Kenai Hydro Limited/Homer Electric Association held a public meeting in Moose Pass on November 6, 2014. Here's a summary by Seward City News, two members of the public and KHL:
November 9, 2014.
Seward City News reporter Rick Smeriglio published the following summary of a November 6, 2014 meeting:
Homer Electric Association Presents Case for Hydro Plant Near Moose Pass
A crowd of 35 listens to HEA presentation for proposed hydro-electric plant at Grant Lake/Grant Creek. Photo by R. Smeriglio
By Rick Smeriglio for SCN –
At a public meeting in Moose Pass on November 6, Homer Electric Association (HEA) spent two hours and 20 minutes of a meeting scheduled for three hours, making a case for constructing a 5-mega-watt hydroelectric generating plant powered by the outflow of Grant Lake. According to HEA, the proposed plant would add about four percent to HEA’s capacity to generate electricity. If HEA secures a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission(FERC) to construct it, the project would cost about $58 million according to Mike Salzetti who ran the meeting and manages fuel supply and renewable energy for HEA. Grant Lake remains the last of three potential sites that HEA has studied since 2008 when it applied for a preliminary license from FERC. Salzetti called Grant Lake the “clear leader” compared to various alternatives for developing Ptarmigan, Crescent and Carter lakes in the area. The current proposal represents a scaled-back version of the proposal presented in Cooper Landing in 2009 and Moose Pass in 2010.
View of project area between Grant Lake and narrows between Lower Trail and Upper Trail lakes showing proposed infrastructure for hydro project. Image courtesy of Homer Electric Association.
At those earlier meetings, the public expressed open skepticism and some hostility to the proposals. The public asked for more information. HEA apparently heard them and this time around had volumes of information to present. Salzetti called those preliminary meetings “part of the scoping process”. This time around, HEA will use public input as part of its formal application process. Salzetti said that HEA would submit its draft application to FERC in late February or perhaps slightly later in 2015.
“We will roll this [public input] into the formal application and use it as part of our consultation with government agencies,” said Salzetti.
HEA had a note taker at the meeting. The notes will go onto the Kenai Hydro website for public inspection. Salzetti said that the formal process did not actually require the meeting in Moose Pass. HEA had a one-question questionnaire available at the meeting asking the public if it wanted the proposed road to Grant Lake open, closed or limited for motorized vehicles.
“If you really want your comments heard, comment during the formal FERC process. That’s really it, yes. This questionnaire is just an informal process,” Salzetti said.
During the formal process, citizens comment directly to FERC, not just to the proponent of the project. FERC makes the final decision to issue HEA a license or not. During the formal application process, HEA consults with appropriate local, state and federal agencies. It has done so since it began preliminary studies in 2009.
Toward the end of the meeting at 8:20 p.m., after some persons had already left, HEA ended its presentation and opened the floor to question and comment.
Mark Luttrell of Seward told HEA, “I feel like you are here to tell us what you’re going to do. I haven’t heard you say ‘if’. The fact is, the people don’t want this. The time for you to have listened was four to six years ago.”
Mike Salzetti countered with, “The time for the public to give input is when we submit the application. Our members [Homer Electric Association] are asking for this.”
Mike Cooney of Moose Pass stated, “Hydro has the worst ongoing impact [to salmon] of any of the renewables. What I’m worried about is, what happens when none come back. Can you quantify how many come back [to Grant Creek]?”
The fish biologists and engineers of the 8-person HEA presentation team presented copious information about the four salmon species that spawn in the lower reaches of Grant Creek affected by the project. They could not answer Mr. Cooney’s question.
A gentleman in a green shirt asked, “How come the public is not in this process, this licensing process?”
Cory Warnock, Licensing Specialist with the consulting firm McMillen LLC hired by HEA to forward the project, responded by explaining the differences between the traditional process and the alternative process. Traditionally, the public comments after proponents apply for a license.
“With the alternative process,” Warnock said, “we’ve had more collaboration with this project. We’ve had many meetings with agencies and stakeholders.”
While referring to the previous meeting in Moose Pass, a lady in a fuchsia jacket asked, “Back in 2010, it was very apparent that the public didn’t want this. Why are you back?”
Salzetti rebutted with, “In the interim, we heard that the public wanted more robust studies to evaluate the project.”
A gentleman with a ball cap who identified himself as an HEA customer and therefore a member of that cooperative asked, “What do your members want, are a majority in favor? How do you know?”
Salzetti answered, “We work at the bidding of the HEA Board. The Board wants this.”
While referring to public involvement and the Bradley Lake hydroelectric plant near Homer, a gentleman with a white beard asked, “What lessons have you learned from Bradley Lake and others?”
“Optimizing water flows and turbine size,” responded the HEA team.
A Moose Pass father of two advised HEA, “If observed for a long time, this road is a whole different thing from your dam. You’ve got to begin to look at the impacts on an area that has been actively managed as wildland. You really should look at that … We’re not even HEA customers here.”
Salzetti said with a smile, “We understand that you aren’t HEA customers. We would like to make you customers.”
Salzetti went on to tout the benefits of trading renewable energy around the electrical grid that serves Moose Pass and the Kenai Peninsula until politely and compassionately stopped by the Moose Pass father who said, “I appreciate that you are trying to give me something, but you haven’t given me anything.”
