Camas Prairie, Elmore County, Idaho

Category Archives: Conditional Use Permits

A Pine, Idaho Homeowner Explains Why “The Project” is Bad for the County

Elk and mule deer migration patterns be disrupted.

  • The Cat Creek Energy site would be built within a major migration corridor for mule deer, elk, pronghorn, raptors, and fish and other animals like bats.
  • The Cat Creek Energy site would be built in important sage grouse habitat.
  • The Cat Creek Energy site would affect our fishery and water quality.
  • The Cat Creek Energy site would create unacceptable noise pollution on Anderson Ranch Reservoir.

On May 16, 2019, Judge Nancy Baskin will have the opportunity to hear oral arguments that support the fact that the actions of Elmore County in regards to the Cat Creek Energy project approval were invalid. As a result we expect the judge will remand the project back to the Director of the P&Z Commission as early as July of this year.

Below you can read for yourself another of the many reasons we believe Judge Baskin will rule that the CUP approval process and the subsequent 2019 Development Agreement between Cat Creek and Elmore County were legally and procedural flawed.

 

Reference: Page 14 of the Petition for Judicial Review document at https://catcreek-energy.com/download/928/

Another opponent of the Project, Wendi Combs, a resident of Pine, Idaho, testified that the Project does not belong on Anderson Ranch Reservoir. She stated that “according to Fish and Game, the proposed site does lie within a major migration corridor for mule deer, elk, pronghorn, raptors, and fish and other animals like bats.

The area is an important sage grouse habitat. Sage grouse do not like tall structures, such as wind turbines, power lines, and towers. Displacement, avoidance and reduced nesting success are well documented.

Fish and Game are concerned about water quality impacts, entrainment of fish, particularly the bull trout, and endangered species. “We’re not talking about one, but six silos pumping water up and down the reservoir 24/7, 365 days a year,” their words in quotes.

Then there is the noise pollution that will affect all the surrounding neighbors and campsites rendering them practically useless for solace and enjoyment.

We invite you to read the full 64 pages of the Judicial Review document that S Bar Ranch filed with Fourth Judicial District of Idaho to right this Cat Creek Energy wrong.

Download the document at https://catcreek-energy.com/download/928/

Take Action

Please help us stop the Cat Creek Energy project from moving forward. Contact County Commissioners Bud Corbus, Wes Wootan and Al Hofer and tell them you are opposed to this ill-conceived mega-energy project.

You can use the county website “Contact Form” at https://elmorecounty.org/contact/

or

See https://catcreek-energy.com/mailing-addresses-for-cat-creek-energy-issues/

Thanks.

 

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Why “Harry” Believes Judge Baskin Will Remand the Cat Creek Energy Project Back to P & Z

Taken on Peak 5915 looking over the Castle Rocks and Wood Creek area of Elmore County, Idaho

 

Many Elmore County residents believe a District Court judge should remand the entire Cat Creek Energy project approval back to the County Planning and Zoning Commission (P & Z) for new and honest hearings. Our entire “Petition for Judicial Review” document is filled with legal, moral and ethical reason why we believe the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) erred in approving this ill-conceived project. A project covering 3,730 acres in the Elmore County, Idaho backcountry.

Hunting, Fishing, Wildlife and Scenic Beauty is at Stake

We realize how time-consuming attending the P & Z Commission meetings, hearing and deliberations in 2016 became. No one really believed Elmore County would every approve the Cat Creek Energy project. And those people were right. The P & Z Commission denied the permits Cat Creek Energy needed to begin the process of getting state and federal approval for their mega-energy project.

But then in 2017, the Elmore County Commissioners overruled their own P & Z Commission and handed that Gooding-based corporation the keys to our very own backcountry, the Anderson Ranch Reservoir and South Fork of the Boise River fishery, and will threaten our elk, deer and pronghorn populations.

Local Mountain Home, Idaho, resident Harry Taggart, “aka Skip,” testified in front of our county officials and offered the following facts …

Reference: Pages 10 and 11 of the Petition for Judicial Review document at https://catcreek-energy.com/download/928/

Harry Taggart, a resident of Mountain Home spoke and informed the Commissioners that he hunts and fishes throughout the South Fork of the Boise River basin, that he opposes the Project “because it would destroy the scenic beauty and environmental diversity of the area known as Wood Creek, which is right at the very doorstep of our splendid Boise and Sawtooth National Forests.”

