A special meeting of the Anchorage Assembly is scheduled for Friday to allow the Assembly to backtrack on an earlier resolution that advocated for complete removal of the Eklutna Dam, which provides substantial water and power to Anchorage and power to the MatSu Valley.
The Friday meeting is at 12 pm in City Hall, Room 155. AR 2024-40 is item 5.B on the special meeting agenda.
The liberal Assembly had earlier chosen to push for the dam removal.
The dam review and plan is required by a 1991 agreement and has been in the works for years. The Assembly was on board with the Eklutna Tribe, which wants the dam removed and the salmon allowed to swim to the lake.
That Assembly stance was in place until the Assembly learned recently that the Eklutna Hydro Project, co-owned by three of the regions publicly owned utilities, and Anchorage Water and Waste Utility had signed a binding agreement, but when asked by the Assembly for the particulars, said it was confidential.
The secrecy of the agreement left some members of the Assembly who advocated for the dam to be removed with questions: How would that binding secret agreement affect property taxes?
As the Assembly is the body responsible for levying taxes, Assemblywoman Meg Zaletel said it’s time to hit the pause button on what the Assembly’s actual stance should be on the project, which she called a generational project akin to the Port of Alaska expansion.
The Assembly members Chris Constant, Zaletel, and Kevin Cross have provided a new resolution asking for a two-year extension on the plan to balance fish, power, water, and tribal rights. That resolution will also be a topic for Friday’s surprise meeting.
In actuality, the Assembly and the Municipality have little standing in the matter, since the Municipality, with support from voters, sold Municipal Light & Power to Chugach Electric. Further, nowhere in the 1991 agreement is the concept of “restoration” mentioned. That’s a relatively new approach that environmentalists have been pushing.
Rep. Jamie Allard of Eagle River had some thoughts on whether the Assembly was playing fast and loose with the public.
“The Anchorage Assembly’s continued demands calling for restoration of the Eklutna River – only made possible by removing the existing Eklutna Hydroelectric infrastructure – flies in the face of science, good government and common sense. Assembly members making those calls must not have read the 1991 Fish & Wildlife Agreement, because they continue to insist that ‘restoration’ is a consideration of the owners’ coalition. In fact, the only terms used are ‘mitigation’ and ‘enhancement’ of the waters below the dam; ‘restoration’ is nowhere to be found,” she said in a press release.
“Failing reading comprehension – or perhaps woke politics – are no reasons to risk 90% of the Municipality of Anchorage’s water supply, nor gut a reliable, dispatchable and low- cost, low-carbon-footprint energy solution for Southcentral Alaska. One only has to look at recent below-zero temperatures, energy demand and upcoming potential supply shortages to know that removing current energy resources is unwise,” Allard said.
To view the draft Eklutna Hydro Project Fish and Wildlife Program, click on this link.
Eklutna Draft Fish and Wildlife Program public meetings were held in January. To view the presentation from the public meetings, click here.
Public comments must be submitted by Feb. 19. Email your comment to [email protected].
In April, the project owners must submit a final proposed Fish and Wildlife Program to Gov. Mike Dunleavy for formal review. Dunleavy has until Oct. 2 to issue a final decision on the program.
The Eklutna Hydroelectric Project is 30 miles northeast of downtown Anchorage. The three project owners are the Municipality of Anchorage, Chugach Electric Association, Inc., and Matanuska Electric Association, Inc.
It is the lowest-cost power in Southcentral Alaska, providing 44% of MEA’s renewable generation portfolio and 25% of Chugach Electric’s renewable generation portfolio. Eklutna offsets approximately 72,500 metric tons of CO2 equivalent each year.
The Project was constructed by the federal government in the 1950s and then sold to the project owners in the 1990s.
At that time, concerns were raised about the dam’s impact on fish and wildlife. During the sale, a binding agreement was entered into by the project owners, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the State of Alaska (collectively the “Parties”) that requires the Project Owners to develop and propose to the Governor a program to protect, mitigate damages to, and enhance fish and wildlife impacted by the Project (1991 Agreement),” the executive summary states.
Since then, the Eklutna Tribe, membership 70, has become more influential, established government-to-government relations with Anchorage.