by Phillip Manning ~ January 28th, 2014
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has granted a request from the Alaska Energy Authority to extend the timeline for the initial study reports on the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project. In addition, FERC has also granted the recommendation made by many individuals, NGO, and a few federal agencies to extend the review period for those reports.
Both extensions are for 120 days. Initially, the study reports were to be released in their final form on February 3rd. AEA’s request means that the reports released in February will be drafts, and the final versions will be made available on June 3rd. Some stakeholders in the project expressed concern that releasing the final reports during the busy summer season would mean that an adequate review would be impossible. FERC agreed that a summer release would present a hardship. Now, stakeholders will have until October to review the initial study reports. Whitney Wolff, a member of the Susitna River Coalition, says that the decision to extend the time for review of the reports is more equitable than AEA’s original request, which would have allowed fifteen days before the first set of stakeholder meetings. Wolff adds that FERC’s response also confirms that AEA was unable to meet the original report timeframe as outlined in the licensing process.
In its letter granting the request, FERC says that it does not believe that extending the review timeline would impact the ability of A-E-A to conduct 2015 field studies. Emily Ford, spokeswoman for AEA, says that the new schedule is being reviewed to make sure that it fits with the current field season plans. She also says that AEA is pleased with the extension, and that the increased opportunity to consult with stakeholders is appreciated.
The new timeline will have AEA meet with stakeholders to discuss the study results on October 16th.