On Wednesday, the Alaska Energy Authority proposed an amended licensing schedule for the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project after it was put on hold for months. Last December, Governor Bill Walker issued an administrative order year freezing new discretionary spending on six projects, including Susitna-Watana. In July, the Walker administration eased that restriction, allowing AEA to continue work on studies required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. About $6.6 million of the previously allocated funding remained available at that time. A July 5th memo from Walker’s Office of Management and Budget Director, Pat Pitney, says that using the remaining funds to complete studies in progress would help preserve the state’s investment thus far. The memo also states that the project will be re-evaluated during next year’s budget process.
If AEA’s proposed schedule is accepted, it will allow the agency to submit technical memoranda and other supplemental information to the initial study report that was written last summer through November 6th. The meetings discussing the study report with stakeholders would begin in mid-February. Along with the request, AEA submitted records from meetings with Native organizations and state and federal agencies. Of those, only the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service expressed concern over the proposed schedule.
Currently, the federal licensing process for Susitna-Watana remains on hold through September 2nd until and unless AEA’s request to resume is approved by FERC.