Field work under way to judge hydro project

HEA tests at Grant Lake aimed at seeing if the site can produce electricity.

Associated PressApril 20, 2012 

KENAI -- A Kenai Peninsula utility is beginning field work to determine whether a hydroelectric project near Moose Pass will be feasible.

Homer Electric Association will use a grant from the Alaska Energy Authority to conduct tests at Grant Lake to determine if the body of water would be suitable for producing electricity.

The project as anticipated would generate about 20,500 megawatt hours annually, about 4.2 percent of the utility's 2010 annual demand.

HEA spokesman Joe Gallagher told the Peninsula Clarion that a subsidiary evaluated four possible hydroelectric project locations. All but Grant Lake were dropped because of economic concerns.

The project is estimated to cost $35 million.

"As studies are completed and more information is obtained, the proposed scope of the project's features are adjusted from what was initially proposed in 2008," Gallagher said by email. "A major difference is that current plans call for either a two-foot-high dam, or no dam, as compared to an initial plan for a 10-foot-tall dam."

A dam or other structure would be built at the lake's outlet to control outflow. The system would have an intake and pipeline in Grant Lake leading to a powerhouse. The powerhouse would be near Grant Creek and would discharge into Grant Creek or Upper or Lower Trail Lake.

A hydro project owned by the state and operated by HEA at the head of Kachemak Bay, Bradley Lake, generates 300,000 megawatt hours annually. Power from Bradley Lake is shared among utilities along the Railbelt.

At Grant Lake, crews will study the project's effect on aquatic, water, cultural, visual and recreational resources. Gallagher said a large waterfall prevents salmon from reaching Grant Lake but the fish are present in Grant Creek.

The utility will study water quality, hydrology and vegetation. It will survey sensitive and invasive plants, assess timber resources and study effects of the project on wildlife, including raptors, land and shore birds and mammals.

Cultural use and archaeological field studies also are planned.

HEA hopes to file a final Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permit in 2014.

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