Grant Lake hydroelectric project open to comments

Plans for a controversial hydroelectric plant are available for public examination in their most detailed form to date.

On March 27, Homer Electric Association, working through its subsidiary Kenai Hydroelectric, submitted a draft of its license application for the Grant Lake hydroelectric project to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the national power plant licensing agency. The draft license application contains plans for the Grant lake project that HEA has been developing since it received a preliminary study permit from FERC in 2009.

It will be open to comments from government agencies, interest groups, and the public during a ninety-day period that will end on June 29. HEA has posted the license application on their website and mailed copies to 100 individuals representing interested parties.

Grant Lake, near the town of Moose Pass, feeds its water into Trail Lake via the approximately one-mile long Grant Creek. Although the draft application describes several alternative projects, the design that HEA plans to pursue would consist of an underground pipe opening below the surface of Grant Lake that will feed water through a pair of turbines generating a combined 5 megawatts before returning it to Grant Creek approximately one half-mile from its source.

One detail that remains undecided is whether HEA will open the project’s access road to the public, making the area surrounding Grant Lake vehicle accessible.

“That will be part of what we anticipate hearing comments on, both from the general public and the (state and federal) landowners,” said HEA’s Manager of Fuel Supply & Renewable Energy Development Mike Salzetti, who has overseen the Grant Lake Project.

Seward resident Mark Luttrell has spoken against the development of Grant Lake as a former president and current member of the Resurrection Bay Conservation Alliance, part of a long-standing opposition movement to the hydroelectric project. He said creating a public access road to the site would be a bad idea.

“They’ll come up against a lot of opposition if they try to make it public access,” Luttrell said. “It’ll bring all the bad habits of humans just a little bit deeper into the wildland.”

Other concerns Luttrell named included possible reduction of salmon spawning ground, the exposure to vandalism of historic artifacts that may exist below the current waterline of Grant Lake, and the possible negative cultural and economic effects of “an industrial facility there in that small town” of Moose Pass.

Luttrell plans to express his concerns to FERC, although he said he is uncertain if FERC gives adequate consideration to comments from the public.

“FERC traditionally is in the business of promoting hydroelectric power,” Luttrell said.

Executive Director Ricky Gease of the Kenai River Sport Fishing Association said that while his group was initially worried about the impact of the Grant Lake project on salmon and trout, revisions to the project have lessened those concerns. Previous designs for the project included a dam at the head of Grant Creek, which was removed in favor of the underwater pipeline opening. Gease said that concerns about the project’s effect on stream temperatures had also been addressed by removing the dam and placing the intake pipe below the surface of the lake.

Grant Creek is used as a spawning ground by sockeye, coho, and chinook salmon, as well as rainbow trout and Dolly Varden. HEA has maintained that the portion of the creek between the intake structure and the release point, which will have decreased flow as a result of the project, is poor spawning ground due to its steepness and swift flow. HEA has proposed removing obstacles from the creek downstream of the release point, which it said will enhance its use as spawning ground. Gease said he believed this measure would be effective.

After the comment period is over, HEA intends to make any modifications to its plans recommended by FERC, then submit a final license application in December 2015.

“Typically it can take FERC anywhere between 9 months and two years to rule on a license application,” Salzetti said.

In addition to the final license, HEA will need to acquire leases on the site, which will occupy state land and federal land managed by Chugach National Forest, as well as construction permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and Grant Creek water rights from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

Natural Resources Manager Carl Reese of DNR’s Division of Water, who will examine HEA’s water rights application, said that he is waiting to see the comments submitted to FERC.

“Typically what we do on water rights is we track the licensing process and comments coming from different agencies, like Fish and Game,” Reese said. “And when we write the water-right, we usually mirror what Fish and Game has said, and what FERC has said. We may put in comments based on water-rights related issues, which may make their way into the license as well. Ultimately, once the FERC license is written, we typically write the conditions on the water-right to match that.”

Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com

More in News

Spruce trees are photographed in Seldovia, Alaska, on Sept. 26, 2021. (Clarion file)
Arbor Day grant application period opens

The program provides chosen applicants with up to $400 to buy and ship trees to their schools.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Ark., leave the chamber after a vote on Capitol Hill in Washington, early Wednesday, May 10, 2017. A magistrate ruled Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, that there is probable cause for a case to continue against a man accused of threatening to kill Alaska’s two U.S. senators in profanity-filled voicemails left on their office phones. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Grand jury will get case of man threatening to kill senators

He is accused of making threats against U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan.

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. (CDC)
Virus death toll soars

The state reported 66 more COVID deaths Tuesday, some recent and some as far back as April.

Kelly Tshibaka addresses members of the community at Nikiski Hardware & Supply on Friday, April 9, 2021 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Peninsula campaign cash going to Tshibaka

Tshibaka raised about $1.2 million between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30.

Associated Press
The Statement of Facts to support the complaint and arrest warrant for Christian Manley say that Manley, the Alabama man accused of using pepper spray and throwing a metal rod at law enforcement protecting the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection, has been arrested in Alaska.
Authorities arrest Alabama man in Alaska after Jan. 6 riot

The FBI took Christian Manley into custody Friday in Anchorage.

Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion
Gates indicate the entrance of Soldotna Community Memorial Park on Tuesday in Soldotna.
Soldotna’s cemetery expanding

The expansion is expected to add 20 years worth of capacity to the existing cemetery.

In this Aug. 26, 2020, file photo, U.S. Rep. Don Young, an Alaska Republican, speaks during a ceremony in Anchorage, Alaska. The longest-serving Republican in the U.S. House is appearing in a new round of ads urging Alaskans to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Ads featuring Young are being paid for by the Conquer COVID Coalition, Young spokesperson Zack Brown said by email Monday, Oct. 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)
Young urges vaccination in new ads

Young, 88, “believes the vaccines are safe, effective and can help save lives.”

A portable sign on the Sterling Highway advertises a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccinaton booster clinic held 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at Homer High School in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
What you need to know about boosters

COVID-19 vaccine eligibility explained

Damage in a corner on the inside of the middle and high school building of Kachemak Selo School Nov. 12, 2019, in Kachemak Selo, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Repair costs rise as school facilities deteriorate

About $420 million worth of maintenance is needed at Kenai Peninsula Borough School District buildings.

Most Read