Good intentions do not always lead to good ideas.
This was made evident when the Alaska Power Authority proposed to build a 700-foot-high dam on the Susitna River in Alaska.
Fortunately, the Governor of Alaska, has recognized that continuing to spend money on this boondoggle project is not a great idea and has directed the Authority to shut down the project. So far, the state has spent $180 million toward studies for the project to get a federal license to generate hydropower at the dam site.
The proposed Watana dam would be located 90 miles upstream from Talkeetna and would be one of the tallest dams in the US. The dam would directly affect 233 miles of the mainstem Susitna River and indirectly about 1300 miles of its tributaries and would devastate all five species of wild Alaska salmon as well as impact caribou, bear, moose, and migratory birds.
The project with a price tag of $4.5 billion is a false solution to Alaska’s impending energy problems. An independent analysis done in 2012 stated that:
“[a] better alternative to providing long-term, affordable, stably priced energy is for the state to finance, explore and produce the Cook Inlet Basin gas resource it already owns. For considerably less investment than Susitna, the state can meet the current Railbelt demand for electric power and space heating for the next 100 years with stable prices- one-third the price of a Susitna kilowatt hour in fact- and with less environmental impact than a Susitna power dam.”
Deriving energy from natural gas from Cook Inlet is a more cost-effective alternative and requires the least capital investment, yet producing the greatest long-term economic benefit to the regional economy with the least environmental and social impact. Although it’s not clear what the Governor plans to do in terms of exploring other energy options, it is heartening to know that he has killed an ill-conceived project thereby protecting one of the last free-flowing rivers belonging to our nation.