Renewable energy station proposed for Elmore County

Energy station proposed for Elmore County.

ELMORE COUNTY -- A massive renewable energy project could be coming to Elmore County.

It has been in the works for the last couple of years: A blended system that would combine water, wind and the sun to produce more energy for Idaho and the entire Northwest. But some nearby residents stand strongly opposed to the project - mainly because of effects on wildlife in the area.

The Elmore County Planning and Zoning Commission previously denied conditional use permits for the Cat Creek Renewable Generation Station near Anderson Ranch Reservoir. But the company, Cat Creek Energy, LLC, appealed those. In early November, county commissioners will hear that appeal

Even with opposition at the local level, Doug Jones, Cat Creek Energy government affairs consultant, tells KTVB he is positive the generation station will be built.

"There's more and more desire for green power," Jones added.

Power that comes from natural and renewable resources, including an approximately 1,000-acre reservoir that will hold 50,000 acre-feet of water.

It will be the "upper reservoir" that would pump water up and out of Anderson Ranch Reservoir about 900 feet below at times when there is surplus power in the system.

"It's a reserve. It's a way to store energy by pumping water up, holding it and running it back down the hill," Jones said.

The hydro pump would then run the water back down the same pipe to generate power at energy peak times, when more power is needed in the electric grid.

"So if they can keep those peaks lower, the average is lower," Jones told KTVB. "That helps everybody that consumes power."

Along with a reservoir for hydroelectric power, windmills and solar panels are planned. Several windmills would be built atop a ridge a bit away from Anderson Ranch Reservoir. Jones says from the home closest to the project site to the closest windmill, the distance is about six miles.

According to the current plan, solar panels will be set up at a site miles away from the reservoir at a plot of land in the desert off Highway 20, where the Mountain Home Country Music Festival is held.

Wendi Combs has property in Pine, right above Anderson Ranch Reservoir, and is very much against this project going in.

"The noise and visual pollution that that massive project is going to put off will be echoing through that whole canyon," Combs told KTVB. "Who wants that? In a wildlife corridor."

She says she is all for green energy, but site location is critical and Idaho Department of Fish & Game (IDFG) says this area is critical to elk, mule deer and migratory birds.

In a previous analysis of Cat Cree, IDFG said the project's complexity would affect the migration corridor at some level.

"There is wildlife in the area, no question about it," Jones said. "But it's no different than the existing reservoir at Little Camas. This will be a reservoir they can walk clear around."

Fish & Game says the project may affect bull trout in Anderson Ranch Reservoir, so Cat Creek Energy plans to work with the department on mitigating any affects on wildlife.

"I just cannot fathom that this $1.5 billion project, what it will do to the area," Combs added.

Jones says there will be a significantly large main power line from the sub station they will build on site to the major energy grid in Mountain Home. Car Creek Energy, LLC says this $1.5 billion dollar project will be completely privately funded, with no money from the government.

Project managers hope to have Cat Creek up and running by fall 2019. If Elmore County doesn't approve their conditional use permits, managers say this project will move forward with the federal agencies they're currently working with.

It is an extremely complex project, but KTVB will continue to follow developments along the way.

Copyright 2016 KTVB


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