Senate Energy Committee Considers Two Bills Promoting Hydropower in Alaska

Today U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski held a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on legislation to expand the generation of affordable energy from renewable hydropower in Alaska.


“Hydropower is a major part of meeting our energy needs in an affordable, reliable and clean way. That is true nationally and it is certainly true in Alaska,” said Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “Hydropower supplies 24 percent of Alaska’s electricity needs and the state has identified more than 200 promising sites for further hydropower development.”

The committee took testimony on two bills sponsored by Murkowski to boost hydropower generation in Alaska.

The first, S. 1583, would authorize the expansion of an existing hydroelectric project at Terror Lake on Kodiak Island. The bill amends the special-use permit for the Terror Lake Hydroelectric Project to authorize the construction, operation, and maintenance of a tunnel and associated facilities and activities for the Upper Hidden Basin Diversion within the boundaries of the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge.

“Kodiak’s ability to tap into on-demand hydropower from Terror Lake has allowed it to cut electricity prices and given it the flexibility to also integrate a small group of wind turbines. The result is that the community now meets 99.7 percent of its power needs through renewable energy,” Murkowski said. “Expanding the capacity of Terror Lake will allow the community to grow and pursue new economic opportunities without having to return to burning diesel fuel.”

Kodiak’s Terror Lake facility has been in operation since the 1980s. In order to avoid burning approximately 2 million gallons of diesel fuel annually to meet the community’s growing energy needs, the Kodiak Electric Association is seeking to add to the flow of water into Terror Lake, increasing power production by 25 percent.

The second bill, S. 2046, would authorize the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to continue an existing stay of a hydroelectric license for the Mahoney Lake project near Ketchikan. 

The Mahoney Lake hydroelectric project was first proposed in the 1990s as a 9.6 MW lake-tap project. In 2002, Congress authorized FERC to grant a stay for the project’s construction until the Swan-Tyee electrical transmission intertie was completed. While that transmission line has since been built, the Cape Fox Native Corp. of Ketchikan, Alaska Power and Telephone Company, and the City of Saxman have requested an additional stay of the license while the Southeast Alaska Power Authority reviews potential power sources to meet the region’s projected power needs over the next decade.