Fish & Wildlife
The Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) is very early in the six-year licensing process for Susitna-Watana Hydro. Most of 2012 has been spent developing a Proposed Study Plan to thoroughly understand the potential project impacts on water resources like water quality.
Studies from the 1980s have provided a wealth of information about the aquatic characteristics of the Susitna River system. As part of the Proposed Study Plan, the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) aims to conduct a number of additional studies in order to determine how the Susitna-Watana Hydro Project will impact all 184 River Miles downstream of the project.
The AEA environmental team is undertaking extensive water quality studies and modeling. Additional work includes determining how the project will potentially impact groundwater, ice processes, the formation of the river itself and flows.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will only license the project if AEA demonstrates, using the latest scientific means, that Susitna-Watana Hydro appropriately balances environmental impacts with the benefits of energy production.
The health of the Susitna River system is important. The Susitna River system is comprised of dozens of tributaries and streams that serve as spawning habitat for a variety of fish species. The Susitna-Watana Hydro team is building on extensive studies from the 1980s and undertaking an unparalleled fisheries study program in order to thoroughly understand potential project impacts on fish and salmon.
The project is located 184 miles upriver from Cook Inlet and 22 to 32 miles upstream from Devils Canyon, a narrow, highly-turbulent section of river that serves as a natural impediment to migrating salmon.
Fish studies are underway throughout the Susitna River–from the upper river, downstream to the mouth at Cook Inlet. The Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) environmental team studies include potential project impacts to habitat, fish distribution and abundance, productivity, genetic baseline data and more. Work also includes multi-year collaboration with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game.
AEA will continue to work with state and federal agencies to ensure that salmon and other fish habitat are adequately protected. This is not only a requirement for licensing the project, but it’s also the commitment of AEA and the state.
The Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) is very early in the six-year licensing process for Susitna-Watana Hydro. Most of 2012 has been spent developing a Proposed Study Plan to thoroughly understand the potential project impacts on wildlife resources. The Susitna-Watana Hydro Proposed Study Plan encompasses 186,000 acres. This region is habitat to a wide array of wildlife, including large game species like moose and caribou, Dall’s sheep, eagles and raptors and a variety of other species.
This summer AEA began a multi-year collaboration with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to begin radio collaring caribou, as part of the Nelchina herd. Studies are also underway or planned to understand the distribution and abundance of a variety of species that include moose, wolverine and Dall’s Sheep, the abundance and habitat of terrestrial and aquatic furbearers and water bird migration, breeding and habitat.
AEA will continue to work with state and federal agencies to ensure that wildlife resources are adequately protected.
Nearly 20 studies were conducted in 2012. The Susitna-Watana Hydro team also submitted its official Proposed Study Plan to the Federal Energy & Regulatory Commission (FERC) in July, 2012. The study plan proposes an additional 58 studies addressing everything from fish, wildlife, aquatics and geology to economic, cultural, aesthetic and recreational disciplines.
The public, governmental agencies and private entities were given an opportunity to submit study requests to FERC. Of the 59 study requests submitted by these various individuals and organizations, the Alaska Energy Authority has adopted 58 in its Proposed Study Plan document. A Revised Study Plan will be filed this fall with FERC’s final determination anticipated at the beginning of 2013.