Before the back and forth in the room had ended, Bob Baldwin of Cooper Landing who said nothing openly at the meeting, quietly left. Mr. Baldwin has opposed the project from the beginning in 2009 when he called the idea “radioactive”. He dismissed the evening’s presentation as “an enabling meeting”.
In the cold, wet parking lot of the Moose Pass Community Hall, Mr. Baldwin said, “Any changes to the natural flow of Grant Creek, or to any creek in the Kenai watershed, are unacceptable, period.”
Bruce Jaffa, a civically engaged Moose Pass resident, could not attend the meeting but did submit composed comments via e-mail.
In part, Mr. Jaffa wrote, “…we need to balance material and spiritual … We need electricity, we need a clean environment. Is an access road harmful? Not to me … Will this project impact fish? … science should answer this question. My general feeling is that there is opposition to this project that has determined not to compromise … This is not the way the historic occupants and pioneers of [the] area would have acted. Businessmen, Developers, Miners, Trappers, Hunters, such as Ed Estes, Bob Woods, Andy Simons, Nellie Lawing and more would have understood …”
According to information supplied by HEA, the project at Grant Lake and Grant Creek will entail two miles of road, a bridge across the narrows between Upper and Lower Trail lakes, a pond to store excess water, a power transmission line, an inter-tie with the existing transmission line along the Seward Highway, a tunnel intake starting at Grant Lake, a 13-foot fluctuation in the lake water level and a powerhouse along Grant Creek for the turbines. Interested persons may obtain comprehensive detail at Kenai Hydro LLC website.
November 10, 2014.
Mike Cooney, of Moose Pass wrote this letter to a local reporter. It serves as a summary of the issue:
My August 2011 letter to HEA’s BOD asking them to cancel the project resulted in some detailed discussion at the meeting prior to the vote (according to Mike O’Meara who was at the meeting) and the vote was 4 in favor of cancelling the project, and 4 in favor of obtaining a loan to continue; the tie was broken by the BOD president, Deb Debnam in favor of continuing. Prior to my letter, all board members were in favor of the project except one who seemed undecided – Obviously, information I provided in my letter was new to the BOD, and reflected the fact that HEA Management was not sharing all information with BOD concerning the project.
HEA’s redesign of the project to eliminate the dam and retain just the lake tap has lessened the scale of environmental impacts to the lakeshore and uplands, but has done nothing to mitigate the effects of the project on downstream resources, particularly fish and aquatic organisms, and there are still impacts associated with varying the lake’s natural levels and almost totally dewatering the upper half of Grant Creek.
HEA’s redesign of the project has still not addressed my earlier criticisms of the project or issues I raised at the FERC scoping meeting. I have continually asked for two things that have yet to be provided:
1. A stand alone Socio-Economic study to determine the effects of the project on residents of nearby communities. At a pre-scoping meeting held in Seward, I was assured by HEA project manager Brad Zubeck that the information I was requesting would be provided, but as by-products of other studies. HEA has either failed to grasp the need to conduct a specific Socio-Economic study to answer questions raised by public participation in the study design process, or does not want answers to those questions and in either case it is obvious it does not want to pay to do the study.
2. Since 2009, I have asked that fisheries studies determine the annual production of juvenile salmon (particularly sockeye) from Grant Creek as a way of gauging and documenting the Creek’s contribution to the Kenai River watershed which supports substantial commercial, sport, personal use and subsistence fisheries – studies to date have not even attempted to address this question, and consultants at the most recent meeting were unable to answer the question.
The FERC’s mission is to issue new hydropower licenses and renew existing licenses, period. That said, FERC staff at the scoping meeting were professional and attentive. However, in reply to a direct question at that meeting, FERC staff could not name one specific hydropower license application that had been denied as a result of public opposition. The question is not whether FERC heard the public opposition to the project (50 against, and 2 for) at the meeting, but whether the FERC licensing process would ever deny a license based on public opposition to appropriation of publicly owned natural resources. The licensing consultant at the recent meeting referred to the stakeholders as the agencies – to his chagrin several members of the public pointed out that the public is also a stakeholder based on the fact that the project will rely solely on publicly owned natural resources already allocated and enjoyed/used for non-power producing purposes.
HEA continues to spin its project to the public as positive, at least from its perspective; HEA says the project is membership driven, but when pressed admitted that this statement reflects the fact that the BOD is pushing the project and that the board is elected by the membership – that’s a far cry from individual members clamoring for this project. The current situation of HEA promoting the project is similar to its early claims that the project would be certified “green” by the Low Impact Hydropower Institute…ultimately HEA had to delete the LIHI logo from its promotional materials when the Executive Director of LIHI informed them the project would not qualify for certification. My point is HEA management has been prepared to say almost anything, true or not, to promote the idea that the project is positive and will have little or no negative impacts.
HEA claims it has responded to public criticism by beefing up its studies making them “more robust”, but studies have still failed to address many issues brought by the public including socio-economic impacts and fisheries impacts. Much of the current study effort is based on computer modeling using data from other locations, including outside the drainage or even Alaska, rather than site specific field data from Grant Lake and Creek.
Public opposition to this project has not diminished, and will continue to build as more information becomes available and as more people realize that the project would not only destroy or degrade resources we depend on for our lifestyles and livelihoods, but that ultimately there is a better that fair chance we will end up paying for the project (federal funding enabled by Sen. Lisa Murkowski once she becomes the Energy Committee chair). The Moose Pass community is at least 90% opposed to the project (as admitted by Bruce Jaffa, a project supporter and commissioner with the Moose Pass Advisory Planning Commission).
