A music teacher wrote this, just an ordinary very concerned citizen. It got wide play statewide because it speaks directly to the issue of why Alaska remains unique:
“One reason the legislature approved $95 million more for the dam this session is because they, too, haven’t yet grasped how fundamentally the dam would change Alaska—removing funds for better alternatives, reducing the reasons we live here, maybe even shifting our license plate motto from “The Last Frontier” to “America’s Biggest Dam.” (The Alaska Energy Authority is proud that their engineering design for the dam includes an expansion in height after initial construction to make it one of the 10 tallest on the planet.)”
Is Hydropower Clean? Our Take On Dams
Conventional hydropower is one of the oldest and most well-established among a growing number of technologies that provide low-emissions alternatives to fossil-fuel energy. Nationally, hydropower accounts for nearly 8.2% of total electric generation. American Rivers has actively supported the continued operation of many hydropower facilities across the country. We recognize that hydropower – done right – is an important part of our nation’s energy mix. But the key lies in getting it right. When it’s done wrong, hydropower is far from clean. Hydropower is unique among renewable resources because of the scale at which it can damage the environment when it’s done poorly. Unless a hydropower dam is sited, operated, and mitigated appropriately, it can haveenormous impacts on river health and the livelihoods of future generations that will depend on those rivers. Poorly-done hydropower has caused some species to go extinct and put others, including some with extremely high commercial value, at grave risk. That’s not something we should take lightly.
While we’re very skeptical of the need for new dams or projects that dewater healthy streams, we think there’s a lot of new hydropower capacity out there that can be developed responsibly. The National Hydropower Association estimates that America could double its hydropower capacity without building a single new dam. We’ve worked closely with industry on policies that would encourage the responsible development of these types of hydropower projects: efficiency improvements that enable more power to be generated from the same water, new capacity added to existing hydropower dams, and adding turbines to non-powered dams. As a class, these types of projects are cheaper to build, easier to permit, and much less harmful to the environment than new dam construction, so we’re doing all we can to encourage developers to put their energy here. We’re also looking closely at new hydropower technologies that don’t involve dams or diversions to see if those may prove to be an effective – and cleaner – alternative than traditional hydropower.
We must encourage responsible development while also continually holding developers and federal operators accountable for their environmental impacts and insisting on the strictest performance standards. We must remove obstacles to development while recognizing at the most basic level that a high level of environmental performance and the costs of achieving it are not an “obstacle” to development but a fundamental and necessary component of it. We must help new development to take place while also accepting that, as the Obama Administration’s 2010 interagency hydropower policy memorandum acknowledges, “[N]ot every site is appropriate for new hydropower production.”
On a stellar March day like Saturday was, with a robin’s-egg-blue sky profiling that breathtaking Foraker-Hunter-Denali triumvirate, a ski up the Susitna River is just about as good as it gets. Now imagine being there with 699 other classic ski enthusiasts, all with big grins on their faces, and you’ve got Talkeetna’s Oosik Classic Ski Race.
Because the proposed Susitna dam would be just 65 miles upstream, Denali Nordic Ski Club’s race committee chose this year’s three-rivers route in part to make people aware of the dam’s potential impacts. Increases in water flows would be greatest in winter and result in open, flowing water all the way downstream to Talkeetna and beyond, putting an end to safe transportation and recreation uses — such as the Oosik.
The Coalition was invited by the race committee to help get the word out about the dam. We did a booth at registration, provided a flyer (see it here or see excerpt below) for each skier’s race packet, showed videos at the apres-ski party, and posted Burma Shave-type signs along the ski trail: The Susitna’s fate lies / With the state legislature / You think salmon would vote / For big hydro or nature? / No Su Dam!
We had a lot of good conversations with folks, and many signed on as members of the Coalition or promised to check out our website and sign on there…
So if you are reading this because you heard about us this weekend in Talkeetna, WELCOME Oosikers and friends! If you haven’t already signed on to help us convince decision makers to stop this dam, please go to our “Join Us” page now — or at least as soon as you get back in from a good ski on yet another gorgeous March day!
