On July 20, 2018, President Trump signed into law two pieces of legislation alleviating complex federal land use issues for two FERC-licensed hydropower projects in Alaska. Strongly supported by the entire Alaska congressional delegation, Public Law No: 115-200 and Public Law No: 115-201 respectively allow the Swan Lake Hydroelectric Project (“Swan Lake”) and Terror Lake Hydroelectric Project (“Terror Lake”) to pursue needed and scheduled updates to their operations to maintain sufficient electric capacity for their customers in the Last Frontier.
“Alaska has unparalleled potential in hydropower, and that presents a great opportunity for communities across our state,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). “The passage of these bills will help cut costs, reduce delays, and expand existing projects to ensure that more Alaskans can benefit from this clean, reliable, and affordable resource.”
Public Law No: 115-200 remedies an earlier surveying error that complicated the plan for the Southeast Alaska Power Agency (SEAPA) to raise Swan Lake by 15-feet to provide for additional storage and reduce reliance on diesel generation in Southeast Alaska. The original survey failed to convey all lands necessary for the project pursuant to the Alaska Statehood Act. As a result, 25.8 acres required to raise the reservoir remained under federal ownership as part of Tongass National Forest. Public Law No: 115-200 requires this acreage to be transferred from the federal government to Alaska for use in the project.
“There is no disagreement among the federal and state agencies concerned that an error occurred. [This bill] would fix the error by requiring the Secretary of the Interior to correct the survey and transfer the remaining acreage to the State of Alaska. This is a common-sense bill that promotes green energy development at zero cost to the federal government,” said Congressman Don Young (R-AK).
Public Law No: 115-201 supports the expansion of Terror Lake, located within Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge (“Refuge”) on Kodiak Island. Kodiak Electric Association (“KEA”) has proposed to expand the storage capacity of Terror Lake by diverting water in the Upper Hidden Basin—located on state-owned lands adjacent to the Refuge—and conveying these flows into Terror Lake by way of a tunnel that would be partially located within the Refuge. In addition to securing a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the construction and operation of the tunnel pursuant to Title XI of the Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act (“ANILCA”), KEA sought federal legislation as a permanent means authorizing the Upper Hidden Basin expansion of Terror Lake. This expansion of the storage capacity of Terror Lake—which has been contemplated since the original project engineering designs dating back to the 1970s—enhances KEA’s strong commitment to renewable energy and further decreases its reliance on diesel generation.
“The expansion of the Terror Lake Hydroelectric Project facilitated by this bill will provide the community of Kodiak with reliable and affordable electricity, sustain the economic vitality of our local fishing fleet, and ensure that the largest United States Coast Guard base in the United States remains energy independent and energy secure,” said Congressman Young.
Troutman Sanders supported both SEAPA and KEA in the legislative processes described above, working with the Alaska Congressional delegation and federal Departmental agencies to help demonstrate the need for legislation, develop proposals that achieved bi-partisan support, and navigate the bills through the legislative process.