Permit approval increases viability of fertilizer project

by Kurtis Workman
Press Staff Writer

The approval of a special land use permit for the proposed Magnida fertilizer plant is a significant benchmark for the project.

Magnida CEO Ric Sorbo said securing the permit sends a strong message about the development of the project.

“Securing the permit sends a message to our team, potential and current investors and the market that this project is viable and moving along faster than ever before,” said Sorbo.

The Power County Planning and Zoning Commission approved the special use permit on a 5-1 vote at the end of a two hour public hearing.

Sorbo said the meeting was not only beneficial for the project’s future, but also for residents.

“It was a very good session where we got the opportunity to explain the differences between this project and the previous one. We had the chance to show this is a more energy efficient plant with a smaller environmental footprint and lower local impacts than the previous design,” Sorbo said.

The largest portion of public comment was in favor of granting the permit. A few in attendance expressed concerns the plant may affect ground water levels. Engineers estimate the plant will use somewhere around five million gallons of water a day.

“We do have to follow more stringent requirements for this type of plant,” said Joe McCarthy, plant engineer. “This plant will use more advanced technology than any other plant in existence in the U.S.”

Power County Building Administrator Bob Steinlicht said the conversation about water will be taken up by the Idaho Department of Water Resources.

“The Planning and Zoning Commission meeting was on the topic of land use. The Department of Water Resources is a state level department that will handle questions about water usage,” said Steinlicht. Magnida purchased their water right from the former FMC Corporation site.

Great Rift Business Development Organization Executive Director Kristen Jensen applauded the permit approval.

“As I interact with local business owners I have found they are very excited to have the additional revenue associated with the construction and long term employment Magnida will provide. The approval of the permit is a needed step toward the project becoming a reality,” said Jensen.

Sorbo said approving the permit will help Magnida as they work to complete the next important phase of the project, a step that will effectively turn the fertilizer plant from a proposal to a certainty.

“In order to raise the funding needed lenders have ‘litmus tests’ or benchmarks that indicate this is a project worth investing in. Securing this permit is one of those benchmarks. We are obviously very, very happy with the outcome and it is good to have that certainty,” said Sorbo.

In addition to providing surety to potential investors, Sorbo said the impact of gaining the special land use permit helps to solidify Magnida’s place as an industry leader.

“We are competing with other, similar projects around the country. Demonstrating the community’s support keeps us in front of the pack as we compete with other development projects,” said Sorbo.

The permit is a renewal of the 2008 special use permit for Southeast Idaho Energy, which was the name of the project at that time. The only significant change in the permit arose from moving Lake Channel Road toward the Snake River and putting the main accesses to the factory along that road.

There was a recognized archeological site along the new roadway path that featured possible shavings from earlier inhabitants. Even though the area has been farmed for years since becoming an archeological site, the company will still have an expert investigate the area before the road is constructed, Magnida representatives said at the hearing.

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