OPINION: Keep the Eklutna Dam as it is

It produces 6% of the power for Anchorage and the Mat-Su region.

It provides nearly 90% of Anchorage’s drinking water.

And some activists want it demolished because they don’t care about you.

The Eklutna Hydroelectric Project is located approximately 30 miles from Anchorage and is jointly owned by the Municipality of Anchorage, Matanuska Electric, and Chugach Electric. It has been that way since 1997, when the previous owners, the Alaska Power Association, sold it to the new ownership consortium. No one disputes that the 40-megawatt (MW) power generation station and an associated freshwater pipeline are critical pieces of Southcentral Alaska’s utility infrastructure.

Environmental activists — including Trout Unlimited and the Alaska Center — argue the Native Village of Eklutna has been harmed by having its fishery devastated by irregular water flows and other dam activity. They, working in conjunction with the Native Village of Eklutna, have lobbied the Anchorage Assembly, harangued Alaska’s Congressional delegation and energized other environmentalists to push for the dam’s removal.

On the other side of the argument is science, specifically the nearly four years of studies undertaken as part of a renewal process of the Project’s Fish and Wildlife Program Agreement. The agreement requires the utilities to examine the impacts on fish and wildlife from the Eklutna Hydroelectric Project.

This thorough and thoughtful process led to a draft agreement that is now open for public review and comment before it is finalized and sent to the governor for his approval or modification. Public meetings are being held this week (January 16-18), and full information on those meetings and the status of the renewal can be found at www.eklutnahydro.com.


If you’re thinking that the process of green groups placing a minor fishery above renewable energy solutions seems illogical, you aren’t alone. The Eklutna Hydroelectric Project should be an activist’s dream energy solution: low-cost to operate, with cheap power that is scalable, sustainable, and distributable across the grid. With the threat of LNG shortages in the news, our area can’t afford to remove the dam and its energy output. Tearing it down makes no sense, but no one ever accused environmental activists of an abundance of logic and rationality. For all of their rhetoric about making a ‘just transition’ from the traditional energy solutions of oil, gas, and coal, they fail time and again to walk their talk when it comes to renewable projects.

Look no further than the proposed Susitna-Watana dam in the Mat-Su Valley. That project — had it been built — would have provided up to 50% of Southcentral’s power demand at the time it was proposed, but the eco-left fought vehemently against it, with NIMBY websites and resolutions of non-support prevalent until then-Gov. Bill Walker unceremoniously shuttered the project.

If you think it is bad in Alaska, you should see the Lower 48, where — from the Pacific Northwest to Vermont, and the Grand Canyon to Appalachia — environmental zealots have demanded dam removals, filed lawsuits to stop developments and blocked hydro projects in the name of wildlife.

Even internationally, where zealots bemoan the Third World’s continued dependence on coal, hydro is under attack. Dams in China, Nepal, the Solomon Islands and Tajikistan have come under fire. I guess ‘green’ energy solutions are not necessarily ‘green’ when it comes to environmentalists and their wishy-washy ideologies.

The coalition looking to kill Eklutna and increase your energy costs are just part of a larger aggregation of anti-development groups who seemingly have zero sense of an overall energy direction. They hate coal, oil and natural gas, but also hate hydro (and nuclear) as alternatives.

If you care about continued low-cost energy and clean water from Eklutna, plan to come to one of the public meetings the ownership groups are holding this week. Make your voice heard, because if not, the vocal minority of the ‘destroy-the-dam’ crowd may win, which means Southcentral Alaska would lose.

This dam is too important not to act.

Rick Whitbeck is the Alaska State Director for Power The Future, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for American energy jobs. Contact him at Rick@PowerTheFuture.com and follow him on X (formerly Twitter) @PTFAlaska.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.