Alaska selects site for proposed Susitna River dam

Alaska officials have chosen a location on the Susitna River to build a proposed $5 billion dam and hydro project. The project, as recommended by the Alaska Energy Authority, would include a 700-foot-tall dam with a 600-MW hydro project.

The Alaska Energy Authority selected a remote site on the Susitna River as its preferred location for a large dam and hydro project, and Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell signaled his support, media reports indicate.

Earlier, Parnell signed an energy bill setting a 50 percent goal for renewables, including hydropower. The governor also signed a $10 million appropriation to finance studies comparing two potential locations for the new dam and hydro project.

That led to the AEA’s recommendation to pursue a conventional dam design at the Low Watana site on the Susitna River, in a remote location about 40 miles east of the highway and railroad corridor linking Anchorage and Fairbanks.

The other alternative considered was at Chakachamna Lake, 85 miles west of Anchorage, where a 10-mile-long tunnel would be built using gravity to carry water between two watersheds, generating power in the process.

At $5 billion, the Susitna River dam would cost about 50 percent more to build than Chakachamna, the authority found, but it would generate twice as much power with more reliability, and faced fewer regulatory obstacles. The proposed Susitna dam and hydro project would have 600 MW of capacity, compared to 126 MW at Bradley Lake.

State officials say large state subsidies will be needed to get the project off the ground.

Such a project has been under consideration for several decades, local media reported.

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