American Whitewater has formally weighed in to oppose the Susitna Dam in Alaska. In July 2011 the
Governor signed a bill formally initiating the process to construct a dam on one of the
continent's largest free-flowing rivers. The state wasted no time in moving things along. On
October 27, 2011 Alaska Energy Authority filed their Application
for a Preliminary Permit and Additional
Information shortly followed by a Notice
of Intent that was filed on December 29, 2011. Comments are due on the Preliminary Permit
Application are due on January 16th.
The Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project would significantly degrade the recreational experience
and unique ecological values of one of North America’s most iconic wilderness rivers. The
Susitna is one of only a handful of large river systems around the world that remains in its
free-flowing condition from the headwaters to the ocean. Experienced kayakers and packrafters
from around the world are drawn to the unique challenge this river presents. The rapids of Watana
and Devil’s Canyon include some of the world’s most challenging whitewater and the
entire upper Susitna provides a unique opportunity for an exceptionally high quality wilderness
The proposed project would alter the Susitna River’s flow regime, and flood a river segment
currently listed as eligible for addition to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, based in
part on its recreational and aesthetic resources. Unique opportunities for solitude and
wilderness exploration highly valued by our membership would no longer be available. While new
road access and regulated flows through Devil’s Canyon could enhance accessibility to the
challenging whitewater of the reach downstream of the proposed Watana Dam, the fundamental
elements that define the unique qualities of this wilderness river would be lost. The prospect of
enhanced access is not worth the desecration of one of our continent's most treasured
In addition, American Whitewater is concerned with the significant anticipated impacts of the
project on river ecology, terrestrial resources, habitat for fish and wildlife, cultural
resources, subsistence lifestyles, and the economy of local communities that depend on
While the project would be constructed with a capacity of 600MW, actual generation would be less
than half of that. The generation potential is small relative to the economic costs (several
billion dollars) and impacts to one of Alaska's most iconic wild rivers. Others have been
down this path before and many millions of dollars have been spent on past hydro proposals. We
believe that conservation and efficiency improvements would be a better alternative to this
project. Other more cost-effective and less environmentally damaging alternatives for energy
generation do exist.
Instructions on Providing Comments
Comments on the project can be provided at any time through the FERC website (instructions below)
but formal interventions and comments on the preliminary permit are due on January 16th (if you
miss this deadline it is still worth filing a comment).
There are three options available to file comments:
1) For those who wish to file comprehensive comments or a motion to intervene you can register on
the FERC website for eFiling
Registering allows you to sign up for the docket (in this case P-14241-001) and you will be
notified of all filings and future opportunities to comment on the project. We recommend this
option for those who want to carefully track the development of this project.
2) For those who do not wish to register but who would like to file a comment of less than 6,000
characters you can use the eComment
system. You will want to file your comment with docket P-14241-001. You must still include your
name and contact information at the end of your comments.
3) For those who wish to mail a hard copy of comments you can mail your comments to Kimberly D.
Bose, Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street, NE, Washington, DC
20426. Be sure to reference the docket number (for this project it is P-14241-001) in your
introductory paragraph so that your comment is filed correctly.
Photo: Alan Panebaker in Devil's Canyon, by Shawn Robertson