Public comment invited on Hydroelectric Projects on Carlo Creek and the Jack River

Northwest Power Services, Inc., based out of Wasilla, Alaska, has submitted preliminary permit applications with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to conduct feasibility studies on hydroelectric projects on Carlo Creek and the Jack River in the southern Denali Borough.  This company is acting as an agent for two separate corporations, CC Energy, LLC for the Carlo Creek project, and Yedatene Na, LLC for the Jack River project.  Both of these new corporations, established in October 2014, list Gordon Carlson, with the Native Village of Cantwell, as a secondary contact. The local contact for Northwest Power Services is listed as Brent Smith of Wasilla, at 907-414-8223.

According to a recent article in the Fairbanks Daily News Miner, the Village of Cantwell “is looking for a viable alternative energy project to generate revenue by providing electricity to the Golden Valley Electric Association grid,” but cautioned that the proposal is still in preliminary phases.

The permits do not authorize any land-disturbing activities.  Instead, the applicant would be permitted to conduct research for a three-year period to study the feasibility of developing a project.   According to a FERC citizen guide to hydropower licensing, the purpose of this stage of permitting is to: “(1) identify environmental issues regarding a proposed or existing project and (2) determine what studies are needed in order to better understand these issues.”  Public scoping meetings should be held during this period, although it does not appear that these meetings must occur before a preliminary permit is issued.

A review of the infrastructure associated with the proposed projects, and the larger Susitna-Watana dam for comparison:

Carlo Creek (P-14645) Jack River (P-14646) Susitna-Watana
Dam dimensions 50-foot-long, 10 foot-high diversion weir traversing Carlo Creek 750-foot-long, 250 foot-high with a 250-foot-high spillway built into the crest of the dam 2,700 foot-long, 700-800 foot-high earth embankment, roller compacted concrete or concrete faced rockfill dam
Reservoir size Approximately 1 acre, 10-acre-feet of storage capacity 865 acres, 50,700 acre-feet of storage capacity 20,000 acres, 2,400,000 acre-feet of storage capacity
Penstock One 10,500-foot-long, 2.5-foot-diameter steel Two 300-foot-long, 4-foot diameter steel To be determined
Tailrace 10-foot-wide, 5-foot-deep, 10 foot-long concrete tailrace emptying into Carlo Creek 20-foot-wide, 20-foot-deep, 25-foot-long concrete tailrace emptying into the Jack River To be determined
Other facilities 1,500-foot-long, 15-kilovolt transmission line, approximately 12,000 feet of new access roads, 25’ x 35’ powerhouse 8,000 foot-long, 15-kilovolt transmission line, approximately 28,000 feet of new access roads, 75’ x 125’ powerhouse 40-50 mile-long (211,200-264,000 feet), 230 kilovolt transmission line and road, powerhouse size to be determined
Purpose of generated power Estimated annual generation of 6.3 gigawatt-hours Estimated annual generation of 23.4 gigawatt-hours Estimated annual generation of 2,500,000 gigawatt-hours

 

 

Comments on the preliminary applications are due to FERC: February 6 (for Carlo Creek) and January 30 (for Jack River)
To submit comments: see http://www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/ecomment.asp
Other actions: File a motion to intervene to allow you to seek a rehearing or appeal a decision related to the project

DCC encourages all interested members to submit comments to FERC during this public comment period.  Talking points include:

  • FERC should schedule public scoping meetings in the Denali Borough both in Cantwell, and McKinley Village, the two communities closest to both projects. Ideally, this should occur before a preliminary permit is approved.
  • If approved, studies should include a thorough consideration of seasonal stream and river morphology and flows, in addition to all potential environmental impacts already listed, as well as potential impacts to social and recreational resources.

Documents related to both permit applications can be found at http://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/search/fercgensearch.asp. You can search for both projects by putting in the project numbers (Jack River is P-14646, Carlo Creek is P-14645) into the “docket number” and select a date range of “During the previous 1 year.”

The announcement of these two proposed dams comes as news that the proposed Susitna Watana Dam project, a much larger proposal, will not be funded by the state in the upcoming year.   Hydroelectric dams, no matter the size, are often controversial.  Historically dams have been seen as an opportunity for renewable energy.  Still, dams have been problematic over the years.  Siltation fills reservoirs, which has caused some dams in the lower-48 to be decommissioned.  In Alaska, particularly this close to the Alaska Range, there are many unknowns regarding any size   hydroelectric project, including seasonal changes to stream morphology and water flow, and glacial siltation.

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