Environmental reasons for Gustavus hydro plant

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, September 10, 2004

Your article on the Falls Creek hydropower project in Gustavus (Empire, Sept. 5) missed the major environmental reason leading me to support the project. The two diesel generating stations in Gustavus and at the Glacier Bay National Park headquarters at Bartlett Cove burn a huge amount of diesel fuel, and therefore release many tons of greenhouse gasses annually. Global climate change is one of the most important long term issues for mankind. We need to substitute renewable energy sources wherever there are not overriding environmental disadvantages.

I would not advocate a hydropower dam in the Grand Canyon, even to get rid of the Four Corners coal power plant, but Falls Creek does not entail such trade-offs.

The project, though of small scale, will indeed have its impacts. The project area will no longer be national park wilderness. Easier public access may increase use and user impacts. There may be measurable changes in fish and wildlife populations and activities. Power lines will pass by Mike Olney's lodge into Gustavus and the Park headquarters. Those detractions, however, can be minimized with innovative project design and operating practices.

The Falls Creek project is our opportunity to shift Gustavus and the national park facilities to green power and make our small contribution to putting the brakes on climate change. It is also an opportunity to demonstrate once again that Gustavus is a community that prospers while protecting our environment, both locally and globally. I believe the environmental benefits of reduced carbon emissions, reduced noise and air pollution in Gustavus and at Bartlett Cove, and the addition of lands to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park make the Falls Creek hydro project an overall win for the environment. It should be built.

Mike Taylor


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