Bill to aid ‘micro’ hydro project in Alaska clears Congress

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Sept. 10 that her Denali Park Improvement Act, which encourages development of a “micro” hydropower project, is headed to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law.

The bill includes three separate measures to reduce the use of diesel fuel, improve energy access in Denali National Park and Preserve, and honor Athabascan climber Walter Harper. The bill, which made it through the full Senate in June, was passed on the House floor on Sept. 10 by voice vote.

“I commend my colleagues – especially Rep. Don Young, who ushered this legislation through the House – for working to move this bill through Congress,” Murkowski said.

The legislation includes a land exchange for the Kantishna Hills micro-hydroelectric project. The bill allows for the permitting and construction of a 50-Kw power plant, a small impoundment dam, and a small pipeline to carry water in the non-wilderness portion of Denali National Park and Preserve. It directs the National Park Service to issue a special-use permit to speed construction and provides authority to exchange 10 acres of Doyon Ltd.-owned land with the National Park Service to facilitate construction of the power project, allowing the Alaska Native Regional Corp. to reduce its use of diesel fuel at its Kantishna Roadhouse.

“Hydropower provides clean, renewable electricity, and we should pursue its use wherever possible,” Murkowski said. “It makes sense to develop a small hydro project within the park to allow Doyon to substantially reduce its reliance on diesel fuel.” 

The bill also permits a natural gas pipeline to be buried in the utility corridor of the Parks Highway for the seven miles the road passes through Denali National Park and Preserve – allowing a direct comparison with a possible Richardson Highway route and preventing a more environmentally damaging route just outside park boundaries.

“It’s important for Alaskans that our North Slope natural gas has a clear legal path to market. This bill allows the decisions on the best route for a pipeline to be based on economic and commercial grounds, rather than out of concern about possible delays caused by trying to win access rights across federal lands,” Murkowski said. “Routing the pipeline through the park would not only make it less expensive to build, but could also take advantage of the existing utility corridor, preventing disturbances to wildlife and environmental impacts on undisturbed lands further to the east or west of the park boundary.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.