Science & Technology



Native village proposes new option for restoring Eklutna River

Emily Goodykoontz, Anchorage Daily News on

Published in Science & Technology News

As Southcentral Alaska electric utilities push forward with a much-contested plan to reduce the impacts of a hydroelectric project on fish and wildlife, the Native Village of Eklutna is proposing an alternative option to restore water to the full length of Eklutna River.

The Chugach and Matanuska electric associations and Anchorage's hydropower utility own the dam at the base of Eklutna Lake, which dries up the 12-mile river. Last fall, as part of a legally-required effort, the utilities proposed a draft fish and wildlife program that would return water to 11 miles of the river, but leave 1 mile dry directly below the dam.

The Dena'ina village of Eklutna, the Anchorage Assembly and some conservation groups have opposed the utilities' plan because they want to see the full length of the river fully restored, with fish passage into the lake.

Disagreements over the project have intensified over the last several months, and the utilities previously rejected a separate alternative proposed by the village. The latest proposal from the Native Village of Eklutna comes as the electric utilities plan to submit their program to Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy by late this month.

The utilities' $57 million plan would use Anchorage's drinking water infrastructure. It would use a portal valve to divert water to the river from the pipe that takes drinking water from Eklutna Lake. Mayor Dave Bronson supports that plan.

The village's new proposal, discussed during a Friday meeting with the Assembly, calls for the construction of a siphon pump station to take water directly from the bottom of the lake. The water would then be released through the dam's existing outlet gate.


The plan also calls for the dam to be removed after 10 years, or as soon as a different renewable energy source replaces the hydroelectric project's output. Or, an alternative to total dam removal could be pursued to allow fish to swim freely into the lake.

Brenda Hewitt, tribal administrator for the village, said their proposal is an attempt to compromise with the utilities.

"We're really reaching out an olive branch to give them as much leeway as we possibly can," Hewitt said. "But we want our river back."

Importantly, it would protect Anchorage's drinking water and infrastructure, she said.


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