Mr. Taggart also informed the Commissioners that he has “read and understood the Elmore County Comprehensive Plan, as well as Title 6, Chapter 14 of the Elmore County zoning and development ordinance defining areas of critical concern, which the Elmore County Planning and Zoning Commission is lawfully charged with protecting” and that he had read the minutes of the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting to deliberate Cat Creek Energy’s applications and he “agree[s] with the Commissions unanimous rejection of multiple Cat Creek Energy permit applications because they fall short of compliance with a minimum of 12 different Comprehensive Plan standards.

Harry Was Right Back Then and is Still Right

  • Destroying the scenic beauty of our backcounty with 500-foot tall wind turbines will not benefit the residents of Elmore County.

  • In approving the Cat Creek Energy Project, Commissioners Wes Wootan, Bud Corbus, and Al Hofer made a ruling in direct conflict with the county’s own Comprehensive Plan.

You can download and review the entire Petition for Judicial Review at https://catcreek-energy.com/download/928/

 

Take Action

Please help us stop the Cat Creek Energy project from moving forward. Contact County Commissioners Bud Corbus, Wes Wootan and Al Hofer and tell them you are opposed to this ill-conceived mega-energy project.

You can use the county website “Contact Form” at https://elmorecounty.org/contact/

In addition, many of our elected officials from city mayor and on up the line to U.S. Senators could use some feedback from you. If you need their names or point of contact, we’ve created a list at https://catcreek-energy.com/mailing-addresses-for-cat-creek-energy-issues/

 

Thanks.

 

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Elmore County let Cat Creek Submit a new Master Site Plan in Nov. 2016?

Why would the County Commissions allow Cat Creek Energy to submit a new master site plan for the 3,730 acre mega-energy project in Elmore County’s backcountry without proper public notice?

Submitting a new master site plan is not permissible unless it is properly and legally “noticed.” That includes published legal notices in the local newspaper and the notifying residents that own property within one mile of the project area. The S Bar Ranch and other ranches would be within one mile of some of those huge 500-foot tall wind turbines if the county allows them to be built.

Those proposed wind turbines would also be located in a known and documented elk, deer and pronghorn migration corridor.

Reference: Pages 10 and 11 of the Petition for Judicial Review document at https://catcreek-energy.com/download/928/

Snippets from the document

On August 26, 2016, the Developer submitted an appeal from the P&Z Order to the Board of County Commissioners of Elmore County (the “Board”) and Supplement Appeal on October 25, 2016. The Board heard the matter in public hearings on November 16, 2016 and 17, 2016, and December 16, 2016

At the hearing on November 16, 2016, the Developer presented evidence that had not previously been presented, which materially changed the applications for the CUPs, including a new master site plan. Although Petitioner was included in the mailing for the Notice of Public Hearing on November 16, this new evidence was not properly noticed as part of the hearing and Petitioner did not have a proper opportunity to respond to this new evidence.

For example, in violation of I.C. § 676512(b), the Notice of Appeal Hearing for the public hearings on November 16 and 17, 2016, contains no reference to the construction of wind turbines that will be up to 500’ tall and be located within one mile of Petitioner’s property.

As a consequence, Petitioner was not alerted to the fact the Ranch would be adversely affected by the construction of wind towers within one mile of the Ranch and the adjoining area.

During the November 16, 2016 appeal hearing, the Commissioners discussed the issue of noise from the wind mills with Cat Creek representative, James Carkulis.
question, Mr. Carkulis stated: “Noise from equipment. Yes, undoubtedly. Something moves there is going to be noise. The fact of the matter is though that where the wind turbines is [sp] located, there are no residences around. It is almost a moot point. It is just not going to be a concern.

Please help us stop the Cat Creek Energy project from moving forward. Contact County Commissioners Bud Corbus, Wes Wootan and Al Hofer and tell them you are opposed to this ill-conceived mega-energy project.

