Friday, March 10, 2017

Did Elmore County Idaho Barter "CUPs" for Water

Last edited on March 10, 2017

Need to Know:
1. CUP or Conditional Use Permit is a zoning exception which allows the property owner use of his land in a way not otherwise permitted within the particular zoning district.(
2. Cat Creek Energy Project: A sprawling alternative energy project planned for the Little Camas Prairie area about 22 miles northeast of Mountain Home, Idaho. The plan is to build a large solar farm, three dozen wind turbines and a 50,000+ acre-foot reservoir in the pristine mountains and sagebrush steppe environment of southwestern Idaho. 

Who paid-off who?

On February 10, 2017, the Elmore County Commissioners approved five previously denied conditional use permits (CUP) for a Cat Creek Energy Corporation project. The approval of these CUPs comes less than seven months after the county's own planning and zoning commission outright denied those same exact permits.

Why did the only two functioning county commissioners, Bud Corbus and Al Hofer, approve a project that many of the citizens were so obviously opposed to during meetings held in November 2016? Maybe some history would shed light on why?

"Water is like corruption. When left unchecked, it will damage a lot of things. The only course of actions is to find out where and how much damage has occurred and try to prevent it from seeping back in again." Caleb Corning, construction foreman for the Hoover Dam (1934)

At the intersection of Hwy 20 and Cat Creek Energy Property 

History of Denial
After pouring over more than 7,000 pages of documents and listening to hours of public testimony about the large scale alternative energy project south of Anderson Ranch Reservoir and 22 miles northeast of Mountain Home, Idaho, the Elmore County Planning and Zoning Commission denied all five building permits. Those five CUPs would have been key to allowing an environmentally unfriendly wind, solar and hydroelectric project to be built along along "one of the most beautiful drives in Idaho!" 

"Then we decided to head out to the attractions in the north west [sic] and check out Anderson Ranch Reservoir. We drove out Highway 20, and we were amazed. This is one of the most beautiful drives in Idaho! We stopped at the viewpoint at Goodale’s Cutoff, and it was spectacular. The interpretive signs are great." Internationally known tourism expert Roger Brooks during a 2016 public hearing.

During that July 13, 2016, P & Z public hearing, the seven county planning and zoning commission members individually voiced the specific reasons they voted to deny each permit. There was no ambiguity and the public left the meeting knowing exactly why the Cat Creek Energy LLC project permits were denied. It was excruciatingly boring sitting through those explanations but many residents did so because they cared. They cared about the landscape and environment. 

Some of the reason stated by the commission members included environmental reasons, public safety, the project not fitting into the current land use and that some parts of the project were just not friendly to the nearby local business and landowners. 

From Hwy 20 the wind turbines will be plainly visible

History of Who Cares About The Citizens or The Environment
After being denied the permits to move forward on the environmentally unfriendly energy project, Cat Creek Energy LLC filed an appeal with the Elmore County Commissioners. The commissioners called a few large scale meetings. The document count increased to over 8,000 pages and verbal testimony probably increased proportionally. Wes Wootan who has been mostly an absentee Elmore County Commissioner since his reelection in Nov. 2016, sat on the sidelines for the entire decision making process.

After a series of  deliberation hearings, the Commissioners Corbus and Hofer approved the five conditional use permits during a regular meeting held on Friday February 10, 2017. The only people present during this deliberation hearing and the final decision were seven people from Cat Creek Energy LLC and three county residents.

Why Approve?
At no time during the deliberation hearing did the county commission definitive say, explain or offer any opinions as to why they were thinking of overturning Elmore County Planning and Zoning Commission's July 2016 decision to deny the CUPs.

There is a document available to the public that might explain why Elmore County Commissioners Hofer and Corbus overturned their own planning and zoning commission's July 13 decision. That document does not appear to be published online either. Heck, the existence of said document seems more like a state secret than public record. 

Anderson Ranch Reservoir is below a planned new reservoir on the flats above?

My Personal Thoughts Are:
The Elmore County, Idaho county commissioners are more interested in finding a new source of water than adhering to the county's own permit ordinance and guidelines. I also wonder if Corbus and Hofer will be hunting elk on the private lands owned by the Cat Creek Energy folks this coming fall? To hear Hofer tell it, there are a 1000 head of elk that winter on that land and he is just itching to fill a few big game tags in the future. I also wonder if that crane Bud Corbus owns will be needed to erect some of those new wind turbines?

Transparency is simply the telling (publishing) of your story, the work you do and the decisions you make. Elmore County, Idaho doesn't seem to think they need to be transparent.

Originally published on March 10, 2017


Tim Bondy Freelance
Writer & Citizen Journalist

I am currently a proud citizen journalist, aka "enemy of the American People!" 

Scenes From A Prairie Idaho Area Bike Ride

Originally posted: May 15, 2018 The ride On May 14, 2018, I took a ride on my mountain bike from the South Fork of the Boise Ri...