June 18, 2012
Northern Region Forester
Alaska Division of Forestry
3700 Airport Way
Fairbanks, AK 99709
Re: Preliminary Best Interest Finding Long Term Timber Sale for Biomass Utilization in Tok, Alaska NC-1075-T 2012
Dear Mr. Eliot,
This letter is to express the Resource Development Council for Alaska’s (RDC) support for the Best Interest Finding, NC-1075-T 2012.
RDC is a statewide, non-profit, membership-funded organization founded in 1975. The RDC membership is comprised of individuals and companies from Alaska’s oil and gas, mining, timber, tourism, and fisheries industries, as well as Alaska Native corporations, local communities, organized labor, and industry support firms. RDC’s purpose is to link these diverse interests together to encourage a strong, diversified private sector in Alaska and expand the state’s economic base through the responsible development of our natural resources.
This project is well aligned with several of RDC’s policy positions with respect to State forest resources and energy development.
- RDC advocates for reliable and long-term timber supplies from State and Federal lands to support the forest industry.
- RDC encourages funding of forest management initiatives that address long-term forest health and reforestation.
- RDC supports the development of new electrical generating and transmission systems to provide stable sources of electricity for economic development and existing consumers.
- RDC supports efforts to diversify Alaska’s energy sources, including known renewable energy options and research and development of non-conventional sources.
A regional biomass energy project in the Upper Tanana region would support all of these objectives. The Tok area is an ideal place to build a community-scale woody biomass-fueled power generation facility. Hazardous fuels in and around the community of Tok, left untreated, pose an untenable wildfire risk to the community. While the Division of Forestry, with substantial federal financial support, has worked to mitigate the fuel hazard, the task is simply too big to undertake absent a commercial enterprise. A commercial market for biomass for energy would be a driver to enable needed fuel treatments on a continual basis absent the uncertainties of federal budgets.
Alaska Power and Telephone has a proven record of developing innovative renewable energy projects throughout Alaska. AP&T currently relies on diesel generation with its associated escalating fuel costs, to provide power to this isolated grid. This project has the potential to lower energy costs, which are presently the highest on-road power costs in Alaska. Because biomass fuels are locally derived, the project can help grow what is now a modest local wood industry and help address the high unemployment in the region. Heat recovered from the project could provide additional benefits via district heating or adjacent industrial development.
For the project to move forward, a sufficient long-term fuel supply is needed to underpin the project. The State is in a unique position to facilitate the development of this project by providing long-term feedstock supply certainty. The State should consider a sustainable supply from lands designated for forestry as well as treating its lands designated for settlement in advance of disposal. Such advance treatment could provide fuel to the project as well as mitigate fire risk for future subdivision in advance of land disposal.
Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc.