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Thread: Upper Kenai Hydro... say it isn't so?

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    Member fishNphysician's Avatar
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    Default Upper Kenai Hydro... say it isn't so?

    The undoing of PNW salmon runs has been attributed to unsustainable abuses in the dreaded 4 H's....

    Habitat.
    Harvest.
    Hatcheries.
    Hydropower.

    The only dam I know of in the Kenai system sits at the top of Cooper Creek.

    Now I understand that HEA (Homer Electric? if I remember correctly) has 4 new hydro projects in the pipeline. Grant, Ptarmigan, Falls and Crescent. Permits were issued in October.



    Cutting edge salmon scientists also cite a 5th H that society has conveniently ignored in the PNW salmon crisis (as well as the collapse of salmon on the East Coast and Europe).... and that is History. Why would we risk dooming these fish to the mistakes of the past?

    "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
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    Question

    I believe the hydro projects are not direct dams but tunnel through the mountain to a lower spot type projects (like eklutna tailrace) or dams above fish barriers (waterfalls). Cresent lake is pretty well suited for it. Comparing these projects to projects in the PNW is a pretty bad comparison. When fish have to navigate 5 or 10 dams to spawn and get to the ocean thats a problem, thats why these projects are located at the headwaters. Also we can be thankful that there are no hatchery fish in the system, the habitat above kenai keys is pristeen, and the harvest is managed decently.

    Its small scale headwaters projects like these that Alaska must embrace IMO for a future in renewable energy.

    I would like to see a revamp of the cooper creek dam for sure to allow more and warmer water into that creek, maybe as a condition for permits for these projects.
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fishNphysician
    Permits were issued in October.
    Lets not mislead. The permits are 3-year FERC permits simply issued to study the feasibility of the potential projects. Nothing more.

    Quote Originally Posted by fishNphysician
    Why would we risk dooming these fish to the mistakes of the past?
    Who says we would? Unlike the dams in your state, the environment and resources are of primary concern and will take precedence.

    The projects on the drawing board are low-impact involving no dams, large structures, and they would not harm the environment, resource, or fish habitat. They are simply alternatives being considered as a result of the current natural gas energy concerns for Southcentral Alaska.


    "The hydro designs being considered are low-impact, meaning they don’t involve dams or large structures, and would be designed to not harm the environment or fish habitat, Gilbert said. At least three of them would probably be run-of-river designs, where the stream’s natural water flow is used to generate power, rather than storing water to create a higher flow, Gilbert said.

    The prevailing option so far is to install a siphon that diverts water a couple hundred feet down a pipe, called a penstock, into a small power plant. Water runs through turbines to generate electricity and is returned to the stream. Power is run through wires to the existing transmission line along the Seward Highway corridor nearby.

    That sort of water conveyance system would involve an intake structure to hold the pipe mouth in place, a duct to divert water into the pipe and a trap to keep branches and other debris out of the pipe. The power plant would be relatively small, access corridors would be built to the plant and the intake site, and power lines would be strung from the plant to the existing transmission line.

    Intakes and outlets of the system would be placed to avoid fish habitat, Gilbert said. “There is evidence of natural anadromous fish usage on all four sites, especially down where the creeks empty into Trail Lake, for instance,” Gilbert said.

    Another option would be an in-stream system, where turbines are situated in the waterway, water is diverted through the turbine and released back out, with the power plant right there, necessitating only one access road. That may be possible in Falls Creek, for instance, which doesn’t seem to support anadromous — meaning migratory — fish at its headwaters, Gilbert said.

    So far, Grant Lake doesn’t seem to support anadromous fish populations, Gilbert said, so they may consider water storage at that site. To do so, a larger structure — but not big enough to qualify as a dam by FERC standards — would be built at the siphon intake across the outlet of the lake, he said.

    “Again, it would be the subject of study..." - The Redoubt Reporter

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    Default is there nothing sacred

    Ptarmigan and Grant projects would be located in prime spawning habitat that is currently being ultilized by salmon. Why would we even consider allowing this type of project or any other for that matter in these Kenai tribs is beyond me.

    Cresent & Falls would seem to be less likely to be as much as a problem as I believe that these would be in places not being utilized by spawning fish but what about the other impacts that something like this would have on the drainages?

    HEA probably said that the Cooper Creek hydro project would not impact the fish that used Cooper Lake or Cooper Creek habitat when it was built. Now look it at all these years later. What a shame this was ever allowed to happen at Cooper Creek. The old timers say that Cooper Creek was another Russian River. This would mean Kenai Kings, spring rainbows, silver salmon, pink salmon, dolly varden, red salmon, and pink salmon all use to spawn here. Now they are all pretty much gone except for a few dollies. Unbelievable.

    If HEA is really looking to be eco friendly this time around why don't they start with Cooper Creek and restore it and use that area as a testing ground for their new way of doing things?

    I'm with you Doc when will we ever learn?
    Last edited by iceblue; 01-26-2009 at 19:47. Reason: spelling

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    Quote Originally Posted by ak_powder_monkey View Post
    Also we can be thankful that there are no hatchery fish in the system,

    That's what I use to think.

    Help me out with this Nerka, Yukon, et al, but there are hatchery fish in the Kenai system. I was told of this by Fish and Game and I thought it had to do with Hidden Lake?

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    There are hatchery sockeye planted at Hidden lake. Remember a few years back when there were so many hatchery sockeye returning to Hidden Lake that it led to the big fiasco of how to prevent more from going up Hidden lake Creek itself?

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    Quote Originally Posted by iceblue
    If HEA is really looking to be eco friendly this time around why don't they start with Cooper Creek and restore it and use that area as a testing ground for their new way of doing things?
    Please inform yourself. The latest relicensing agreement requires restoration of the 4.5 miles and a rise in water temperature to accomodate suitable spawning and rearing conditions similar to pre-dam conditions.

    Quote Originally Posted by iceblue
    HEA probably said that the Cooper Creek hydro project would not impact the fish that used Cooper Lake or Cooper Creek habitat when it was built.
    The project was completed in 1959. And I don't believe it was done by HEA. Things were a little different back then. Alaska's fishery management system was just coming on board. Knowledge of the fishery and the importance of habitat was lacking. Most of the sport fisheries did not even exist. Hindsight.

    Quote Originally Posted by iceblue
    Why would we even consider allowing this type of project or any other for that matter in these Kenai tribs is beyond me.
    I believe we now live in a time of technology and regulation where these types of projects can co-exist with fish.

    iceblue, exactly what about these project ideas do you find will harm the fishery?

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    What exact items that I am afraid will harm the current fisheries or watersheds? Well, how about pretty much everything that has happend with Cooper Creek up to now.

    Why would HEA wait until they were forced to be more eco friendly in order to be granted other "projects" or for a relicensing of the current agreement?

    It should of been done when the technology was proven to work and not put off until they were forced to do something.

    Do we need to look at alternate energy sources? Yes, but lets clean up the mess created from the last hydro project put in the Kenai River drainage first.

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    Default CEC

    Cordova Electric Co-op has two small projects like these. The first one at Humpback creek seems to work well enough except for a couple small problems. And the salmon that spawn in the creek don't seem to have been affected. The main problem is in the fall when leaves start falling, the screen that prevents wood from entering the pipe get clogged with leaves and water backs up. The grates on the dam get clogged too. They have to send someone out to keep things cleared or they get a washout. There's a raceway that leads from the dam to the pipe and I've seen it completely filled with rocks and boulders. This thing is about 100 yards long. It's usually more an annoyance than anything serious, but the generator does get shut down there because of it sometimes.

    The Power Creek plant is another story. They always seem to have problems with that plant. The first flood that happened after the plant was built filled the tube with rocks and gravel. It took a large crew days to get that thing cleaned out. I don't think the engineering was up to par on that project. And the sockeye and silver runs into Eyak River seem to have declined since Power Creek came online. Not necessarily because of the dam, but it should be looked into. There has also been a big influx of sport fishing on the Eyak since the dam came online and there have been severe floods. Could be a combination of things.

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    iceblue, your comparison to the Cooper Creek dam isn't logical. You might want to do some research and contact someone at HEA.

    The Cooper Creek project began pre-statehood, over 50 years ago, without much regulation, scrutiny, or concern for the fishery resource. I was here.

    The recent hydro projects being studied now are nothing like that. They would be low-impact, involving no dams or large structures and designed not to harm the fishery resource. Assuming new hydro projects would have the same results as the Cooper Creek dam just doesn't hold water (literally).

    There are already two similar low-impact hydro projects certified by the Low Impact Hydro Institute in Southeast Alaska that are providing clean, low-cost energy without any kind of negative effects on the environment or resources. They both met criteria including river flows, water quality, fish passage and protection, watershed protection, threatened and endangered species protection, cultural resource protection, and recreation. There is no reason for HEA to not look into similar projects here.

    HEA has always strived to be eco friendly and studied ways to provide electricity to the people in the best way, dating back to 1945. Natural gas has been the answer. But the recent concern for cost and availability of current supplies of natural gas have caused HEA to study a way to provide another means and diversification than our reliance on natural gas.

    Relicensing is something that happens periodically by law. It gives agencies a chance to review the impacts of the project. The relicensing process for the Cooper Creek dam began 7 years ago.

    As for "cleaning up the mess created by the last hydro project"...As I already posted, the relicensing of the Cooper Creek facility mandates restoring the river flows and habitat making the creek once again available for spawning and rearing.

    I think the permits issued to study the hydro projects are good. They will help us determine the impacts to our fisheries, if any. I'm sure they will be scrutinized heavily. If the projects turn out feasible and resource-friendly, then I see no reason not to move forward.

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    Default time to think about this

    HEA listed a number of projects and they do impact salmon streams. Roads for construction, water flow alteration, water temperature alterations, and vegetation removal will all take place so there is a reason for concern on some systems. However, HEA is doing the studies and to date has not been able to answer some basic questions - they need more time to put it all together. In fact, they have not had public scoping meetings to identify all the concerns. I would suggest everyone follow this process and become involved.

    There are some reasons to support small hydro-projects since they are cleaner than coal and other forms of generating electricity. I do not support some of the four projects that HEA is proposing because the energy produced does not justify the risk to 30,000 sockeye spawning in one system for example.

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    Member fishNphysician's Avatar
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    Default It's the sentiment that counts!

    You must spread some Reputation around before giving it to nerka again.
    Can't say I didn't try...

    Thanks for that post, nerka!
    "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nerka View Post
    HEA listed a number of projects and they do impact salmon streams. Roads for construction, water flow alteration, water temperature alterations, and vegetation removal will all take place so there is a reason for concern on some systems. However, HEA is doing the studies and to date has not been able to answer some basic questions - they need more time to put it all together. In fact, they have not had public scoping meetings to identify all the concerns. I would suggest everyone follow this process and become involved.

    There are some reasons to support small hydro-projects since they are cleaner than coal and other forms of generating electricity. I do not support some of the four projects that HEA is proposing because the energy produced does not justify the risk to 30,000 sockeye spawning in one system for example.

    Thanks for the info Nerka, good stuff. Could you be a little more specific as to the possible impact to salmon streams, particulary those in the Kenai tribs?
    I am not overly familiar with which watersheds may be affected.

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    Quote Originally Posted by yukon View Post
    Thanks for the info Nerka, good stuff. Could you be a little more specific as to the possible impact to salmon streams, particulary those in the Kenai tribs?
    I am not overly familiar with which watersheds may be affected.
    I hate to speak for HEA projects because they are not well defined right now. However, the Ptarmigan Creek project would take water out of the lake or just downstream and then discharge it back into the creek above the area used for spawning sockeye and other species. This looks good to an engineer but one must remember that to generate electricity year round the flow patterns in the creek have to be altered and thus the temperature profile as well. This could have serious impacts on eggs rearing in the gravel.

    The Falls Creek and Grant Lake projects had one option of taking the flow from Falls Creek and diverting it to Grant Creek to get enough water. Again there are impacts on flow and temperature profiles just to mention two.

    All projects will require major construction activities in the watersheds and the associated impacts. HEA does not have an easy road here and the idea that they are promoting low impact hydro-projects is from my perspective somewhat misleading. I believe the engineers believe they are doing it right and they have made public statements they want to do it right. But underlying all the talk is the desire for electricity and low cost so how salmon fit in will be in the actions not the talk.

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    Default History.... is speaking loud and clear. Anybody lis'nen?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerka View Post
    But underlying all the talk is the desire for electricity and low cost so how salmon fit in will be in the actions not the talk.
    Small fast flowing creeks and rivers were historically home to some of the most damaging and prolific "small hydro projects" in Europe and the East Coast. Running water was either used directly or diverted to mobilize paddle wheels, harnessing the energy of moving water to power the first mills and small factories (long before the advent of coal-fired steam power) with immeasurable impacts to wild Atlantic salmon stocks.

    None of those folks thought they were doing the fish any harm.

