider allowing a wind farm in its Jarbidge Field Office.

The China Mountain project would place turbines generating up to 425 megawatts in parts of a largely federal, 30,700-acre area.

The BLM is nearing the end of a two-year environmental study on the project, with draft results expected early next year, and had expected to address the issue with the 20-year-old Jarbidge management plan during a comprehensive revision of it that started in 2006. But the agency needed more time than expected to gather and assess public feedback, said state BLM spokeswoman Heather Feeney, and the revision fell behind schedule.

To keep the China Mountain study on track, officials decided to pursue a smaller amendment. Thursday’s notice launched a 30-day comment period, and the input will help determine what issues the BLM examines in the analysis documents for both the study and the plan amendment.

The change wouldn’t approve the wind farm, but rather give the BLM the ability to consider putting it on federal land, Feeney said. The amendment language restricts any wind power to just the China Mountain site; no other wind farms are currently proposed in the Jarbidge Field Office, she said.

The agency has already completed a separate general analysis for wind projects bureau-wide, Feeney said. But it can’t be used in this case because recent wildfires – notably 2007’s Murphy Complex Fire – have already complicated natural-resource issues in the area.

The analysis completed for the smaller amendment would also be used for the management plan’s broad revisions, keeping both actions consistent.

Magic Valley Times – http://www.magicvalley.com/news/local/article_d7cda27a-a655-5df3-918c-d14c40caf9a4.html

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