“Minidoka’s Painful Past Faces a New Threat in the Form of a Wind Farm”

by Gabriel Martinez
Minidoka Wind Farm Controversy

In the scorching July heat of 1943, a young boy named Paul Tomita stood behind barbed wire, his ink-covered finger pressing onto a mint-green exit card. It was Independence Day, a day of celebration in the United States, but for Paul and over 13,000 Japanese Americans at Minidoka camp in the vast Idaho desert, it marked the end of 11 months of incarceration during World War II due to their ancestry.

Paul Tomita, now 84, still vividly recalls that moment. The wallet-sized exit card granted him and his family the freedom to leave the confines of the cramped barracks they had called home. It was a stark reminder of the past, a past that some are determined to preserve.

Fast forward eight decades, and Paul Tomita returns to Minidoka with fellow pilgrims who believe that the injustices suffered here must never be forgotten. However, a new threat looms over this historic site — the proposed Lava Ridge Wind Farm.

The Lava Ridge Wind Farm, if approved by the Bureau of Land Management, would consist of 400 wind turbines sprawling across 118 square miles near Minidoka. For survivors and descendants, this project represents another attempt to overshadow the painful history of Japanese American incarceration.

Paul Tomita, reflecting on the situation, raises a poignant question: “If Minidoka was a white memorial to white soldiers who died in whatever war it is, do you think that they would offer free land to Lava Ridge to develop their windmills there?”

As the wind project seeks approval, it presents a challenge to the commitment of the Biden Administration to combat climate change through renewable energy. Magic Valley, the company behind the project, aims to create the second-largest wind farm in the U.S., producing up to 1,000 megawatts and doubling Idaho’s wind energy production. Proponents argue that such projects are essential for clean energy and reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

However, opposition to the Lava Ridge Wind Farm is nearly unanimous among those who hold Minidoka dear. Concerns include the potential permanent scars on the isolated landscape, damage to the aquifer from construction explosives, and the overshadowing of the desert landscape where survivors come to heal and remember.

Minidoka survivors and descendants emphasize the importance of preserving the site as a place of healing and remembrance, acknowledging the traumas their families endured. The struggle to ensure that history is not repeated remains a powerful motivation.

In the midst of this debate stands Paul Tomita, the little boy with the ink-stained finger, who, after leaving Minidoka, went on to build a life of resilience and success. He carries a copy of his exit card as a symbol of the past and a reminder that Minidoka, despite its painful history, is sacred land that must be preserved for future generations.

The battle between clean energy goals and the preservation of a painful past continues, raising complex questions about how we remember and honor history in a changing world.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Minidoka Wind Farm Controversy

Q: What is Minidoka, and why is it significant?

A: Minidoka was a World War II incarceration camp located in the vast Idaho desert, where over 13,000 Japanese American men, women, and children were interned due to their Japanese ancestry. It is significant because it represents a dark chapter in American history, highlighting the injustices and hardships endured by Japanese Americans during the war.

Q: What is the Lava Ridge Wind Farm, and why is it controversial?

A: The Lava Ridge Wind Farm is a proposed renewable energy project that aims to install 400 wind turbines on 118 square miles of public land near Minidoka. It is controversial because many believe it threatens to overshadow the historical significance of Minidoka and scar the landscape, potentially undermining efforts to remember and honor the past.

Q: What are the key concerns raised by those opposing the wind farm project?

A: Opponents of the wind farm project are concerned about several factors, including the permanent impact on the landscape, potential damage to the aquifer from construction, and the casting of shadows on the desert landscape that holds historical significance for Minidoka survivors and descendants.

Q: What is the Biden Administration’s stance on the wind farm project?

A: The Biden Administration has expressed support for renewable energy projects, including wind farms, as part of its commitment to combat climate change and achieve energy independence. However, it is important to note that the administration’s stance does not directly address the specific concerns related to the Lava Ridge Wind Farm near Minidoka.

Q: How do Minidoka survivors and descendants view the site, and why is it important to them?

A: Minidoka survivors and descendants consider the site a place of healing and remembrance. It holds deep significance for them as it commemorates the traumas their families endured during incarceration. Preserving the site is essential to ensure that the history of Japanese American internment during WWII is not forgotten and to educate future generations about the past.

Q: Who is Paul Tomita, and why is his perspective significant in this context?

A: Paul Tomita is a survivor of Minidoka who, as a young boy, experienced internment at the camp. His perspective is significant because he represents the personal and emotional connection that many survivors and descendants have to the site. His return to Minidoka and his commitment to preserving its history serve as a powerful symbol of resilience and remembrance.

More about Minidoka Wind Farm Controversy

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Survivor83 November 11, 2023 - 2:19 pm

paul tomita is a real hero, he keeps that card after all these yrs, that’s deep

Reader123 November 11, 2023 - 2:42 pm

wow this story is so sad and important we gotta remember history ya know?

ClimateActivist November 11, 2023 - 6:08 pm

wind energy’s great but not if it hurts history & nature, need a balance #SaveMinidoka

HistoryNerd55 November 12, 2023 - 7:39 am

im confused tho y they wanna build windmills at this place?

QuestionMark November 12, 2023 - 8:55 am

biden admin needs to think about this, it’s not just about clean energy, it’s about respecting history


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