    Intentionally altering anadromous fish-bearing habitats out of convenience to suit the will and whims of mankind historically ends up with the same predictable result.... depleted fish populations. Yeah, they want to do it for clean cheap energy, a commendable goal to strive for, as most of us would concede. But remember the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    The true costs of "cheap" hydro-electricity are never considered from the outset... the true costs are never realized until it's too late.

    Salmon recovery in the Columbia River Basin costs over $500,000,000 a year and the price-tag continues to sky-rocket in unsustainable fashion. Suddenly all that electricity ain't so cheap. I realize the Upper Kenai watershed is no Columbia River, but apart from size and scope, the principle ethical dilemma is the same. Creating "renewable" energy at the expense of depleting renewable natural resources.

    Not worth it, folks. Not worth it! The potential loss of infintely renewable and sustainable fish resources is too big a price to pay.

    The fish deserve better... way better!
    "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
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    Thanks Nerka, I was reading Grampy's posts and the information he gave was compelling on the pro-side.

    Quote Originally Posted by Grampyfishes View Post
    The projects on the drawing board are low-impact involving no dams, large structures, and they would not harm the environment, resource, or fish habitat.
    Quote Originally Posted by Grampyfishes View Post
    Please inform yourself. The latest relicensing agreement requires restoration of the 4.5 miles and a rise in water temperature to accomodate suitable spawning and rearing conditions similar to pre-dam conditions.
    Quote Originally Posted by Grampyfishes View Post
    I believe we now live in a time of technology and regulation where these types of projects can co-exist with fish.
    Quote Originally Posted by Grampyfishes View Post
    They would be low-impact, involving no dams or large structures and designed not to harm the fishery resource. Assuming new hydro projects would have the same results as the Cooper Creek dam just doesn't hold water (literally).
    Grampy has some pretty good information on this one. Historically, from his posts here he seems concerned about habitat and the environment and he doesn't seem to be concerned as their are safeguards in the permitting process and HEA appears poised to do it in a eco-friendly way.

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    Guys, I support the permits to study this...which is exactly where we're at right now...studying the impacts and feasibility of the projects. These studies need to be done for the exact concerns metioned, and which I wholeheartedly share.

    In my opinion it would be irresponsible for HEA to not look into these projects...power generation is what they do. With good reason, they see and anticipate a problem with our current use of natural gas generation, and recognize that there are other similar hydro projects in the state, like these, that are working. It would be irresponsible of us not to allow HEA to safely pursue more practical ways of generating our power...local residents and industries are finding themselves too reliant and demanding on current natural gas supplies. Residents took a rate increase spring, fall, and another 20% just this month alone. And there seems to be no end in sight. My personal electric bill shot up over $100 per month.

    Fisheries should definitely come first. But I can't support or not support the actual projects until we get all the details, and know what the effects will be. If the projects are shown to impact our fisheries, then they should not go forward. However if the projects can be shown not to impact our fisheries, then I see no reason to not support them. But without supporting these permits and studies, we can never know. Jumping to conclusions isn't the answer.

    The process of getting to the point of actually building a hydro generation plant on a andromedous waterway is very long and complex, and this day and age almost impossible. State and Federal resource, environmental, and fishery agencies, along with native and tribal groups, and the public, etc. must all come to terms. I don't give these projects much chance, even if they can be shown not to harm our fisheries.

    Again, I support the permits to study the impacts. I can't support or not support the actual projects until I see those associated impacts. I am not going to assume they will be bad or not bad, or jump to conclusions.

    I posted on this because I found the original post to be an irresponsible way of informing folks....to me (and others) it insinuated that these projects were "dams". They are not. It insinuated "permits were issued" to build the projects. They weren't. It compared these projects to the hitorical undoing of PNW salmon runs by their dams. A poor analogy. It made an unfounded assumption that we would "risk dooming" our fisheries. It was posted with convincing inuendos that influenced folks into a frame of mind that the projects were automatically bad. A barrage of fires ensued. Sometimes it would just be nice if folks would do a little research before they make a post, especially one intended to inform others.

    Cheers. Gramps.

  18. #18

    Default Pay attention

    The definition of "low impact" is a subject for debate. Low compared to what?

    The four projects are all in salmon spawning streams and they would all have an affect on spawning habitat; no if, ands or buts. If you know the details, these projects are closer to Cooper Creek in nature than the examples from Southeast Alaska HEA is trying to compare with. The maps HEA has shown in public presentations do not even come close to matching what they are saying in terms of where the water would re-enter the streams relative to salmon spawning grounds.