After a two year lull in the project while field studies have been conducted, I am re-engaged in efforts to stop this project. The amount of power the project could produce is not sufficient to justify the significant and irreversible environmental impacts to public resources in the region. Money and effort not spent on this project could more productively be used to develop renewable energy projects that deliver electrical power commensurate with minimal socio-economic and environmental impacts. I’d really rather expend my limited time and money to help further a good renewable energy project than be forced to oppose a really bad one like HEA’s proposal for Grant Creek.
Others who have followed this project from the beginning, and whom might be able to share information with you include; Bob Baldwin with the Kenai River Watershed Foundation in Cooper Landing, and Mark Luttrell with the Resurrection Bay Conservation Alliance in Seward.
Voices of the Peninsula: Grant Lake hydro project needs better public input
Novemeber 10, 2014
By Hal Shepherd
Homer Electric Association (HEA) staff and several hired consultants were in Moose Pass on Nov. 6 at a public meeting on environmental impact studies for the Grant Lake Hydro Electric Project. HEA went to great lengths to show that the Project will have virtually no impact on existing salmon habitat, and that once the facility goes on line, it will actually help fish. Indeed, the current version of the project, which no longer includes a dam, involves the use of outflow from Grant Lake that would be run through an underground tunnel to a penstock and power house located downstream on Grant Creek while storing peak flows from the creek to benefit habitat in tributaries.
Regardless of the win-win image of the Grant Lake Project HEA attempts to present, however, we may never know what sort of impacts it will have on water and salmon until it is too late because HEA has elected not to participate in the formal Integrated Licensing Process under Federal Energy Regulatory Act guidelines. While HEA consultants have discussed the studies with state and federal agencies through a series of meetings held in 2013 and 2014, this does not include the give-and-take between the licensee, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, other State, Federal and tribal government entities, conservation groups and other stakeholders of the formal process. Also, the ILP process requires the licensee to create a study plan that includes an intensive schedule of reports, meetings and multiple opportunities for stakeholder participation in the process (in the form of comments, challenges to the studies and appeals).
Indeed, the one and only chance for the public input on the Grant Lake studies, was a public meeting sponsored by HEA in Moose Pass near the Project location last week. Needless to say, HEA’s decision to ignore the formal study plan process did not go over well with most of the public participants at the meeting, in part because Moose Pass and Seward, which are outside of the HEA service area, will receive most of the potential environmental impacts and none of the energy benefits of the Project. Neither did it help that, regardless of the fact that if public comment is to be allowed at such events this is traditionally stated in the meeting notices, the Moose Pass participants were not informed that they could comment on the studies until after arriving at the meeting.
HEA attempts to downplay the almost non-existent public process related to the Grant Lake Project, by observing that the opportunity for the public input on the licensing decision starts in earnest with the draft licensing application which will be issued in early 2015. This conclusion, however, leaves out the fact that FERC, generally relies heavily on the results of the study plan when making licensing decisions. In this case, therefore, once FERC receives the study reports drafted, coordinated and controlled almost entirely by Project proponents, any licensing decision, along with the irreversible impacts on salmon and water would, likely, be a foregone conclusion.
More importantly, the proposed project is all that remains of what was once a proposal to build a network of multiple hydroelectric that would have industrialized the headwaters of the Kenai River watershed. This proposal was dropped only after a grass roots effort rose up in opposition to the hydropower network and its impacts to natural flows, the ecological and hydrological health of tributaries and cumulative impacts downstream. In the absence of public participation in the Grant Lake project, therefore, could the original project concept rear it’s ugly head once again?
Also, when HEA representatives are asked whether they plan to have a public meeting in Homer on the Project, the response is that they have been communicating to the public through meetings with the chamber of commerce, Rotary clubs and tables at public events. Could it be that HEA’s reluctance to obtain input on the project is because it has reserved the right to sell the energy to outside utilities and the project, ultimately may not even benefit HEA members?
Either way, needed are additional public meetings on the study plan so that the public can make an informed decision as to whether the project is appropriate and beneficial for the Kenai Watershed and HEA customers.
Hal Shepherd is director of the Center for Water Advocacy in Homer.
Final Grant Lake Project Public Meeting Minutes
December 15, 2014, 2014. Click on image for 28MB PDF (might take a minute).
Here's tons of information and resources regarding the dam proposal. Much of it is out of date but remains here as background.
The proposal to dam Grant Lake remains active. Most recently (August 24, 2011), the HEA board of directors (who are the de facto operators of Kenai Hydro Limited) voted unanimously to give their general manager the authority to apply to the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) for 4 million dollars for construction funding for Grant Lake hydro dam proposal. This despite that HEA hasn’t even finished their field studies or are even close to getting a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Yet HEA is eager to tie up $4 million in limited state funds - funds that could be used for worthy projects.
Moose Pass resident Mike Cooney wrote to the HEA board of directors concerning their continued use of public funds. His letter is an exhaustive summary of why the dam is a bad idea and it includes a petition signed by eastern Kenai Peninsula citizens. You can download it here.
Kenai River Headlands Hydroelectric Project Update (August 1, 2010)
Last March, it looked like the funding for Homer Electric Association’s proposal to dam Grant Lake and Falls Creek had dried up, but two months later HEA announced that the project has been revived. The current plan eliminates a diversion dam and a two-mile pipeline from Falls Creek, and now puts the Grant Lake access road on top of the Iditarod National Historic Trail. On June 2, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) heard public testimony from a packed crowd in Moose Pass and nearly all the comments revealed opposition to the project.
Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Carey attended the meeting and later introduced a resolution to the Borough Assembly opposing the project. While the resolution did not receive enough Assembly votes, the public weighed in with over 39 comments opposing the dam.
On July 30, FERC asked HEA to address its proposal’s noncompliance with the US Forest Service land management plan.
HEA will conduct environmental, cultural, social and economic studies this summer and report their results in the fall. Their draft study plans are currently available on their website (kenaihydro.com). Much more information can be found on RBCA’s website (rbca-alaska.org).
The bottom line: A Grant Lake dam would incur far too many public costs and the benefit would be a blink of power (4.5 MW max, more likely 2 MW). A better project is tapping Lowell Creek behind Seward, which would see none of the high-cost road, fish or recreational impacts.
Why its a bad idea
PLEASE SEND A SHORT EMAIL TO KPB OFFICIALS BY JUNE 22
Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dave Carey and KPB Assembly Member Sue McClure are introducing a resolution in opposition to the controversial hydropower projects Homer Electric Association plans for Grant and Falls creeks, which are important fish-bearing tributaries to the Kenai River. The resolution will be introduced at the June 22, 2010 KPB Assembly meeting in Soldotna.
If you oppose these projects, don’t want to see the Kenai River industrialized, and value healthy fisheries and the businesses and communities that depend on them, please email strong support for this resolution to Mayor Carey, to the KPB Assembly Clerk, and to all KPB Assembly members.
Mayor Dave Carey: firstname.lastname@example.org
Assembly Clerk: email@example.com
Link to internet page for the Assembly Clerk and all KPB Assembly Members:
(Once at the above internet page, simply click on PUBLIC COMMENT – EMAIL THE ASSEMBLY located near the top of the page to open a blank email message that will already be addressed to the Clerk and to all of the Assembly Members.)
The resolution will likely be posted on the KPB Webpage on or about June 14, 2010.
For more information about why these hydropower projects are a bad idea please go to the Alaska Center for the Environment:
Please feel free to email Mike Cooney at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or require additional information.
PDF of this action alert
Thank You !!
Sign a petition in support of wild Kenai River headwaters.
Here's the petition language:
"We, the undersigned, believe that Homer Electric Association’s proposal to dam Grant Lake will adversely affect the Kenai River watershed by industrializing this popular local tributary.
The Kenai River is beloved by many and widely known to be one of the most productive salmon rivers in the world. The area is also rich in wildlife, recreational opportunities, and a unique way of life.
The costs of losing fish habitat in one of Alaska’s favorite and most productive local watersheds is too high of a price to pay for the insignificant amount of power which will be generated as a result of this project. The Kenai River system supports 34 species of anadromous and resident fish.
For these reasons I oppose any dams and/or roads on Grant Lake and Falls Creek or any other tributary of the Kenai River. I support the NO ACTION ALTERNATIVE which would prevent a hydropower license from be in issued for the proposed Grant Lake hydroelectric project."
Kenai River Headlands Hydroelectric Project Update (June 12, 2010)
Several meetings occurred in Moose Pass on June 2 and 3 that have changed the course of the proposal to dam Grant Lake.
On June 2, a capacity crowd wedged into the MP Community Center to participate in a FERC-sponsored public hearing about damming Grant Lake. About 50 public and 25 agency, NGO or contractor types were present to hear from the FERC representatives and also get an update from Homer Electric Association. More importantly, FERC was there to hear from the public about the benefits and costs of the proposal. The public expressed concern about fishery issues, transmission line location and impact of air traffic, who makes the final decision, the definition of pristine, why HEA gets the energy and Moose Pass residents/public have to pay the intangible costs, how many jobs would be created, and others. The mood was sincere and emotional and gave FERC and honest impression of how the public feels about the proposal. YOUR EFFORT MADE A HUGE IMPACT!! Most there - perhaps 75-90% - opposed the project. Moose Pass resident Mike Cooney presented FERC petitions that 199 people from Fairbanks to Seward to Homer signed in opposition to the dam. Valerie Connor of the Alaska Center for the Environment provided FERC with an online petition of 100 names.
Earlier in the day, agency and NGO folks were flown to Grant Lake to get a sense of the place. All were met with the grand vista of a perched glacial lake and a cascading creek dropping into the Grant Creek gorge. They toured the shoreline where a 3.4 mile access road would end. They looked offshore about 100 feet to imagine a tall intake tower. They looked at the exact spot a 120 foot concrete plug would restrict the natural flow of Grant Creek.
Plus they met a simple statement of how the public feels. A blue tarp with the message, "NO DAM WAY" printed in red tape hung at the exact spot a 10 foot diversion dam will hold back Grant Lake.
Why the dam is a bad idea
If faraway Homer Electric Association has its way, Grant Lake will be flooded 9 feet above its natural level by a hydroelectric dam. The 4.5MW maximum power generated is not meant for Seward or Moose Pass. It will get dumped into the railbelt grid with the unsupported hope that Homer Electric Association ratepayers will benefit. However, the residents of Moose Pass and Cooper Landing will lose some of the wild land that supports traditional local lifestyles and businesses. That lifestyle and, its promise for future local generations, includes free flowing streams crucial for salmon (and everything else aquatic).
