FERC begins EIS scoping for 600-MW Susitna-Watana

WASHINGTON 3/6/12 (PennWell) -- The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has initiated a scoping process to develop an environmental impact statement for Alaska Energy Authority's proposed 600-MW Susitna-Watana hydroelectric project on Alaska's upper Susitna River.

AEA filed in December 2011 a Notice of Intent to license the project (No. 14241), which it has been studying under a FERC preliminary permit. The notice began the formal licensing process, with AEA planning to submit a license application by mid-September 2015. In the meantime, AEA must complete site surveys, preliminary engineering work, environmental impact assessments, and financing plans.

FERC issued the scoping document with an invitation to interested parties to participate in EIS scoping. The document is to provide information on the project, to solicit comments on FERC's preliminary list of issues and alternatives to be addressed in the EIS, and to request any studies that would help provide a framework for collecting information on relevant resource areas.

The commission scheduled Alaska public scoping meetings March 26-27 in Anchorage, March 27 in Wasilla, March 28 in Sunshine and Glennallen, and March 29 in Fairbanks and Cantwell.

Susitna-Watana Project Manager Wayne Dyok predicted the FERC licensing process would take until at least 2017, followed by six years of construction on the $4.3 billion project.

AEA proposed a concrete gravity or rockfill dam of from 700 to 800 feet tall and a crest length of at least 2,700 feet. It would create a 39-mile-long reservoir 90 river-miles northeast of Talkeetna, Alaska.

Based on ongoing feasibility studies and updates to Alaska's Railbelt Integrated Resource Plan, the project's capacity could be as large as 800 MW. Power is to be transmitted north to the interior and south to south-central Alaska along new and existing transmission lines.

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