You can use the county website “Contact Form” at https://elmorecounty.org/contact/

or

See https://catcreek-energy.com/mailing-addresses-for-cat-creek-energy-issues/

 

 

 

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All Five Cat Creek Energy Permits “Were” Dependent Upon Each Other

The Master Site Plan changed again?

 

The story of the five Cat Creek Energy conditional use permits (CUPs) that John Faulkner applied for in 2015 gets lost in the grand scheme of his ill-conceived project. However, the fact that Cat Creek Energy sold their five-part mega-energy project as one complete project to the residents of Elmore County and many other entities is crucial to understand.

The Elmore County P & Z entire hearing and deliberation process was based on Cat Creek Energy’s insistence that the entire mega-project had to be approved as one. Cat Creek repeatedly said, if all five permits were not approved, their project would not be economically viable and they’d have to cancel it.

In 2017, the Cat Creek developers convinced the Elmore County Commissioners that all five CUPs were no longer required in order to build out their mega-energy project. In other words, all those residents who said:

Cat Creek will never get state or federal approval for the reservoir or sprawling wind farm so we don’t need to even worry about the project being ever approved,” were fooled by our elected officials.

Well, guess what? The County Commissioners, by separating all the CUPs, has made it possible for Cat Creek Energy to build what they want, where they want and when they want and the residents never had any input into that huge modification in the Master Site Plan.

When the S Bar Ranch filed a Petition for Judicial Review on March 7, 2019, with the district court, they highlighted this fact for Judge Nancy Baskin to consider. We hope the honorable judge will see this lack of public oversight and remand the entire project back to the Director of the P&Z Commission. Only then will the county residents be able to provide proper feedback to these local decision-makers.

Reference: See Page 8 after download the full petition at https://catcreek-energy.com/download/928/

The P&Z Commission found that “five (5) separate applications, each for a conditional use permit are required.” The P&Z Commission further found that “based on testimony from the Applicant, all five (5) applications are dependent upon each other and cannot exist separately.

Therefore the Commission conducted only one (1) public hearing and issued only one (1) decision on the Applications.” The Commission found that the
“Owners” of the Site are Sawtooth Grazing Association and Wood Creek Ranch, both at 1989 South 1875 East, Gooding, ID 83330 and that the Applicant’s property right in the Site is based on lease agreements. The property size is approximately 23,000 acres, all of which is owned or controlled by John Faulkner.

The Commission found that the applicable law for consideration of the Applications was:

A) the Elmore County 2014 Comprehensive Plan, adopted as Resolution 56215 on January 20, 2014 (the “Comprehensive Plan”);

B) Zoning Ordinance, adopted March 21, 2012, as Ordinance
201201; which was subsequently amended on September 19, 2012, as Ordinance 201203 and on July 14, 2014, As Ordinance 201401; and

C) the Local Land Use Planning Act, I.C. § 676501 et seq. [Exh. 4 at R. 007297007298] ”

If you have concerns about the Cat Creek Energy project, please contact your elected officials and tell them you oppose the entire project and why.
Here is a link with many of the people you might want to contact: https://catcreek-energy.com/mailing-addresses-for-cat-creek-energy-issues/
Also, please share this post with friend, family, and co-workers so they also understand how horrible the Cat Creek Energy project will be for Elmore County.

 

Thanks.

 

Originally published on March 19, 2019.

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A Judge Could Review the County Commissioner’s Decision of Approve the Cat Creek Project

The long, complex and contentious Cat Creek Energy project approval process started in 2016 and bit and pieces are still being worked out at the local level. While the Cat Creek Energy project still has some state and federal obstacles to overcome before they can officially ruin the Elmore County backcountry the S Bar Ranch isn’t sitting idly by.

On March 7, 2019, the owner of the S Bar Ranch filed a petition with the Fourth District Court asking a judge to review the decisions that Commissioner’s Bud Corbus, Al Hofer and Wes Wootan made regarding the nearly 4,000 acre Cat Creek Energy mega-project. The 64-page petition can be downloaded at https://catcreek-energy.com/download/928/ but we realize some resident don’t have the time to review such an extensive legal document, no matter how well it was written (it’s mostly plain language and tells a troubling story).

