Anchorage Chamber Gets Update on Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project 

By Rhonda McBride | Channel 2 News: Anchorage business leaders got an update on the proposed Susitna-Watana dam, one of those mega projects that Alaskans have dreamed about since the 1980’s.

The Alaska Energy Authority is developing it with funding from the state legislature.

Wayne Dyok, the AEA’s project manager for the proposed dam, told the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce that it would be built on the Susitna River, upstream from Devil’s Canyon – about 50 miles northeast of Talkeetna.

At 700 feet high, it would become the eighth tallest dam in the world. Once in place, it would form a reservoir 39 miles long and two miles wide.

And like other mega projects, it won’t come cheaply. Dyok says the latest cost estimate was at $4.3 billion. But he also told the chamber hydro power from the dam would meet half of the Railbelt’s energy needs for 100 years.
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“Once you get it built, you really do have a long term stable power,” said Dyok. “The example that I’ll give you is Bradley Lake.”

When the Bradley Lake Dam began operating in 1991, power was 4.5 cents a kilowatt hour.

“But guess what?” said Dyok. “2012. It’s still four-and-a-half cents.”

Dyok also touted another benefit. He said it would help the state reach its goal of having half of its electricity generated by renewable energy by 2025.

Some like Sue Libenson, who is executive director of the Alaska Center for the Environment, remain skeptical.

“Now the question is, what’s the best way to reach that goal?” said Libenson, “And if we’re going to throw this kind of money at it, whether this particular project is the best investment.” Libenson says $4.3 billion is a sizeable chunk of Alaska’s Permanent Fund, or could go a long ways towards making the state retirement fund solvent.

Libenson also says the AEA’s estimate doesn’t include other costs like building road access and adding new electrical lines. Lebenson these requirements would also have environmental impacts. Read more

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