A land access dispute that threatened to delay progress on the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project has been resolved, though the agreement has come later than expected.
Friday afternoon, the Alaska Energy Authority issued a press release stating that a “complex” land access permit had been reached between AEA, six Cook Inlet village corporations, and Cook Inlet Region, Inc to allow access to Alaska Native-owned land that is in the study area for the proposed megaproject. Over the past two years, discussions over land access have been ongoing, and were occasionally complicated by allegations of trespassing by contractors hired by AEA. Details of the agreement were not available on Friday.
The land access agreement could also have an impact on funding for the Susitna-Watana project this year. Governor Sean Parnell has asked the Alaska Legislature for a $32.7 million budget supplement for the current fiscal year. If lawmakers approve the supplement, it would still require AEA to secure access to the village corporation lands.
While the agreement comes more than a month after AEA’s estimate that they would have an access permit by the end of February, it still represents a step forward for the project. Now, the decision comes down to lawmakers as they discuss the state capital budget over the coming days.