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Boots on the Ground: 2013 Susitna-Watana Hydro Environmental Field Efforts

This summer an unprecedented environmental study effort has been in full swing for Susitna-Watana Hydro. An estimated 200 scientists, surveyors, archeologists, biologists and other personnel have been in the field studying everything from cultural resources, botanical resources, large game, birds and raptors and all five species of salmon.

Fifty-eight studies have been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) has worked to implement the studies that range from the mouth of the Cook Inlet to Upper Susitna River. With such a large study effort, coordination and safety remain top priorities.

This summer’s effort builds upon the 3,000 studies gathered during the 1980s Susitna Hydro licensing process; Alaska Department of Fish and Game management » Continue Reading.

This summer an unprecedented environmental study effort has been in full swing for Susitna-Watana Hydro. An estimated 200 scientists, surveyors, archeologists, biologists and other personnel have been in the field studying everything from cultural resources, botanical resources, large game, birds and raptors and all five species of salmon.

Fifty-eight studies have been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) has worked to implement the studies that range from the mouth of the Cook Inlet to Upper Susitna River. With such a large study effort, coordination and safety remain top priorities.

This summer’s effort builds upon the 3,000 studies gathered during the 1980s Susitna Hydro licensing process; Alaska Department of Fish and Game management data; early Susitna-Watana Hydro studies initiated last year; and additional studies to be conducted next year.

Salmon remain a key focus of a number of studies. AEA teams are working to build previous findings about salmon migration and habitat. Only one salmon species has ever been documented within 35 miles of the project site. Of the Chinook salmon tagged as part of the Susitna-Watana Hydro studies in 2012, less than 1 percent made it past the proposed project site.

“It’s about striking a balance between the need for power and environmental concerns,” said Wayne Dyok, project manager.  “We are embarking on unparalleled fish and fish habitat studies and we will understand more about the Susitna Basin than ever before.”

Data gathered from this summer’s field studies will be analyzed during the coming months and presented during Technical Workgroup Meetings this winter and the Interim Study Reports filed with FERC in February 2014.

As planned, Susitna-Watana Hydro will supply about half of the electricity needed to power homes and businesses from Fairbanks to Homer. The project is a significant part of the state’s renewable energy goal, which calls for 50 percent of Alaska’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2025. AEA hopes to bring Susitna-Watana Hydro online by 2024.

AEA is a public corporation of the state whose mission is to reduce the cost of energy in Alaska. Susitna-Watana Hydro will provide reliable, renewable energy for Alaska. More information can be found at www.akenergyauthority.org.