    Yes it is a project to "study". No I don't oppose the study, but I am watching an industry that I don't trust very closely.

    Grampy - I also need to comment on the cooper creek re-licensing. The agreement that was reached will decrease the present day water flows in cooper creek to less than 50% of what it is right now. Due to the existing diversion, it is already only 20% of what it was pre-dam. After negotiated replumbing the water will be warmer, but its volume and flow regime will not come close to what it was predam - how can it with 90% of its water being funneled through the mountain. There was significant disagreement whether this was a good relicensing or not.

    HEA has been an energy broker to date, not an energy producer, buying almost all of its power from Chugach Electric. They have the option to go-it-alone in 2014 and are looking to bring on nearly 100MW to meet peak winter demand. Bringing new power online is a messy business and we are seeing it in the headlines as they plan for some autonomy - Coal from Healy, hydroele. project studies, soon they are going to be talking about the gas fired generators that I think they've already ordered up.

    Knowing what I know I do not believe HEA is being honest with the public. They know where the fish are, they know how much head is necessary to generate the potential MW they have stated could be generated. I will state categorically that it does not add up and I don't need an engineering report to make the assessment. You simply cannot limit the project to a couple of 10' dams, take the water out of the system, spin turbines to generate the estimated wattage and put the water back into these creeks upstream of the spawning habitat.

    If HEA were being truthful, and we had the discussion about trading or at best compromising a couple miles of spawning habitat in exchange for 20MW of power, then we'd be able to have a truthful debate. Is it better than burning coal? Natural gas? Bringing on a larger dam for significant railbelt power? These are not easy questions to answer, and again - this is an important time to be paying attention to energy generation in Alaska.

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    Actually the term "low impact" isn't up for debate. It's defined by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, as well as other federal, state, and industry agencies as hydroelectric generation that produces clean power using a stream or canal's already existing natural drop in elevation, not requring a dam or creating negative environmental impacts.

    Low-impact hydrogeneration projects are not similar to the Cooper Creek dam. That was a 50-year old high-impact project very unlike the similar low-impact projects in S.E. Alaska.

    HEA hasn't already determined where the intakes and tailraces of these projects will be. The maps you have seen are preliminary ideas, and exactly why the studies (permits) are needed. If HEA has already determined that, then they did so without cooperation and approval from agencies like the US Fish and Wildlife, US Forest Service, NPS, ADF&G, NMFS, DNR, and other resource and environmental protection agencies. They will quickly run into a dead-end.

    The relicensing agreement was never intended to completely restore Cooper Creek to pre-dam conditions. That would be virtually impossible without completely removing the dam. The object was to retore flow and essential habitat so spawning and rearing for several species would be available. The object was to create similar conditions that would do that, and still be able to generate power, all with an already existing stucture. No doubt it was controversial.

    HEA is in the business of providing power...that's what they do. But the buck certainly does not stop with them. They are only the seed. The Commission and other regulatory agencies are tasked with considering the impacts of many things, including resources, habitat, and spawning fish. It is not HEA who will determine whether or not the projects can work in cooperation with our fishery.

    Again, I support the permits to study this. I think we have a responsibility to study and support hydroelectric projects that could work. The State feels the same way and has financially funded some of these studies. I currently neither support nor don't support the actual projects. Not until we know the effects to our fisheries. If they show to have negative effects, then I will strongly oppose them. If they show to not have negative effects, then I will support them. Jumping to conclusion at this point, making assumptions, and developing a pre-determined mind-set just isn't rational in my opinion.

  20. #20

    Default enlighten us

    Where is this definition of Low Impact in FERC or any state agency. I am not aware of that. HEA is telling us low impact, and that a 9' dam is being considered for one of the projects (grant). A complete diversion of water from another (falls) and a mile + tunnel on a third (ptarmigan) I agree Cooper Creek is different than the SE projects, I totally disagree that the conceptual models HEA is putting forward is even close to the SE projects. For starters fish spawn in those streams within 100 yards of tidewater then the creeks are too steep to support fish.

    No one said anything about restoring pre-dam conditions in Cooper, there were lots of options other than giving up half of the remaining water. I and others that have experience in hydro don't think it is going to work the way CEA consultants presented and sold it to most.

    One last thought HEA is showing those conceptual maps even after the agencies have given them the locations of spawning salmon so they could overlay the information and better communicate with the public (over a month ago)- they have chosen to ignore this.

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