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FERC Upholds Refusal of Climate Change Dam Study

by Phillip Manning ~ July 22nd, 2013

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, has denied a request by the National Marine Fisheries Service to hold a new hearing on proposed climate change studies for the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project.  The proposals were part of the original Study Plan submitted by the Alaska Energy Authority, AEA, but were deemed unnecessary by FERC.  In a written order, FERC Deputy Secretary Nathaniel Davis says that, “the Commission does not agree that the climate change studies proposed by AEA and requested by NMFS are likely to yield reliable data that can be used in the development of license requirements, particularly when balanced against the cost of such assessments.”

FERC is requiring some evaluation of the impact of climate change on the Susitna River, specifically the review of “existing literature” and the impact of increased sediment flow. The rejected study components include a model simulating glacial retreat, studies on the effect of water temperature in hydrology, and an expansion of the study area upstream of the dam site.

Julie Speegle, spokeswoman for the National Marine Fisheries Service, says that the agency is disappointed in FERC’s decision.  She says that the Fisheries Service is determining its next steps forward, but did point out that in the order denying additional hearings, FERC does mention that the impact of glacial retreat on stream flow is important.

Emily Ford, spokeswoman for AEA, says that the climate changes studies are going forward despite the decision not to require it as part of the licensing process.  She says that AEA recognizes the impact that flow changes due to glacial retreat will have on the project going forward.

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