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Know the West

Power plant creates noisy dispute



Sparks are flying over a proposed power plant in southeastern Idaho's rural Canyon County. Ida-West Energy Company says it must build the plant in order to fill a projected deficit in its southern Idaho service area of 250 megawatts by 2004. But first the plant needs a county permit.

Ida-West officials say the permit shouldn't be a major hurdle. Fueled by natural gas, the plant will contribute minimal pollution, will be "library-quiet at nearby residences," and will boost the economy.

But local critics fear the plant will be too noisy. The plant is "clearly going to change the character of the place in terms of noise," says Ernie Harper, an acoustic consultant to the grassroots coalition Citizens for Responsible Land Use. "It will be continuous, round-the-clock, 24 hours, seven days a week."

Anthony Trani of the coalition says the permit may go through because of political pressure. The proposed site belongs to County Commissioner Pat Galvin, and although Galvin has recused herself from the deliberations, Trani fears her involvement with the land might influence the proceedings. He wants her to "either take her property off the market or resign from her position."

The Canyon County Planning and Zoning Commission will decide whether to grant the permit to Ida-West sometime this fall. The citizens' group says it will appeal if Ida-West wins the permit.