Senate Approves First Steps of Susitna River Hydro Dam

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

Tuesday, the Senate approved the first steps toward a hydroelectric dam on the Susitna River.     The bill, which was included in Governor Parnell’s call for a special session,  allows the Alaska Energy Authority to start this summer with field studies,  taking the first necessary permit and licensing steps to get the project beyond the “studies” that have already been done.

Fairbanks Democrat Joe Thomas said the bill also frees up money for the first work on the site that has been talked about for more than 25 years.  And he said people can stop wondering, “what would have happened …”

“Over these last twenty five years, Alaska has missed out on a lot of economic opportunity as well.   We’ve missed the opportunity to create new businesses, new jobs, to diversify our economy because we have not had that low-cost stable form of power,” Thomas said.

Senate Minority Leader Charlie Huggins called the dam on the Susitna a Legacy project that is critical to the state’s future.

“If we look at this and talk to our kids about it, they enjoy the benefits of it, the money expended, the public process, and equally important, that we won’t have to worry about the price of some of the commodities called petroleum.  Because this is about hydro, and that it one of the things future generations will celebrate,” Huggins said.

The Senate’s capital budget provides $65 million this year for work on the project – and lawmakers expect to spend about $30 million a year for the next five years.   After that, members expect to need as much as four Billion dollars to finish the project.

The Bill goes to the House where a similar bill is already in the system.

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