Resource Development Council

RDC Comment Letter:
Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project

April 12, 2012

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street, NE
Washington, D.C. 20426

Re: Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project, Docket Number P-14241

To Whom It May Concern:

The Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc., (RDC) is writing to support the proposed Susitna Hydroelectric Project in Alaska. RDC is an Alaskan business association comprised of individuals and companies from Alaska's oil and gas, mining, forest products, tourism, and fisheries industries. Our membership includes all of the Alaska Native Regional Corporations, local communities, organized labor, and industry support firms. RDC's purpose is to expand the state's economic base through the responsible development of our natural resources.

RDC believes the Susitna hydroelectric project is truly in the public’s best interest. Alaska’s Railbelt accounts for two-thirds of the state’s population. Railbelt communities from Seward to Fairbanks are in need of a sustainable and reliable energy source to power homes and businesses. Susitna offers a long-term, cost-effective, and reliable power at a constant price for decades.

The project will also help the State meet its established goal of deriving 50 percent of its electricity from renewable and alternative sources by 2025. Realistically, the only way to achieve that goal is for a new large hydro project to be built in the Railbelt region. Of the hydro projects examined, Susitna has the best chance of being built.

RDC urges FERC and all permitting agencies to not delay the completion of the environmental review and approval for this project. Considering the studies performed in the 1980s and the fact that the FERC process provides approximately five years for studies and analysis, this is more than ample time for completing environmental work and monitoring.

Susitna hydro will diversify the Railbelt’s energy portfolio, provide needed security and flatten market fluctuations in energy prices. Price volatility and high cost of electricity are limiting factors in economic development.

The proposed project is important to economic growth and resource development in Alaska. The project will bring many economic benefits, including new jobs. Moreover, it has the potential to expand the economy by attracting new business to the region.

The Susitna project will include mitigation measures to stabilize Susitna River salmon runs, and protect moose and caribou populations. At a minimum, the project has the ability to help manage river flows that are favorable to fisheries. The Bradley Lake Hydro Project on the Kenai Peninsula is a model for fish and wildlife abundance and good public policy.

While this project is clearly in the best interest of Alaskans, some commenters have requested FERC to consider the national interest – specifically the value of a free-flowing Susitna River to the American public. Some claim that the Susitna River is one of the last waterways in America to remain free-flowing. If FERC is to consider a free-flowing Susitna to be in the national interest, then it must put such consideration into the proper context. That context must recognize the fact that Susitna is not one of the last remaining free-flowing rivers in America. In fact, the Susitna is one of over 3,000 rivers and streams in Alaska, virtually all free flowing, including the mighty Yukon River, one of the longest in America. Moreover, it should be acknowledged that Alaska is one-fifth the size of the Lower 48 states combined and that most of this vast land is undisturbed wilderness. Alaska contains 90 percent of America’s national park lands and more than 80 percent of its national wildlife refuge lands, as well as the two largest national forests in the nation.

In concluding, I would like to note that a recent Hellenthal survey of Alaskan voters showed 60 percent support for the Susitna project. A recent Dittman Corporation poll revealed 63 percent support for Susitna in the Fairbanks area and 54 percent in Anchorage. Only 26 percent in Anchorage expressed opposition.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on the Susitna Hydroelectric Project.

Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc.

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