HomeAsian AmericansWind energy project near Minidoka advances, angering Japanese Americans

Wind energy project near Minidoka advances, angering Japanese Americans


“Haven’t we been harmed enough by our own government?”

By Jessica Xiao

On Thursday, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) advanced a proposed wind energy project that the Japanese American community has been fighting since its inception.

The Lava Ridge Wind Project, created by private energy company LS Power, would place hundreds of wind turbines within miles of Minidoka National Historic Site in Idaho, where more than 13,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were incarcerated during World War II.

Japanese American community members have raised alarm bells about the proposal from the beginning, stating that the turbines will “alter Minidoka’s somber landscape” and “fails to honor the significance of the events that occured at Minidoka as a place of reflection, healing, and education for the survivors, descendants, and the public.” 

In the final environmental impact statement released Thursday, the BLM selected a preferred alternative to the proposal that it says “reduces project footprint by 50%” and “reflects significantly lower impact following community engagement.” The alternative proposal cuts the number of turbines down from 400 to 241 and requires that the closest turbine to the Minidoka National Historic Site be at least nine miles away. It will also is place “interim measures to protect the cultural resources found in the former Minidoka War Relocation Center….until the area is considered for designation as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.” 

Community members say this is not enough because this recommendation means the wind project will likely still continue, even if scaled down from the original proposal. 

“BLM is taking an historic site, held in public trust, and selling it to a private equity company; stealing the future experiences of all descendants and visitors of Minidoka. This is a sacred and irreplaceable site for our families. Haven’t we been harmed enoug by our own government?” Gloria Shigeno, a survivor of the Minidoka concentration camp, said in a press release from the Minidoka Pilgrimage committee, a Seattle-based volunteer organization of incarceration survivors, descendants, and allies.

LS Power announced in early 2020 that it would be planning the construction of the Lava Ridge Wind Project with the BLM through its off-shoot company Magic Valley Energy. Japanese Americans have spent the last few years voicing their concerns about the project through organizations like the Friends of Minidoka, which released a scoping letter in 2021

In 2022, the National Trust for Preservation also named Minidoka National Historic Site as one of the 11 most endangered historic places in the country because of the Lava Ridge Wind Project.

Objections to the project gained steam last year, when the BLM released the draft environmental impact statement, a requirement under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), with a list of alternatives to the proposed wind project that ranged from rejecting it to downsizing it. Several Japanese Americans expressed concerns at a community listening session in March 2023. 

“The Lava Ridge Wind Project, with its proximity, would ruin the landscape. It would rob us of our history. We need to speak for the issei and Nisei. Please do not rob our dignity,” Janice Matsunaga Okamoto told AsAmNews at the community listening session. She was incarcerated at the Minidoka Relocation Camp with her family when she was a baby.

In April 2023, the Friends of Minidoka and the National Parks Conservation Association also submitted a 60 page public comment in response, advising to not move forward with building any wind project near the Minidoka War Relocation Center, while affirming support for renewable energy development on public lands “in the right places” and “in the right ways.” The document included pages of historical research meant to help the federal government better preserve and protect lands where Japanese Americans were incarcerated. 

Robyn Achilles, Executive Director of the Friends of Minidoka said “most of that research was disregarded” in the BLM’s decision on Thursday. 

“They are choosing to flout National Park Service politics which protect a historic landscape in favor of a highly damaging and obstructive project,” Achilles said in a statement. “The Biden Administration needs to do a better job and make a real commitment to protect Minidoka and our heritage, or we will be dealing with Lava Ridge and other projects forever.”

The Japanese American Citizens League released a statement announcing it was “deeply disappointed by this blatant disregard for those who suffered during their incarceration at Minidoka and the lasting trauma to the Japanese American community that persists and is perpetuated by actions such as this.”

Although the final environmental impact statement is not a decision, it is the last roadblock for development projects to clear before receiving a final decision. A final “Record of Decision” will be issued after 30 days.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.


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