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Group files for permit to study hydro project near Berners Bay

Lake 3160 project could provide power to Kensington Mine

Posted: October 5, 2013 - 9:48pm  |  Updated: October 6, 2013 - 12:11am

A hydroelectric project near Berners Bay that would provide power to the Kensington Mine is still a possibility.

Green Power Development, LLC, in partnership with Alaska Power & Telephone, has filed for a preliminary permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to conduct a feasibility study. The partnership is looking to develop the hydro project near Juneau, on Lake 3160. The lake is named for its elevation. The project would occupy about 475 acres of land within the Tongass National Forest.

Alaska Power & Telephone got involved in the project in 2006. The project’s average annual energy production would be about 40 gigawatt hours, according to the permit application. Mike Dahl of Green Power Development said that might be enough to supply a third or half of the energy used at the Kensington Mine.

“Our next step is to continue collecting stream flow data,” Dahl said. “At the same time, we’ll be working with Kensington to work out a power sales agreement.”

Dahl said part of the delay with moving he project forward is the size of the proposed project.

“The resource won’t support a plant big enough to supply all of their load, just part, so that’s kind of been the hold up,” Dahl said. “If it was 10 times as big, everyone could afford to jump in with both feet.”

Moving forward with a feasibility study will give stakeholders a better idea of the potential of Lake 3160, Dahl said.

“If there was a huge amount of water there that we could be fairly certain would provide a specific amount of energy, we think Kensington would actually buy power because it would reduce the cost of their diesel generation,” Dahl said. “It’s not the kind of project, though, that we could provide for all of their power and still have some left over.”

Kensington Mine backed out of a hydroelectric project at Lake 3160 in 1997, the Juneau Empire reported. The Anchorage-based engineering firm Polarconsult Alaska stated in a letter that Kensington backed out due to risks of being lumped into a cumulative environmental review of the hydro project and other proposed developments in Berners Bay.

The public may comment on the preliminary permit application until Nov. 24.

 Contact reporter Jennifer Canfield at 523-2279 or at jennifer.n.canfield@juneauempire.com. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/canfieldjenn.

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