We like hydro that has greater benefits than costs. This proposal will cost Alaskans in terms of loss of fish and wildlife habitat, and the loss of wildlands due to 3.4 miles of new roads and lighted gatehouses and penstock routes and a powerhouse and the destruction of parts of at least four historical sites. There are other projects that can provide all the energy requirements of the railbelt with far fewer environmental costs like Mount Spurr geothermal and wind energy projects such as Fire Island.
Scenery will take a poke in the eye
Parts of the new 3.4 mile road and a 110 foot tall surge tank will be seen from several points on the Seward Highway, from dozens of places on the Alaska Railroad route and certainly from the air.
Roads attract all the bad habits of humans: litter, poaching, oil spills, vegetation damage, dumping, trail widening, further incursions into wild land on side trails, multiple trails, encounters with brown bears, an increase in DLPs, stray fires (90% of wild land fires are started by humans), noise, and loss of the sense of wilderness,vandalism, soil erosion, litter and abandoned cars. Despite efforts to make roads impassable, the determined four wheel drive enthusiast will find a way around the initial barrier.
Here's 500 feet of road clearing. The dam proposal calls for 17,952 feet (3.4 miles) of access road
We'll see more of this kind of irresponsible behavior if more roads are built
Loss of recreation opportunities
The wildness of Grant Lake attracts hikers because, in part, of its wild pristine condition. A scoured-out low water lake will eliminate the attributes the hiker expects. Its not clear how the dam would impact the National Historic Iditarod Trail
Loss of historic sites
At least four historic sites would be partially flooded. Intact cultural deposits - accumulations of undisturbed artifacts - would be eroded and destroyed. The loss of these intact repositories of early 1900's life on the frontier could eliminate the answers to hundreds of research questions about diet changes, economic ties to Moose Pass and Anchorage and Seward, the influence of the railroad and technical and mechanical strategies. The lake and the benches between Grant Lake and Falls Creek have not been adequately surveyed for cultural sites.
One of the structures at the Case Mine on the north shore of Grant Lake. If the dam were built, the higher lake level could undermine the cabin's foundation.
Loss of wildlife habitat, particularly salmon
The proposal is within the headwaters of America’s greatest salmon stream, the Kenai River. Millions of government dollars have supported and thousands of private tourism-related jobs are dependent upon the health and productivity of the Kenai River ecosystem. The watershed quality has been steadily reduced over the years by development. There will be an impact to water quality. Brown bear habits have changed over the past five years. What impact will this have on bears?
Proposals are predatory
While the residents of Moose Pass, Seward and, more broadly, all of southcentral will suffer the loss of environmental attributes, the potential economic benefits will go to the distant Homer Electric Association.
Damage to scenery
The road from Falls Creek to Grant Lake above Lower Trail Lake, a 110 tall surge tank, transmission lines, access roads, a power house would all be visible from several points along the Seward Highway (National Scenic Byway). Security lighting would mar the nightime sky and view.
Loss of wilderness values and wildland
High-impact proposals will not only destroy the sense of wildland one can enjoy in Upper and Lower Trail Lakes, but would destroy the wilderness characteristic of 44 square mile Grant Lake watershed and the lake's surface area of 1,888 acres.
Contrary to several plans
Kenai River Comprehensive Management Plan, the Kenai Area Plan, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Comprehensive Plan and the USFS Chugach National Forest Land Management Plan, the Iditarod National Historic Trail Comprehensive Management Plan, 2000Report of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Trails Commission. The Kenai River has been nominated as an Area Which Merits Special Attention (AMSA) under the Alaska Coastal Management Plan and the KPB Coastal Management Plan.
The industrial project will transform the rural homesites on the Falls Creek road.
The Grant Lake proposal is one of four proposals funded by the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) without adequate accountability. The other three proposals - Crescent Lake, Ptarmigan Creek and Falls Creek - have been thankfully been withdrawn.
All HEA can promise to ratepayers is "stability" (not cost reduction). How the project would be funded is a mystery even to the HEA General Manager who admitted that to build any of the projects would require "grants or creative financing".
Like the study proposals themselves, the long term operation will use public money to advance private gain.
Not for the locals
The potential 4.5MW energy generated is not meant for Seward or Moose Pass. It will get dumped into the railbelt grid with the unsupported hope that Homer Electric Association ratepayers will benefit.
A better way
Here’s an example of a good hydro project: Lowell Creek in Seward. An independent energy engineer has done preliminary studies on an in-stream intake structure and penstock brought to tidewater where a power plant would produce up to four megawatts of power. None of the environmental problems connected with the Grant Lake/Falls Creek dam proposal exist at Lowell Creek. There is no fish habitat, no existing recreational use, no new roads would be required, it’s immediately adjacent to the utility lines, it would produce energy for local consumers (unlike the Homer Electric Association invasive plan). Plus it could help reduce flooding risk in the town of Seward.
FERC sponsored meetings planned for June 2 and 3
On January 13, 2010, Homer Electric Association held a public meeting in Moose Pass to discuss with residents their latest plans for studying and constructing a hydroelectric project on Grant Lake and nearby Falls Creek in the Kenai River watershed. At that meeting HEA officials told the public that their grant money was running out and that without further funding, the studies would not proceed. We all breathed a sigh of relief, thinking maybe HEA had come to their senses, and that this was their way of quietly backing out of these misguided projects.
