Letters: Susitna dam is not renewable and would not provide heat

The Alaska Energy Authority points to Alaska’s “50 percent renewable energy goal” to justify its proposed $5 billion-plus Susitna dam (Feb. 17: Lawmaker challenges Parnell administration on commitment to renewable energy). Yet most states’ renewable energy standards don’t consider large hydro to be “renewable energy.” 

That’s because big dams have big impacts on other resources – like salmon and the economies they support. Even Congressman Don Young’s 2010 bill set a 50 megawatts limit for classifying Alaskan hydropower “renewable.”

The 600 megawatt-rated Susitna dam would increase water flows by almost 10 times in winter and reduce them to one-third normal in summer, devastating one of the state’s most productive salmon rivers. It’s a huge costly example of 1950s technology – the type that other states are tearing down because of their destructive impacts. 

The dam won’t provide what Railbelt communities need most: heat. We should spend our limited funds on a gas pipeline to meet both heating and electricity needs while we investigate and invest in other truly renewable sources of energy.

— Doug Smith