Just Some “Bit and Pieces” of the Document

Below you’ll find some actual snippets from the legal document to whet your appetite and give you a reason to spend a few hours reading about how entrenched the “good 0ld boy” network has become in our local government. So, here goes.

Page 9 / P & Z Deny all Conditional Use Permits in Aug 2016
On June 15, 2016, the Elmore County Planning and Zoning Commission (“P&Z Commission”) met to consider the applications. The P&Z Commission heard testimony from the Developer, representatives of the Developer, and others individuals who supported the Project, some individuals who were neutral and several individuals who opposed the Project. On July 13, 2016, the Elmore P&Z Commission conducted deliberations of the applications for the CUPs. On August 17, 2016, the P&Z Commission unanimously, on a 60 vote with one member absent, voted to deny the applications.

 

Page 10 / The Project Does not Comply With County Ordinance
The Commission made several findings that the proposed project conflicts with the Comprehensive Plan with regard to Private Property Rights Objectives, Land Use Objectives, Scenic Area Objectives, Hazardous Area Objectives, andAreas of Critical Concern Objectives.
The Commission further found that the Project failed to comply with the applicable Zoning Ordinances, including Title 6, and the applicable State and Federal regulations. The Commission concluded that the Applications do not comply with the required findings set forth in Section 6277 of the Zoning Ordinances
.

 

Page 30 / Conflicts of Interest
The Board of Commissioners have a conflict of interest that violates I.C. § 67-6506 and other law, and prevents them from serving as a neutral quasi-judicial body in this contested matter that is pending before the Board. The conflict arises from the fact that the County is
requiring, as a condition for issuance of CUP-2015-04 and the other CUPs, that the Developer agree to divert and deliver water from Anderson Ranch Dam to the County using the Developer’s infrastructure. In other words, the County has a vested beneficial interest in approving the granting of hydro CUP and the other CUPs, which prevents the Board from serving as a neutral decision maker as required by law.

A further conflict of interest is created by the fact that Commissioner Hofer purportedly stepped away from his duties as a Commissioner and acted as a negotiator representing the County in negotiations with the Cat Creek representatives to reach agreement on the terms of the Development Agreement. Those ex parte communications were not disclosed to the Petitioner or the public. The Development Agreement, negotiated by Commissioner Hofer, was then submitted to Commissioner Hofers fellow Commissioners for their approval. Knowing that the
terms of the Development Agreement submitted to Commissioners Wooten and Corbus had been negotiated and approved by Commissioner Hofer, there was no way that Commissioners Wooten and Corbuscould remain neutral and perform their duties as neutral decision makers regarding the terms of the Development Agreement.

 

Page 52 / The Board’s Decisions Violate Due Process Because Two of Its Members Had Ex Parte Communications with Cat Creek
During the December 22, 2017, public hearing, Commissioner
Wootan acknowledged the Commissioners had been communicating among themselves regarding the project and decided they wanted to make the project work. In response to comments from a representative of Cat
Creek that they would work with the Board to put a deal together 
that works for Cat Creek and the County, CommissionerWootan stated: Were already to that point. Weve already communicated among ourselves that were workable, that we want to make their project work,
and we want to make our intent happen.Obviously, the Board had decided to approve the project, regardless of the publics input in the decision, in violation of due process.

Download the 64-page document at https://catcreek-energy.com/download/928/

 

What is Next and What We Expect – 16 May 2019

The next court hearing will be on May 16, 2019, at 3 p.m. in Boise, Idaho before Judge Nancy Baskin.  That is when S Bar Ranch will present oral arguments in support of our case and ask the judge to rule that the actions of the County are invalid and to remand it back to the Director of the Elmore County P&Z Commission.  

We believe Judge Baskin will take the decision under advisement and render a written decision as early as July 2019.

 

Take Action Before it is too Late

There are many actions you can take that will send a clear message to the Elmore County Commissioners, the State of Idaho and even our federal government. 

Contact the Elmore County Commissioners and tell them you are opposed to the Cat Creek Energy project. 

Contact your State Representative and State Senator and tell them to find a way to stop the Cat Creek Energy project before it ruins our Idaho backcounty, hunting grounds and fisheries. 

