Recent rainfalls filling lakes for hydropower

The recent rainfall has helped turn things around for Alaska Electric Light & Power’s water supply, but not enough to get the Greens Creek mine back online.

The heavy rains have put a lot of water into area lakes. Those same lakes generate hydropower and are putting more into the utility’s surplus. This helps assure power for both firm and special contract customers, moving them away from having to resort to diesel later.

Vice President and Generation Engineer Scott Willis said while the lakes rose most rapidly over the weekend, the rest of the week still got enough rain to generate some additional filling.

Willis said lake levels start rising in mid-May and typically continue until November. He said this amount of rain and the rapid lake risings were unusual, especially this time of year.

The latest lake level calculations showed the rise from last Thursday through Monday.

Lake Dorothy rose about 8.4 feet, still lacking around 16 feet before filling. Lake Dorothy had been going up 2 to 4 inches per day before the weekend.

Salmon Creek went up 12.6 feet in this time frame. It has around 14 feet to go before filling. Willis said the creek had typically been going up a few inches a day but had actually gone down a few inches a day the previous week until the rain.

Long Lake and Crater Lake had both been rising about 6 to 8 inches per day before the rain. Long Lake went up 19.4 feet over the weekend and has 22 feet left to the filling point. Crater Lake shot up 25.6 feet with around 68 feet left.

Snettisham received 14 inches of rain through the weekend.

Spokeswoman Debbie Ferreira said this is good news, as this has been the second dry year in a row. She said many of the lakes the utility uses for hydropower were at or below their minimum targets before this rain.

“They were definitely much lower than we prefer so the rainfall helps us out tremendously,” she said.

Ferreira said the goal is get all the lakes full by October. Another goal is to get enough surplus to serve Greens Creek as soon as possible. It was not been served since April 1.

There is still enough surplus energy to serve cruise ships and dual fuel customers. Firm customers have first priority over these special contract customers.

• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or at


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