Gov. Sean Parnell signed into law legislation necessary to move the Susitna Dam hydroelectric project forwards, starting what may be $100 million in studies that could lead to a dam capable of providing half of Southcentral Alaska’s power needs.
The budget earlier signed by the governor contained $66.7 million to begin work on a hydroelectric project that could cost billions.
At the same time, Parnell also vetoed a similar measure that would have provided $10 million into the Southeast Energy Fund.
Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, who had sought the Southeast Energy Fund appropriation, said he didn’t object to Parnell’s approving the Susitna but not the Southeast funds.
“The Southeast Energy Fund veto doesn’t concern me that much,” he said.
The governor approved funding for other, larger Southeast projects such as Ketchikan’s Whitman Lake and Sitka’s Blue Lake, he said.
Stedman said he expects the Legislature to be asked to provide money to finish the preliminary Susitna work next year.
Other larger projects might need state help in the future, but those won’t be known until the Southeast’s Integrated Resource Plan is finished later in the year, he said. And the vetoed $10 million wouldn’t have gone very far with those larger projects.
“I have no indigestion with him taking that amount out,” he said.
The Susitna legislation Parnell just signed, Senate Bill 42, allows the Alaska Energy Authority to use the budgeted money to advance the engineering and design of the Susitna Dam, the governor’s office said.
“The Susitna Dam project will provide an important and much needed supply of renewable energy for our homes and businesses while creating jobs for Alaskans,” Parnell stated in a press release.
“This project is key to achieving the state’s target of 50 percent of electricity generation through renewable energy by 2025,” he said.
• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at email@example.com.