Fast forward three months to May 11th 2010. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announced a public scoping meeting for the Grant Lake hydroelectric project on June 2nd and 3rd. This is the only meeting where FERC will be present, and it is imperative that we let them know in no uncertain terms that high-impact; low-output dams on tributaries of the Kenai River are unacceptable. The Kenai River is nationally recognized as one of the most productive salmon rivers in the world. Why would we want to put it at risk for an insignificant amount of power?
If you love the Kenai River, now is the time to speak up! Please plan on attending one of the scoping meetings in Moose Pass (schedule below), or submit scoping comments. Deadline for filing scoping comments is July 6, 2010. Here's a link to the FERC scoping document: http://www.kenaihydro.com/documents/GrantLake_Scoping1.pdf
Environmental Site Visit
The Applicant and FERC staff will conduct a project environmental site review beginning at 8:00 a.m. (Alaska ST) on June 2, 2010. All interested individuals, organizations, and agencies are invited to attend. Participants should meet at Scenic Mountain Air boat launch, 31702 Depot Road, Moose Pass, AK 99631. Participants should be in good health and prepared/able to hike without assistance in unimproved trail conditions for the entire day (+3 miles with 200 feet of elevation gain). Participants should also pack their own lunch, snacks and water, wear waterproof, rugged footwear, and be prepared for inclement and potentially cold weather conditions. Anyone with questions about the environmental site review (or needing directions) should contact Jenna Borovansky at (208) 765-1413 or email@example.com. Those individuals planning to participate in the environmental site review should notify Ms. Borovansky of their intent, no later than May 23, 2010.
FERC staff will conduct one daytime scoping meeting and one evening scoping meeting. The daytime scoping meeting will focus on resource agency and non-governmental organization concerns, while the evening scoping meeting is primarily for public input. All interested individuals, organizations, and agencies are invited to attend one or both of the meetings, and to assist the staff in identifying the scope of the environmental issues that should be analyzed in the EA. The times and locations of these meetings are as follows:
Evening Scoping Meeting
DATE Wednesday, June 2, 2010
TIME 7:00 p.m.
PLACE Moose Pass Community Hall
ADDRESS Mile 29.5 Seward Highway Moose Pass, AK 99631
Daytime Scoping Meeting
DATE Thursday, June 3, 2010
TIME 10:00 a.m.
PLACE Moose Pass Community Hall
ADDRESS Mile 29.5 Seward Highway Moose Pass, AK 99631
January 13, 2010 public meeting in Moose Pass reveals a positive trend
The public meeting held in Moose Pass on January 13, 2010 produced some positive results. Here are edited summaries provided by ACE (Alaska Center for the Environment) and Mike Cooney, citizen of Moose Pass.
Below are highlights from my notes for the meeting hosted by KHL in Moose Pass.
- About 25 members of the local public from Seward, Moose Pass, Crown Point, Cooper Landing.
- NGO and Agency included: ACE, RBCA, MP Advisory Planning Commission, USFS
- Project engineer, Brad Zubeck explained Alaska Wind Energy was in process of separating from KHL. When asked if KHL was seeking public sources of funding for the project Zubeck said no because of internal problems with KHL. Mr. Zubeck confirmed that KHL had not applied for funding in round lll of the renewable resource funding from the Alaska Energy Authority. Mr. Zubeck also stated KHL was not pursuing any other hydro projects.
- Mr. Zubeck stated that unless additional grant funding was obtained, study plans and future project work was on-hold. After the study report from the 2009 field season is completed and posted on the KHL website (end of Jan./first of Feb.) no more work will be undertaken. Mr. Zubeck said they have notified the FERC that Scoping Meetings should not be held until a future and unspecified time. It seems that unless KHL gets funding to continue studies and other work in the next 3-4 months, then field studies could not be completed during 2010 and a license application could not be prepared prior to expiration of the preliminary permits.
- Mr. Zubeck stated generators at Grant/Falls would include a 1.2 MW for low flows and a 3.0+ for maximum flows, and said it would be technically feasible to provide some of the power locally, though the price might not be good.
- Mr. Zubeck stated power from Grant/Falls would equal approximately 4% of HEA's 2008 demand.
Two thirds of the original grant money has been spent, and that KHL has no immediate plans to seek additional funding, partially due to CIRI’s pullout from the project. This also means that further studies during the 2010 season are unlikely.
· The FERC scoping meetings are on hold until further notice.
· At the same time, there is a push to consolidate utilities in the State which would change the dynamics considerably.
· Baseline reports from 2009 studies are projected to be completed soon and available for public review.
· There were about 25 local residents at the meeting and most of them were skeptical about the proposed projects. The issues raised included the lack of socioeconomic studies, visual disturbances, noise, fish and wildlife habitat, water quality and quantity issues, a lack of a cost/benefit analysis, increased access to backcountry and the problems typically associated with roads. One point that folks keep making is that this project has a big footprint for such a small output of power.
· Homer Electric Association recorded at least ten pages of additional studies that the public in Moose Pass suggested needed to be completed before licensing.
· These projects highlight the need for a comprehensive plan to protect the Kenai River, acknowledged by HEA to be “one of the most productive salmon rivers in the world”.
No More Public Funding for Kenai Hydro Projects
The following article appeared in the Redoubt Reporter on December 2, 2009. In Alaska’s critical endeavor to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, Alaskans deserve professional, carefully considered development of our renewable energy resources to ensure that the scope of any negative economic, social and environmental impacts closely justifies appreciable new energy production.
