Dam plan may get 2nd look -
SUSITNA RIVER: Young seeks feasibility study for massive project.
Anchorage Daily News (AK)
July 24, 2003
Anchorage Daily News

The idea of building a hydroelectric project on the Susitna River may get a second look if Congress approves a bill that emerged from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday.

The bill, called the Water Resources Development Act, authorizes navigation, flood protection and other Army Corps of Engineers projects across the country.

Alaska Congressman Don Young, the transportation committee chairman, added a sentence to the bill directing the Corps to study the feasibility of "carrying out a project for hydropower, recreation, and related purposes on the Susitna River, Alaska."

The state considered damming the Susitna in the early 1980s, when Alaska was flush with oil dollars.

Cost estimates ran to $5 billion and higher for the two-dam project envisioned at the time. The state spent more than $130 million studying the idea before giving up on it, largely for economic reasons.

Young told reporters in January that he planned to revive the Susitna project, saying it makes economic sense and would be a legacy for future generations. A big supply of cheap electricity will attract new industry to the state, he said.

"It won't pay for itself with the market we have now, but you generate market," he said. "You have an abundance of anything and there'll be a market for it."

In conjunction with the Knik Arm bridge he hopes to fund, an abundant electricity supply would make the Susitna Valley attractive to industry, Young said at the time. He suggested a Boeing assembly plant.

Young's spokesman, Steve Hansen, said he didn't know how much the government would need to conduct a new feasibility study.

Steve Ellis, vice president of the budget watchdog Taxpayers for Common Sense, said the dam would still be "outrageously expensive."

"The Corps is going to have to bend its slide rule to near breaking if it's going to find the economic benefits to justify that cost," he wrote in an e-mail Wednesday.

Reporter Liz Ruskin can be reached at 1-202-383-0007 or lruskin@adn.com.

Rep. Don Young said that a big supply of cheap electricity will attract new industry to the state.