Contact Senator’s Crapo, Senator Risch, Congressman Simpson, and Congressman Fulcher.

We’ve put together a list of contact information for all the elected official mentioned above at https://catcreek-energy.com/mailing-addresses-for-cat-creek-energy-issues/ 

 

Share, Share and Share Some More

There are many people in and around Elmore County that still do not know about the Cat Creek Energy project and how badly it will affect wildlife, fishing, water quality and hunting. Please share this information with your friends, family, and co-workers.

 

Thanks.

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Wake Turbulence and Cat Creek Energy Wind Farm

There are many different groups that are opposed to part or all of the Cat Creek Energy mega project. A new group of professionals and/or hobbyist spoke up about the proposed wind farm on Camas Prairie. The forty, 500+ foot tall wind turbines that the developers want to put up greatly concern some local general aviation folks.

What is General Aviation?

THE SIMPLE ANSWER: General aviation is all civilian flying except scheduled passenger airline service. AS SIMPLE AS THAT? Yes. And as complex as that. General aviation includes flying as diverse as overnight package delivery and a weekend visit back home; as different as emergency medical evacuation and inspection trips to remote construction sites; as complimentary as aerial application to keep crops healthy and airborne law enforcement to keep the peace. General aviation benefits the community in so many ways, it’s hard to cover them all. (https://www.aopa.org/-/media/files/aopa/home/advocacy/what_ga.pdf)

 

Why General Aviation Pilots Might be Opposed to the Cat Creek Wind Turbines?

  1. The first and most obvious problem with the Cat Creek Energy wind turbine would be the in-flight obstruction danger they present. Just think of one of those huge turbine blades reaching up to swat a Cessna Skyhawk out of the skies as it flies from Arco, Idaho to St. Luke’s Hospital in Mountain Home.
  2. The wake turbulence created by wind turbines would also present some challenges to general aviation also. And with Cat Creek Energy planning to erect wind turbines as tall as 5-story building on the crest of Cat Creek Summit, that turbulence wouldn’t be welcome and should be considered a flying hazard.

 

“The taller the obstacle, the larger the wind shade. If the turbine is closer to the obstacle than five times the obstacle height, or if the obstacle is taller than half the hub height, the results will be more uncertain, because they will depend on the exact geometry of the obstacle. (http://www.inforse.org/europe/dieret/Wind/wind.html)

 

Take Action

If you oppose any part of the Cat Creek Energy project, your elected officials need to hear about your concerns. And because many residents living in the area have little or no idea what could happen if the project is allowed to move forward, we are asking you to help spread the word.

Contact Elmore County Commissioners at https://elmorecounty.org/contact/ or by mail at …

BOCC
150 South 4th East
Mountain Home, ID 83647

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Understanding the 10,000 Pages of the Complex Cat Creek Energy History?

This is the future with Cat Creek Energy

Can you really understand the Cat Creek Energy project just by reviewing the 10,000 or so documents created by the numerous hearings and meetings? Could you afford to obtain all the documents related to this complex project? Keep in mind, you’ll probably be charged $3,000+ just to get the digital files. With that said …

The Elmore County Commissioners just gave the Cat Creek Energy lawyers another six months to hammer out a water diversion and delivery agreement with the county for this ill-advised and ill-conceived project. And during that Dec. 14, 2018 hearing the history of the project became even more complex.

After years of backroom dealings, legal wrangling, last minute changes, hearings, and deliberations, we don’t know how many documents currently make up the history of the proposed Cat Creek Energy project slated for our nearby backcountry. No one knows how many pages of documentation has been created in a vain attempt to get approval for this project. And that is a problem.

The project? Just 20 mile or so up Highway 20, outside of Mountain Home, Idaho, a Gooding-based corporation plans to construct a 5,750-acre mega-energy project that also includes the construction of a 170,000 solar panel energy plant.

This is the current history without Cat Creek Energy

Two years ago, in November 2016, the county commissions figured there were 8,000 pages of testimony already in existence. One month ago, in November 2018, an Elmore County Commissioner testified again that there were still about 8,000 pages of testimony and evidence. We believe there is likely much more documentation and there is just too much information lying around in boxes within county offices to allow the Cat Creek Energy project to move forward.