Since 2008, amidst enthusiasm to develop hydropower projects, the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA), and the Alaska Legislature have authorized Kenai Hydro LLC (KHL) to use over $1 million in very poorly directed public money to perform feasibility studies and federal pre-licensing activities for four hydropower dams KHL envisioned for Kenai River headwaters near Moose Pass and Cooper Landing.
KHL is a for-profit hydropower development consortium established in Delaware. Originally, KHL involved Homer Electric Association (HEA), Cook Inlet Region, Inc. (CIRI), and enXco — a French-owned company. CIRI recently announced it would no longer be a KHL partner.
In October, KHL abandoned its proposed Ptarmigan and Crescent Lakes dams, and relinquished Federal Energy Regulatory Commission preliminary permits for those projects due to negative financial and environmental feasibility findings. Yet despite growing public opposition and legitimate, widely held concerns over project impacts, feasibility and funding, including future construction costs, KHL obstinately pursues its project to dam Grant and Falls creeks. In his October report to HEA’s board of directors, HEA General Manager Brad Janorschke acknowledged problems with the Grant/Falls hydropower dams: “… we are seeing economic challenges with both projects and their future will be dictated by the availability of grant funds for study work and, if licensed, grants to offset a portion of the capital costs.”
In obtaining authorization for upwards of $900,000 of our money for its Grant/Falls proposal, KHL optimistically portrayed the combined dams as a 5- to 7-megawatt project. HEA now concedes Grant/Falls is a 4.5-megawatt project, and to continue studies KHL needs even more public funding. Neither AEA nor the Legislature should authorize any more money for what remains such a highly speculative and only faintly conceptual project. Never mind KHL’s $27 million project construction cost estimate.
Ethan Schutt, CIRI’s Senior Vice President of Land and Energy Development, characterized KHL’s proposed hydropower dams, and CIRI’s decision to end its involvement in the projects, during an October Legislative Energy Committee Hearing in Anchorage: “Projects must be locally acceptable, as well as commercially viable. These projects don’t appear to be either.”
KHL’s proposed industrialization of Kenai River headwaters at Grant and Falls creeks would prove expensive, irreversible and wrong. At a minimum, KHL’s Grant/Falls dams and their attendant environmental impacts would depress the regional and local economies that depend so heavily on the hydrological and biological integrity of the Kenai River watershed, its world-class fisheries and its wildlands.
Expenditure of public money to develop and degrade such vital public resources, lacking any broad expressions of community and public support, and in return for only negligible new electrical power benefits, simply should not happen. As former Gov. Walter Hickel pointed out in columns published by the Anchorage Daily News earlier this year, Alaska’s Constitution requires rational development of our commonly owned natural resources to yield clear public benefits; resources must not be developed haphazardly or for the private benefit of multi-national corporations like enXco.
The Grant/Falls hydropower dams are also contrary to the vast body of protective and progressive public policy established around the Kenai River and its tributaries. Provisions of the Chugach Forest Plan, the Kenai Area Plan and the Kenai River Comprehensive Management Plan express clear policy intent that, at a very minimum, strongly discourages any new hydropower dams in the Kenai River watershed. Residents of the Kenai Peninsula and Southcentral Alaska will not soon forget that the Cooper Lake hydropower dam caused the extinction of Cooper Creek’s pacific salmon stocks and destroyed what was once one of the best rainbow trout fisheries in Alaska.
By ending its involvement in KHL’s ill-conceived hydropower proposals, CIRI fulfilled its corporate responsibility and affirmed its support for the value system held by most Alaskans.
KHL, including HEA’s management and board of directors, should follow CIRI’s excellent lead as soon as possible.
As a forestry technician, Mike Cooney, of Moose Pass, has been involved in natural resource management and planning in both the public and private sectors in Alaska since 1979.
(June 12, 2010) Note: The changing details of HEA's proposal has made some of the statements below historic. Details will soon be updated.
Winter view of proposed Falls Creek/Grant Lake dams access road
View from Lower Trail Lake on November 21, 2009 toward the east. Falls Creek is right and center below the shadowed peak. The proposed road (in red) winds from Falls Creek northward through conifer forest and then disappears behind a ridge that blocks the view of the road (white/red).
Dams on Grant Lake and Falls Creek discussed at public meeting
On Thursday, Nov 12, about 70 people - mostly folks from north of Seward - Crown Point, Moose Pass and Avalanche Acres - attended a meeting presented to the public by Homer Electric Association/Kenai Hydro LLC, the folks who propose damming Grant Lake and Falls Creek to generate hydroelectric power. Some questions were raised, some concerns noted, details forthcoming.
HEA/KHL wanted information from the public, like what sort of concerns need to be addressed as HEA/KHL develops its study plans. These plans will theoretically address the excruciating ecological and sociological details like the impact of a Grant Lake dam on water temperature (fish care about that) or the sound of a dewatered creek. The public, mostly people who live in the immediate area, were willing to give the HEA more information than Brad Zubeck, KHL Project Engineer, needed. He was grateful for the attention and attendance but more open to receiving information than giving it. Many of his comments were not fully satisfactory to the audience. After numerous responses like "I couldn't tell you at this time" or that statements made in the FERC Pre-Application Document were "tentative" and specific details were "to be determined", the affected residents grew frustrated. HEA/KHL wanted information from them, but they wanted information in return.
