Earlier this month, the Alaska Energy Authority reached a land access agreement with the Cook Inlet Regional Working Group regarding land access to conduct field studies. The working group, which is composed six village corporations and Cook Inlet Region, Incorporated, will allow the studies to proceed on their land through 2015 and AEA will pay a permit fee of $2.5 million. The previous lack of an agreement meant that studies could not be conducted on the Alaska Native-owned land during 2013, and was the major reason cited by Governor Sean Parnell for cutting back significantly on Susitna-Watana’s budget for the fiscal year beginning in July.
The budget cuts and land access issues contributed to AEA’s request for an extension on the multi-year licensing required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on projects like Susitna-Watana. Part of that delay includes pushing back the release of an Initial Study Report, which details the work that took place in 2013 and will lay out the plan for work through the second study season. Originally, that report was scheduled to come out at the beginning of February, but has been pushed back to the beginning of June. When the review period is taken into account, it means that the meetings to discuss future study plans will take place in October. (more…)