On Tuesday, March 27th 2012, a meeting was held at the Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Complex. More than 50 people attended this meeting to discuss a proposed Dam project for the Susitina River. The following night, more than 120 people turned out for another meeting at the Susitina Valley Junior/Senior Hich School. The meetings were held by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commision. The message from the people who came was clear…”Don’t mess with the Susitina’s salmon” (Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, 3-30-2012). The state has given it’s support for the proposed dam project and residents are not happy. According to the article, biologists are thinking about sweeping the Chinook fishing limits in the river because of expected low returns. Residents are concerned that the dam will affect the salmon run even more than it already has been affected. There is not a dam in the world that does not affect fish runs and habitat.
This project is a hydroelectric project and could potentially benefit energy efficiency and future natural gas projects in the Cook Inlet region, however, the river level could potentially be lowered or raised by about 3 feet in areas. These conditions could create unstable ice situations in the winter and many people use the river for transportation in the winter time. Changes in ice could also threaten the fish habitat. Residents are calling for a more through study of the project and it’s effects on the habitat. There was a study done in the 80’s but this data needs to be updated and re-examined. Even though this could potentially be a huge economic opportunity, there really needs to be more studies done before any concrete decisions are made.
The dam would be 700 to 800 feet tall and the reservoir would be at least 39 miles long. Part of the land is tribal owned and even though the group supports the project, even they are calling for a wildlife protection management program. The state hopes to start construction in 2015 and be operational by 2023.
I did not attend either one of these meetings, I read the article in the above mentioned paper. I personally know plenty of people who live in the area and use the river for travel in both the winter and summer months. If the biologists are already concerned about low salmon returns than maybe this is not the best plan of action.