Fisheries Society Says Susitna Dam Threatens Alaska’s Wild Salmon

Members of the American Fisheries Society say Alaska’s
proposed Susitna Dam project, already axed by Gov. Bill Walker, in the face of
declining oil revenues, would be bad news for fisheries and aquatic ecosystems
in the state’s Susitna River Basin.
“With the recent decline in the price of fossil fuels, and
the increased value of fish and other ecosystem services provided by the Susitna
River, the proposed Susitna-Watana Hydropower project is both economically and
environmentally untenable,” the Western Division of the American Fisheries
Society said in a letter in early March to the Federal Energy Regulatory
“The Division hopes that the FERC and Alaska Legislature
consider the consequences that this project will create for the fishery
resources and aquatic ecosystems of the Susitna River Basin,” said Hilda
Sexauer, president of the Western Division of AFS.
A copy of Sexauer’s letter to FERC was released in mid-March
by the Susitna River Coalition, a grassroots organization in Talkeetna, AK,
working to halt the Susitna dam project.
The letter adds to a growing body of evidence that
highlights the inherent risks and unexpected consequences of the project, said
Mike Wood, board president of the coalition. Wood said he hoped the letter
would aid the governor and the Alaska Legislature in coming to the right
decision, “which is to put this project back on the shelf it’s been on these
past 30 years.”
AFS is the world’s oldest and largest scientific and
professional organization whose mission is to advance sound science, promote
professional development and disseminate science-based fisheries information.
The Western Division, the largest of four geographic subdivisions of the
society, represents 3,500 fisheries professionals, including Alaskans.
“Additionally, the Division recommends that carefully
designed, robust and statistically defensible sampling be conducted and
critically reviewed by the subject matter experts, should further studies be
completed prior to project approval,” she told FERC. “Following this protocol
will ensure the validity of data collected, allowing for precise analysis and
modeling of the environmental consequences.”
Sexauer said that the society also intends to provide more
formal, technical comments in response to the Alaska Energy Authority’s initial
study report on the Susitna dam project.
The Susitna River Basin is home to all five species of
Pacific salmon, rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, Arctic grayling, burbot, Arctic
char and lake trout. The Susitna River is also home to Alaska’s fourth largest
Chinook salmon population and second largest recreational Chinook salmon

Sexauer’s letter to FERC is online at