Excerpt from the flyer:
Discharges from the dam would bring constantly- fluctuating winter flows up to 10 times greater than normal, creating extensive stretches of open water and unsafe ice conditions far downstream of the dam. Winter impacts would be severe for certain uses:
- Skiing, dog mushing and snowmachining – the frozen Susitna serves as a transportation corridor to remote homes and cabins, training grounds and the race trail route for Iditarod mushers, links to numerous snow machine trails throughout the upper Valley and venue for the Oosik Ski Race.
- Wildlife – the frozen river and islands are essential wildlife habitat and offer moose access to life-sustaining winter browse. Spring break-up supports healthy willow growth and riparian zones that also support our local moose populations.
- Salmon – fry and juveniles that over-winter in the river rely on natural water cycles and temperatures to survive.
The Coalition recently published a one-page bullet paper titled Essential Information for Legislators and Current Inescapable Problems with the Susitna Dam and sent it to every legislator in Juneau. To see this paper, click here. We’ve already heard back from legislators who say they’d like to learn more about the dam. Board President Rick Leo will go to Juneau this week to meet with legislators. If you’d like to write your legislators about the dam, email us and we’ll send you some information about legislators’ contacts, etc.
email - firstname.lastname@example.org
On December 14, AEA filed its Revised Study Plan (RSP) for 58 studies with FERC, setting off the comment period ending tomorrow. In a December 31 letter, FERC told AEA that 45 studies are acceptable, but 13 study plans need revision. This set off a series of letters to FERC from AEA, Governor Parnell and others protesting FERC’s actions and adding a political tone to the licensing process.
Check out our More Info page, to see these letters and some of the comments submitted to FERC — including two comments from the Coalition. And click here to listen to KTNA’s interview with Jan Konigsberg about the politicization of the FERC process.
Gov Parnell asked for 95 million dollars to continue work on the dam. His 2013 Capital Budget also requests 50 million to be split between two gas pipeline proposals. If the 95 mil and the 50 mil was given to one pipeline proposal, and the ridiculous legislative bickering over whose pipeline is better ended, and natural gas that now already provides more electricity than the dam would AND provides heating fuel which the dam can’t, the dam is done. No reason for it. Stopped dead. Then maybe the legislature would take the planned 5 Billion that dam will cost, put it toward tidal and wind and in-stream hydro and biomass and geothermal, and we can all get back to fishing. Or skiing. Or snowmachining. Or just breathing free.
SYNOPSIS OF PUBLIC COMMENT TO FERC ON SUSITNA DAM PROPOSED STUDY PLANS
Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) released for public comment on July 16, 2012 58 proposed individual studies grouped under 13 general resource categories. These studies are being done in order for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to develop the Environmental Impact Statement and to evaluate whether to issue a license to build the dam. The study goals are to develop adequate information about the existing environment in order to analyze project impacts. The comment period ended November 14.
There were 41 study plan comments: 23 from individuals, 10 from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), 7 from state and federal government agencies, 1 from Alaska Native Corporation.
The majority of the comments stated that the 2 year Integrated Licensing Process study plan process was not scientifically defensible. The majority also supported a National-Level Economic Valuation Study. This study, originally proposed by 11 NGOs, would evaluate the importance of a free flowing Susitna River on a national level. It is the only study that AEA has outright rejected.
There were also many comments on the following issues:
- Depending on data from the original two-dam Susitna Hydro Project studies from the 1980’s is not scientifically defensible.
- The study data must be transparent and available to the public as it happens.
- The studies must be peer reviewed.
- There must be a climate change study for impacts on the whole Susitna River Watershed.
- Greenhouse Gas emissions from proposed reservoir inundation and permafrost disturbance and melting must be studied.
WHAT’S NEXT? AEA will review the comments and come out with a final Revised Study Plan on December 14, 2012. The public comment period to FERC on this will be from December 14 to January 18, 2013. FERC will then make its decision on the final study plan February 1, 2013.
For more detailed information on the process and comment details from the government agencies, see the More Information page.
Here’s a link to a worthy op ed in the Anchorage Daily News — in case you haven’t seen it already. November 14 ADN op ed
Once you’re there, you can also click on the Comments just under the title to see the discussion that the essay has inspired. It’s great to see the dam being debated in the media — at last. Maybe you’ll want to add your two cents’ worth by making a comment of your own.
The Federal Regulatory Energy Commission (FERC) is accepting a new round of public comments, this time on how the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) plans to study the dam’s effects on salmon, wildlife, local economies, and the entire ecosystem. Comments on AEA’s Proposed Study Plans are due November 14. Thanks to you, nearly 70% of the comments FERC received in last spring’s scoping comments said no dam! Let’s send the same message again.
