The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Tommy Wells
Seward Phoenix LOG 

Chugach Electric scraps Snow River project

 

April 27, 2017 | View PDF



Almost as quickly as it began, Chugach Electric Association’s plans for a hydroelectric project on the Snow River came to an end last week.

After a series of meetings, Chugach Electric Association officials announced they had canceled plans to study the feasibility of a hydroelectric project along the Snow River. Last Thursday, the CEA Board of Directors voted to stop all work on the project after tsome concerns from local residents and CEA members were raised about the impact a series of dams would have on the area’s environment.

Chugach Electric Association CEO Lee Thibert said the decision to drop the project stemmed from the organization’s desire to folow it’s members’ wishes.

“As a member-owned cooperative that values the opinions of Alaskans and the communities we serve, we have decided to end the Snow River study,” Thibert said. “We are committed to sustainable energy, but we’ve heard from many Alaskans who do not want us to study this option, and we appreciate and respond to those voices and concerns.”

In his statement, Thibert also noted that CEA will not spend any more time, money, or resources on the project.

Last month, Chugach Electric Association received a permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission allowing the utility to study the feasibility of a hydroelectric project on the Snow River, which is located about 15 miles north of Seward. The study led to some resistance from two Kenai Peninsula fishing guides - Brad Kirr and David Lisi. They warned the project could harm the area’s fishing. The two created an online petition to oppose the CEA study and received more than 2,000 signatures. They also founded the Peninsula Rivers Conservancy as a way to help raise awareness to potentially harmful projects.

As part of its plan, CEA said it would study the creation of 340-foot dam on the north fork of the Snow River to create a 5,300-acre reservoir. The water from the reservoir would have been released from the reservoir, funneled through a tunnel and used to feed up to two power stations before being released back into the river. Two smaller dams were also to be built to help the Paradise Valley basin hold the reservoir.

The proposal didn’t receive a warm reception at either of CEA’s two town meetings last week – in Anchorage on Monday and Moose Pass on Tuesday. More than 100 residents attended each meeting, with many questioning the plan’s impact on wildlife health, river safety and the environment, as a whole.

Seward’s John French was one of numerous locals who advised against the plan at the Moose Pass meeting. French said the unknown impacts of such a project were too steep on the region’s sensitive environment.

A retired environment toxicologist with the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, French said CEA had “little ability to predict downstream effects on salmon.”

“Your ability to manage that risk is a very grey area,” French said . “We say we can do this and that, and all I’m saying is I wouldn’t bet on it. In fact, I’d bet against you.”

Shortly after the Moose Pass meeting, CEA Communications Director Julie Hasquet indicated the board had decided to end the study.

Chugach Board Chair Janet Reiser said the board’s decision to kill the project would not affect CEA’s efforts to develop sustainable, long-term energy supplies to its members.

“Our public engagement process worked,” said Reiser. “Sustainability is very important to us, and we want to find long-term supplies of energy that will allow Chugach to provide electricity to Alaskans for decades to come. Thank you to our members and other Alaskans who took the time to express their concerns to us.”

 

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