My Turn: Renewable energy for Southeast

Posted: Friday, January 31, 2003

As more houses and businesses become "wired," we will experience a dramatic increase in electricity consumption. Yes, the electronic age is natural resource-intensive!

The Electric Power Research Institute notes the Internet consumes an estimated 300 billion kilowatt hours of electrical power annually. Some studies show the Internet and computers draw 13 percent of the nation's available electrical power. This figure is expected to reach a range of 35 percent to 50 percent in a few years. If Juneau and the region are to prosper into the future, staying connected is one of the requirements. That will require electricity.

Juneau, Hoonah and other Southeast communities have the opportunity to rely on renewable hydro-power for our electricity needs now and into the future. A project presently under consideration for permitting would give Southeast and Juneau residents even more hydroelectric power.

The Lake Dorothy hydroelectric project south of Taku Inlet has the potential to provide Juneau with an additional source of renewable electric power and further reduce our consumption of fossil fuels. In addition, the stream flowing out of it is a non-anadromous stream - it is not a salmon habitat. The glitch is that in the 1920s, private citizens planted Eastern brook trout in Lake Dorothy, Salmon Creek and other waters. Now the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is suggesting mitigation to protect this species. The net effect of mitigation to sustain the Eastern brook trout population in Lake Dorothy will have a deleterious effect on the economics of a truly renewable energy project.

Projects like the Lake Dorothy hydroelectric project should be allowed to move forward without mandated mitigation to protect the Eastern brook trout. Since the introduction of this non-native species, no significant sport fishery has developed at Lake Dorothy and energy has evolved as a critical issue for our region and the nation. None of the federal agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, proposes mitigation measures to protect the non-native species (the Eastern brook trout) in the Lake Dorothy watershed.

Due to the overall economic decline in Southeast Alaska over the past decade (per capita income has not kept pace with the Lower 48), Juneau and the region are in need of an additional source of low-cost energy. The Lake Dorothy project should be used as a showcase for sustainable energy development and embraced by all who consume electricity.

This is an opportunity for residents of Southeast communities to support a project that will truly add to our quality of life now and in the future and also help to reduce the consumption of fossil fuel. If mitigation requirements for the non-native are imposed, it will put the project in economic jeopardy. AEL&P estimates the effect of mitigation on the project will be equivalent to burning 750,000 gallons of fossil fuel annually.

I do not believe mitigation measures should be mandated for this project in order to sustain a non-native species. If you agree with this view and the federal position, please support this project for sustainable hydroelectric power in Juneau and Southeast Alaska. Send in your comments by Feb. 20 to Magalie Salas, Federal Energy Commission, 888 First St., N.E., Washington, D.C., 20426, and/or Mike Henry, Fishery Biologist, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 101 SW Main Street, Suite 905, Portland, OR. 97204, FAX (503) 944-6799 or

• Lance Miller is the executive director of the Juneau Economic Development Council.

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