Your comment can be short and simple:
I oppose the Susitna dam and I think AEA’s Proposed Study Plans are not adequate for understanding the impacts the dam would have on a river system as biologically rich and complex as the Susitna.
Unfortunately, the process for submitting comments is anything but simple, but here’s a link to our “More Info” page where you’ll find directions that will walk you through it. Step-by step-directions for submitting comments.
If you would like to add more to your comments, here are some ideas:
- Two years of study is not enough. There has never been a dam so massive, built so far north, on a river so large. Even the agencies studying the extent of the dam’s impacts and risks say that only two study years cannot return a full understanding of what would happen if the dam is built. For instance, with the Susitna running at much reduced summer flows, the Chulitna could push the main stem of the Susitna toward Talkeetna. What is the likelihood of this, and what would the impacts of increased erosion be on the town of Talkeetna? Also, what impacts would the changes in Susitna River water flows have on the five species of salmon? The life cycle of a Chinook salmon is five to seven years. A comprehensive, meaningful study that confidently predicts the potential effects of a dam of this nature on Susitna River salmon simply cannot be conducted in two years.
- Winter water flows are planned to fluctuate across the day, at times reaching four times average flows. This would make river ice unstable, making travel dangerous, or even impossible, for both humans (snowmachine, dogsled or ski) and animals (moose and caribou). It would disrupt winter habitat of juvenile salmon in the main river, for example by removing still pools where they would normally rest, making their survival difficult at best and impossible at worst.
- Studies from the early 80′s are being used to speed the process, but the climate of the Susitna Valley has changed dramatically in 30 years, averaging 4 to 5 degrees warmer. Many of the old studies are no longer accurate for today’s conditions. In addition, there are much more sophisticated data collection and computer modeling techniques that were not available 30 years ago. But still AEA is insisting that they can use those old studies to… speed the process.
- A National Valuation Study has been dismissed by AEA, but the impacts of the dam should be considered from a national level, not just Alaskan. A free-flowing Susitna River has value to Alaskans and all Americans. Formally called a National-Level Economic Valuation Study, this study would fully explore and define the cost/benefit, loss/reward of the national value of a free flowing river versus a dammed river, including costs to such factors as recreation, aesthetics, and culture. FERC is a national agency. The value of an intact Susitna watershed should be considered on a national scale.
- Insist that there be total transparency of data — all data must be available to the public, and it must be peer reviewed. AEA has not made any of this summer’s study data available.
If you would like to read the comments we submitted to FERC, click here to see the Coalition’s comments on the “More Info” page of our website. We will also post comments from resource agencies and other groups on this page as we receive them. Thank you for taking the time to send a comment to FERC and for your help to stop the dam.
Here’s something fun! During the past summer, a colorful message appeared on the railroad bridge near the confluence of the Susitna and Talkeetna Rivers. Speculation about how the graffiti got there and who the artist might be spread through Upper Susitna communities all summer.
Though the original graffiti artist is still a mystery, Talkeetna’s own renowned artist, Tony Crocetto, turned the image into a graphic design.
And now you can own a silk screen of this artwork! T-shirts will arrive in 6 days, in sizes from small to extra-large.
For just $20, these t-shirts are not only a work of art but also an important way to spread the word and support the Coalition’s work of keeping the Susitna dam-free. Decades hence our grandchildren will look at these and wonder at the idiocy of a plan to solve 21st century energy needs with 20th century technology.
To order t-shirts, simply email email@example.com or call us at 733-5400. You can order small, medium, large or extra-large. Be the first on your block to wear one of these way cool t-shirts. (And think how easy this could make your holiday shopping!)
November 14, 2012 comment deadline
Proposed ILP Study Plan
On July 16, 2012, the Alaska Energy Authority ( AEA) filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ( FERC) their Proposed Study Plan (PSP). There are 58 studies in total. This is being done under the rules of the Integrated Licensing Process (ILP).
- These studies are being done in order to develop the Environmental Impact Statement and to evaluate license approval and conditions. The goals of these studies are to develop adequate information about the existing environment in order to analyze project impacts. The studies will be done in 2013 and 2014 only which is a bone of contention with the stakeholders and government agencies who contend two years of studies are not enough.