HEA was invited to meet with residents of the Moose Pass area at a later date and Mr Zubeck might have signaled a positive consideration of the invitation. If such a meeting occurs, he can expect more questions and more concerns and a greater demonstration of the community's desire to play a major role in determining the use of the public lands near their homes.
A dam on the headwaters of the Kenai River?
All the industrial magic of a hydroelectric dam will drown Grant Lake. This photo montage shows the south end of Grant Lake from the historic Solars Sawmill site. Imagine the gravel and vegetated shoreline under an additional 10 feet of water and during drought periods, drained of 24 feet of water.
The left side of the photo montage looks north up the west arm of Grant Lake. In the middle, directly behind the car-sized rocky island and driftwood log at the end of the small peninsula, an 80 foot tower intake would be erected complete with industrial lighting, walkways and roads. An active beaver lodge is located on the shoreline. Grant Lake drains into a spectacular cascading falls at the right side of the photo. That's the exact spot that a 10 foot tall concrete plug dam would be wedged to raise the water level, restrict flow and direct flow toward the intake tower. The Solars Sawmill site, active from the late 1920's to 1941, consists of several collapsed buildings, ceramic and glass and metal artifacts, several pulleys, and timber framework. The site, like at least three other historic sites on Grant Lake shoreline, would be destroyed by the rising lake level.
Here's a one minute riveting youtube video panorama taken from the tower intake location on the south end of Grant Lake.
Figure 1. This area-impact map shows the roads, pipelines, dams and transmission lines of the project overlain on a dim aerial photo
(from: Pre-Application Document; Grant Lake/Grant Creek and Falls Creek Project; (FERC No. 13211 and 13212); Kenai Hydro, LLC; August 2009)
Figure 2. This 6 foot red figure is dwarfed by the surge tank, transmission line poles and the tower intake.
These two photos of Cooper Lake above Cooper Landing show how Grant Lake could appear if Homer Electric is allowed to dam it.
Figure 3. Here are a few gems to ponder. These photos are from the mouth of Grant Lake (click on image to enlarge)
Low-impact hydro generates power by using a
waterway’s natural drop in elevation, keeping the
environmental impact of a site to a minimum. This
contrasts with the traditional hydropower systems,
such as dams, that can have adverse effects on river
ecosystems. (CIRI "Raven's Circle, vol 33, issue 5, May 2008)
The proposed project envisions a dam (10 feet tall, 120 wide plus 40 feet of abutment) at the outlet of Grant Lake, an 80 foot tall siphon intake (Tower Intake on figure 1) in Grant Lake near the point at which it flows into Grant Creek, a 3000 foot penstock (pipeline) from the lake to a powerhouse near Upper Trail Lake, 3.4 miles of roads, 4100 feet of transmission line, a 110 foot tall surge tank and (13,000 foot diversion pipeline from Falls Creek into Grant Lake. Removed from consideration May 2010) The dam could produce 4.5 megawatts (MW).
Kenai Hydro now (May 15, 2010) consists entirely of Homer Electric Association located in Homer. Previous business partners suffered winter die-off.
Kenai Hydro LLC (KHL), formed specifically to exploit the possibility of hydroelectric power, is owned by Homer Electric Association (HEA) and EnXco (a wind energy company). KHL is part of a larger complicated corporate scheme that includes Cook Inlet Regional Incorporated (CIRI), Wind Energy Alaska, Alaska Wind Energy, and two groups from France. HEA has taken the lead in public meetings and seem to be the entity that will most benefit from the hydroelectric power if it comes online. KHL hired HDR to assess the environmental impacts of the proposal. KHL also hired Longview to lead them and the public through a complicated bureaucratic process required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Redoubt Reporter articles. Editor Jenny Neyman has created the best description of the complexities of the proposal.
"CIRI venture backs out of Kenai Hydro — Company refocusing on several other energy projects" (October 21, 2009)
"Hydro sites dry up — Kenai Hydro passes on 2 sites, pursues combo project" (October 7, 2009)
"Traditional, yet not — Kenai Hydro requests nonstandard licensing process" (October 7, 2009)
"HEA details early plans for hydro sites" (January 29, 2009)
"Testing the waters — HEA’s proposed hydro projects have years of research to wade through" (January 6, 2009)
"Low impact sparks high debate — Cooper Landing residents voice concern over hydro projects" (January 27, ,2009)
"Green light — HEA hydro projects must be eco-friendly for low-impact certification" (January 13, 2009)
Hydropower Reform Coalition is a coalition of more than 140 national, state and local conservation and recreation groups that care about rivers and work hard to protect them from harmful hydropower dams. They have produced an extremely helpful guide for activists interested in hydropower projects, especially relicensing issues.
Alaska Center for the Environment. ACE is Alaska's largest home-grown citizen's group working for the sensible stewardship of Alaska's natural environment. With 7,000 dues-paying members from around the state, they are a voice for public lands conservation, clean air, clean water, and livable places. ACE hydro page.
Friends of Cooper Landing (no website). FOCL weighs in on nearly all things that impact the quality of life along the Kenai River. FOCL has weighed in frequently on the dam issue. Here's links to many of the official filings they've made with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Kenai Hydro LLC, (KHL) has an excellent collection of documents to review. For example the Grant Lake "Pre-Application Document" (PAD) which describes what they think they know about the Grant Lake area to date. A 1984 study of Grant Lake for hydropower potential is important because KHL's current proposal may be based largely on this document.
Homer Electric Association. HEA