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Dam deadline for comments draws near

by Lorien Nettleton ~ May 31st, 2012

The period for public comment on the scoping documents for Alaska Energy Authority’s bid to build a Dam on the Susitna River is closing Today. A steady flow of comments have come from individuals, state and federal agencies, and native corporations alike.

Opinions offered in the comments are divided, with residents of the Upper Susitna valley overwhelmingly critical of the plan. Comments from other areas of the state, including many from Fairbanks, are enthusiastic of the project that could mean lower energy rates for residents of the populated areas of the railbelt.
One Federal Agency to submit comments that raise a number of concerns familiar to the residents of Talkeetna and Trapper Creek. is the USGS. In its comments on the scoping document, the USGS outlined six areas where additional research would be needed. Among those areas lacking thorough study were the seismicity of the area, which experiences regular earthquakes. They also noted an absence of thorough understanding of what changes to the water source could be expected in a warming climate. The USGS said that a warming climate that could mean higher water volumes over the short term as glacier melt increases, but a gradual diminishing of water availability once the glaciers are gone.

The USGS also recommended significant aquatic habitat analysis, adding that side-streams where salmon spawn rely on seasonal flooding, and with a controlled water flow, asked that studies be done to identify the habitat needs for each species, and how those habitat changes would be affected by the dam.

A final point of additional study the USGS recommended was the likelihood that changes to the water flow would alter the sediment load, and interrupt the sediment supply of the Upper Susitna. They pointed out that alterations to river flow could result in channel changes to the river, both immediately downstream of the dam, and over the entire river’s course.

Other entities that have submitted comment to the scoping document include Native Corporations, many of whom expressed desire to be included in the planning process, as much of the area the dam will be built on, as well as the area of the reservoir and the road access will likely cover significant stretches of lands held by native corporations.

The comment deadline for responses to the first scoping document for the Susitna Dam project is Today  and a second scoping document could be issues by the end of July, if Federal Energy Regulatory Commission deems it necessary.

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