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Citizens pack Susitna-Watana Hydro open house

By Charlo Greene 6:55 AM June 5, 2014

The location of the proposed dam project is exactly why some Alaskans are speaking out against the project.

ANCHORAGE –

The Alaska Energy Authority is moving forward with plans it claims will create clean, reliable energy for the next 100 years.

The Susitna-Watana Hydro project calls for the construction of a dam, reservoir and related facilities on a remote part of the Susitna River. It’s location is exactly why some Alaskans are speaking out against the project.

“I think we need to be very careful when we think about damaging a river that provides us with the water and the food and life that we cherish Alaska for,” said Mike Wood, a board member with the Susitna River Coalition.

The coalition fears the construction of the proposed 735-foot dam would devastate wild salmon runs, irreparably damage caribou, bear, moose and bird habitats and threaten public safety.

“In spite of the fact that we do need energy, and I don’t for a second deny that, this dam is not the way,” Wood said. “This will not solve Alaska’s energy needs.”

The energy authority says it’s working to understand the potential project impacts on wildlife resources.

AEA has already begun collaborating with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in studying area caribou herds, as well as understanding the numbers and habits of area wildlife on sea and on land.

“We’re in the process of getting information and hopefully this information will have side benefits for the state as well,” said Wayne Dyok, AEA’s Susitna-Watana Hydro project manager.  “I do know that some of the fisheries information that we’ve collected, Fish and Game is already using for their management of the salmon species this year.”

As for the cost of the project – the Alaska Energy Authority expects it to be about $5.19 billion.

AEA says it does not expect the state to cover the entire cost but plans to use state funds and public financing to cover it. The energy authority will continue studying the environment up through next year and won’t file for its license application until 2016.

At the earliest, according to AEA, construction won’t start until 2018 if the project is granted a license.

AEA says the soonest the Susitna-Watana dam project could be completely up and running would be in 2025.

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