Resource Development Council

RDC Letter:
Support of SB 32 - Relating to Hydroelectric Feasibility

February 19, 2013

The Honorable Pete Kelly
Co-chair Senate Finance Committee
State Capitol Room 516
Juneau, AK 99801

The Honorable Kevin Meyer
Co-chair Senate Finance Committee
State Capitol Room 518
Juneau, AK 99801

Re: CS SB 32, Feasibility Study for Hydroelectric site at Chikuminuk Lake

Dear Senate Co-Chairmen Kelly and Meyer,

The Resource Development Council is writing in support of CS SB 32, an act that will allow a feasibility study for the development of a hydroelectric site at Chikuminuk Lake.

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.

The need for reliable and affordable energy in rural Alaska continues to be an increasing priority for businesses and individuals throughout the state. RDC supports the development of commercially viable energy from diverse sources, including both renewable and nonrenewable alternatives. The CS for SB 32 does not sanction a project at Chikuminuk Lake, it only allows for further studies to determine if a hydroelectric project is in fact an economically and environmentally sound energy solution for southwest Alaska.

RDC recognizes Chikuminuk Lake lies within Wood-Tikchik State Park where hydroelectric development at the lake is not currently considered ‘compatible’ with park purposes. However, given Alaska contains more than 148 million acres of federal conservation system units, as well as an abundance of state conservation units, it is not unreasonable for the Legislature to exercise some flexibility in land management policies pertaining to state lands if such action is in the best interests of the public.

Many rural Alaskans are facing unprecedented energy costs and struggling to make ends meet in weak rural economies, threatening their way of life. Unemployment is extremely high in rural areas, schools are closing, and cultures are at risk. This project has the potential to benefit local residents and the regional economy.

Should the studies advance to the point where to project is considered feasible, further action by the Legislature would be required before the project could move forward. The Legislature would need to weigh the project’s merits and benefits with the impacts on competing sources of energy, State fiscal requirements, and wilderness values at Chikuminuk Lake. This is an appropriate role for the Legislature, especially when the greater public interest is front and center.

The recent decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to not to allow a road to be built between King Cove and Cold Bay in the Izembeck National Wildlife Refuge is an example of inflexible land management policies that defy what is in the best interest of Alaskans. Many would agree that a fair and reasonable outcome has not been reached in that case.

At this time, RDC is not specifically endorsing the project at Chikuminuk Lake. However, we strongly believe feasibility studies should move forward and that all options remain on the table, given the potential benefits of the project to rural Alaskans.

RDC appreciates the opportunity to share our views of this bill.

Resource Development Council for Alaska