The draft version of the initial study reports for the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project is now available. On Monday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission posted more than ninety documents submitted by the Alaska Energy Authority detailing the initial findings of the fifty-eight studies that brought scores of scientists, pilots, and other logistical staff to the Upper Valley last summer. Studies outlined in the documents range from ice formation on the Susitna River, to potential impact on wood frog habitat.
Currently, future studies are in a state of uncertainty. In December, Governor Parnell’s proposed budget fell about ninety percent short of what would be needed to complete the field work and other work necessary for AEA to apply for a license to build the mega-project. The reason given for the budget cut was lack of access to land owned by Alaska Native Corporations. That lack of access also poses a physical barrier to a large portion of the land that needs to be studied in order for the project to move forward. As a result, AEA has moved its timeline for permit application from late 2015 to late 2016.
The final version of the initial study reports are due on June 3. Afterwards, stakeholders will have 120 days to review the findings before the first round of meetings to discuss the potential impacts of the proposed dam.