The public, the commissioners and likely even the developers are a little confused as to how this project will move forward without harming the residents of Elmore County. And we think it important that the people who will be greatly affected by the project’s 500-foot tall wind turbines, a 590 acres of solar panels, countless high tension electrical transmission lines and an Anderson Ranch draining reservoir to understand its long and complex history.

So, here is a shortened version …

Part 1: 2016 – Feb 2018 History of the Cat Creek Energy Project

In 2016, Cat Creek Energy, LLC submitted five Conditional Use Permit (“CUP”) applications to Elmore County for various projects in the County’s Agriculture and Area of Critical Concern Overlay Zones. The projects include the installation of:

1. Transmission lines (“CUP-2015-03”);

2. Pump storage hydro-electrical generating facility (“CUP-2015-04”);

3. PV solar electrical generating facility (“CUP-2015-05”);

4. Wind turbine electrical generating facility (“CUP-2015-06”); and

5. Substation (“CUP-2015-07”), (collectively the “CUPs”)

The projects are collectively referred to herein as the “Proposed Development.”

June 15, 2016 / July 13, 2016: The CUPs came before the Planning and Zoning Commission of Elmore County, Idaho (the “Commission”) on June 15, 2016, for a public hearing, and on July 13, 2016, for deliberation. Evidence was presented to the Commission that the CUPs were in conflict with the Comprehensive Plan of Elmore County and would have a negative impact on the “surrounding area.”

July 13, 2016: After finding that the CUPs were dependent on each other and could not exist separately, the Planning and Zoning “Commission” of Elmore County, denied the approval of the CUPs.

In its Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order, the “Commission” found, among other things, that the issuance (or approval ) of the CUPs would have a negative impact on the surrounding area as well as other properties in the area. Approval would have a negative effect on the scenic characteristics and visual aspects of the area.

Summer 2016: Cat Creek appealed the Commission’s Decision to the Elmore Board of County Commissioners (“Board” or BOCC).

November 16, 2016: The “Board” held a hearing on the appeal of the Commission’s Decision on November 16, 2016, at which time Cat Creek presented new evidence for the first time that materially changed Cat Creek’s applications for the CUPs, including a new master site plan of the integrated Proposed Developments. This new evidence was not properly noticed as part of the hearing.

January 13, 2017, February 3, 2017, and February 10, 2017: The “Board” / BOCC held deliberations on the appeal of the Commission’s Decision on January 13, 2017, February 3, 2017, and February 10, 2017.

During the deliberations on February 10, 2017, the Board issued its lengthy Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order (February 2017 Order”), which had obviously been prepared prior to the February 10, 2017 “deliberations”.

In its February 2017 Order, the Board affirmed the Planning and Zoning Commission’s finding that the five separate CUPs were dependent on each other and could not exist separately.

However, the BOCC reversed the Commission’s Decision and provisionally approved the CUPs subject to certain conditions that had to be satisfied by the Developer before construction of the Proposed Development.

The “Board of County Commissioners retained jurisdiction of the conditional use permit application process and as a condition for the approval of the CUPs, required the execution and recordation of a “Development Agreement” by and between the County, Cat Creek, and the entities owning the land (“Landowners”) where the Proposed Development was to be located.

The February 2017 Order expressly provides that the Developer could not proceed with the Proposed Development until the Development Agreement was executed between Cat Creek, the County, and the Landowners, and recorded in Elmore County.

January 2017 through February 9, 2018

Over the course of approximately one year, Cat Creek, the County, and the Landowners met on several occasions to draft, discuss and negotiate the terms of the Development Agreement.

The Development Agreement was signed by Cat Creek, the Landowners and the Elmore County Commissioners on February 9, 2018, and recorded on the same date.

The Development Agreement that was approved materially altered the terms and conditions of the CUPs that were approved in the February 2017 Order. The material alterations include:

  • A new master site plan that was never presented to the public for consideration.
  • The Development Agreement that was executed and recorded excludes the terms and provisions for the hydro component—CUP 2015-04, for the diversion and delivery of water by the Developer to the County, which is a major component of the Proposed Development.

 

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