Alaska lawmakers revive studies of 1,620-MW Susitna

The Alaska House passed and sent the Senate legislation to review previous studies of the 1,620-MW Susitna River hydroelectric project and to propose a new �appropriately sized� project.

The House passed the bill, HR 336, unanimously March 31. If the Senate approves, the bill would allocate $1 million to the Alaska Energy Authority for review of plans for the project, which was abandoned in the 1980s.

The bill does not specify a project size, only that the project be of an appropriate size for the Susitna River.

The funding endorsed by the House would be used to acquire engineering documents, and for analysis, updating codes and plans, risk analysis, peer review, and presentations. The bill would require the Alaska Energy Authority to submit a report to the Legislature by June 30, 2010.

The Alaska Power Authority withdrew a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hydro license application for 1,620-MW Susitna (No. 7114) in 1986. At that time, the state authority said the project was not economically feasible.

�The low price of oil in the mid-1980s torpedoed the Susitna Dam idea,� the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Craig Johnson, R-Anchorage, said. �Conversely, today’s high price of oil has re-opened the debate. Cheap, affordable, and local energy sources are few and far between in south-central Alaska; the Beluga gas field is maturing and other fossil sources aren’t on the table. Hydro is an idea whose time has come for review once again.�

Susitna is not the only renewable resource project that the state should consider, Johnson added.

�Along with other hydro projects we need to look at geothermal, wind, and tidal,� Johnson said. �Nothing should be off the table when it comes to investigating renewable resource development.�

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