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Devil’s Canyon vs. Susitna Dam – an Interview

by Lorien Nettleton ~ June 18th, 2012

A Hydro-Electric dam has been proposed to contain the glacial-fed Susitna River, 90 miles north of Talkeetna. If built, the 7- to 8-hundred foot tall Susitna-Watana Dam would stand among such giants as the Hoover Dam, and at a cost of around 5 billion dollars, would be the largest state-funded infrastructure project in Alaskan History. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has begun the process of trying to determine if the benefits of a stable source of electricity for 100 years outweigh the costs of transforming the Susitna River in ways that have not yet been fully determined.

KTNA’s Lorien Nettleton took a trip up the Susitna River, and has this report.

Full story: runs 3:31  –

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In Mid-June, the Susitna River looks like what some people call “big Water” The banks were swollen with snowmelt, glacial run-off, and rain. Every day the river looks a little different from the shoreline near Talkeetna.

Israel Mahay has been boating on the Susitna river his whole life. His Father’s company, Mahay’s Riverboat Service has run passengers up the three rivers that converge near Talkeetna for fishing and sightseeing since 1975. On a recent tour, Israel piloted a group 60 miles up the Susitna river, all the way to the mouth of Devil’s Canyon, a narrow channel with high granite cliffs where the full flow of the river descends in mostly un-navigable class 4 and 5 rapids.

It is here, at the furthest extent of navigable waters that Mahey idles the boat and invites passengers to admire the roiling force of the rapids and the high canyon walls.

It’s a thrilling experience, and it was here, amid the rush of big water that I had a chance to ask Captain Mahay what the Susitna river means to him.

Interview: Israel Mahay:

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Confronted with the awesome power of an unrestrained force of nature, it’s not hard to see why some people would rather allow the Susitna river to continue to flow as it always has … wild and free.

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