- Since July, AEA and its 74 consultants under contract have been holding Technical Work Groups with the federal and state agencies and the public in order to further revise and refine the study plans. As a result, changes have been made in some of the study plans which AEA is suppose to state in draft revised study plans that they will post by the end of October on their website www.susitna-watanahydro.org.
November 14, 2012 is the deadline for all stakeholders, the public and the agencies, to file comments on the Proposed Study Plan to FERC.
- Then,AEA will prepare a Revised Study Plan (RSP) to present to the public on December 14. FERC will then be accepting public comment from all stakeholders on the RSP until January 18, 2013 on the RSP. FERC will come out with the final study plan on February 1.
- Only the conditioning agencies which are the National Marine Fisheries Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation can dispute any of the study plans. The dispute resolution has its own process from February to May 1.
The Coalition will post information regarding the study plans soon.
For more geeky information regarding where the project is in the federal process, see Proposed Susitna Dam Project Process Update under More Information.
Public Comment due October 15
Draft Susitna Watana Transportation Access Analysis
Send Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
or postal mail address
Alaska Energy Authority (AEA), 843 W. Northern Lights Blvd
Anchorage AK 99503
Reference Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project
All of us, as public stakeholders opposed to the dam, can comment to AEA that no matter what they ultimately choose for construction of the road/transmission lines/ airport runway routes, there are many impacts to the land. Local knowledge of the area is especially important.
- This is a draft assessment plan written by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities of four alternative routes for access road, transmission line corridor, and airport location. The ultimate route(s) will be decided during the National Environmental Policy Act process.
- The four routes studied are the South Road (south of the Susitna River), Hurricane West, Seattle Creek North, and Butte Creek East. The Seattle Creek North corridor (see below) is advanced as the best route to meet the schedule and cost goals.
- Two sites, north and south of the River, for the airport were considered. If the access road is north of the river, that will be the likely site. This would be a permanent airport with a minimum footprint of 9400 feet long by 500 feet wide. Designed for a Boeing 737-200 aircraft, the airport is proposed to be constructed first in order to start the dam construction before the road is complete.
- There may be 2 transmission corridors. In theory, one would run north/south and the other east/west.
Details of the Preferred Seattle Creek North Route
- The road would start 20 miles east of Cantwell at MP 113.7 on the Denali Highway.
- There would be approximately 24 miles of improvements to the Denali Highway including an 8 foot widening to 32 feet wide, 56 culvert replacements, and a new bridge.
- The new access road would be a 32 foot wide, all season gravel road south 43.3 miles long through the Brushkana, Lily, and Seattle Creek drainages to the dam site. 74% of this route is above 3000 feet in elevation which is NOT preferable to locate a transmission line due to excessive snow loading and icing issues. Thus, there is a question of co-location feasibility of the road with the powerline.
Specific Concerns (that can be mentioned)
- The State/AEA is pushing this project forward as fast as possible. However, the state should NOT pursue permit applications nor actual building of access routes or airport until after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Licensing process is completed.
- There are considerable data gaps in this study. Much of the data is based on the 1980’s studies which are outdated and not completely applicable. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wetland Inventory does not cover all 4 access route proposals. There is not available complete and current wildlife habitat data from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. There is no recent eagle nest survey data essential for the Eagle Protection Act. These are some glaring examples.
- The fish and wildlife resources of Game Management Unit 13 will be negatively impacted by this developed access. This means trespassing issues, increased harvest pressure, user conflicts, increased use of Off Road Vehicles on the tundra, and disturbance to caribou calving areas. The preferred access route bisects the range of the Delta Subherd of the Nelchina Caribou Herd.
- The establishment of access routes is an extensive carbon footprint. The majority of the ground in each access alignment is permafrost. Development will cause the thermal regime to warm and thaw creating an increase of greenhouse gas emissions to the environment.
- The Seattle Creek route joins the Susitna River Watershed to the Tanana/Nenana River Watershed with the increased potential for invasive species penetration. This is worrisome because government agencies usually want to spray herbicides when invasive plants are discovered.
This chance for public comments is another forum to create a public record. Furthermore, recording these comments with FERC gets these views out to a wider audience. The actual lengthy draft study with executive summary is on the AEA website which is www.susitna-watanahydro.org.