Resource Development Council

RDC Comment Letter:
Support the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project

View the Action Alert

January 17, 2013

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

Re: Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project, Docket Number P-14241-000

To Whom It May Concern:

The Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc., (RDC) is writing to support the Revised Study Plan for the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project in Alaska. We urge the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to adopt the plan in a timely manner.

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 source 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.

FERC’s timely adoption of the Revised Study Plan is important to Alaska residents and the state’s economy. Given projected energy shortages, there is little room for delay. Moreover, a delay in the adoption of the Revised Study Plan would impact the 2013 field season and the project overall.

RDC has found the Revised Study Plan to be thorough and we believe it strikes a balance between the need for long-term energy and environmental concerns. The plan was the result of an interactive public process, facilitated by the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA), which organized Technical Working Groups in key resource areas. A number of drafts of the plan were published in an effort to include stakeholder input. In our view, AEA went above and beyond FERC regulatory requirements to reach consensus with participants.

In addition to AEA’s field studies in 2012, the Revised Study Plan includes 58 individual studies. The plan builds upon significant historical information from the 1980s Susitna hydroelectric licensing effort where 3,000 individual reports were filed. This information is still fully relevant and provides a unique advantage for the new project.

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 in Alaska. The project will bring many benefits, including new jobs and an expanded and healthier economic base.

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.

In concluding, I would like to note that a Hellenthal survey of Alaskan voters showed 60 percent support for the Susitna project. A 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 Revised Study Plan for the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project.

Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc.