Among the projects being examined is an updated project concept for the Susitna River in a remote area in Alaska’s interior between Anchorage and Fairbanks. Last year, AEA focused on two large hydropower projects for the Railbelt, including the Watana site on the Susitna River and Chakachamna, across Cook Inlet from Anchorage.

In November 2010, AEA announced its decision that the Watana site should be the primary hydroelectric project for the Railbelt, and Chakachamna should be considered as an alternative. The Susitna project could have an installed capacity of up to 600MW, sufficient to provide nearly half of the current electricity demands of Railbelt communities, including Fairbanks, Palmer-Wasilla, Anchorage and Kenai.

“MWH is proud and excited to work with the Alaska Energy Authority to bring this important development to fruition for the people of Alaska,” said Alan Krause, president and chief operating officer of MWH. “Our company’s roots and work run deep both in Alaska and with these projects; we look forward to bringing our expertise in permitting, licensing, design and construction of world-class hydropower projects to Alaska’s interior.”

Initial project efforts are funded by a $10M appropriation from the Alaska Legislature. It is anticipated as much as $5M of this funding will be allocated in FY2011 for engineering activities. Engineering activities include MWH assisting AEA in the evaluation of project selections, feasibility and cost estimates, data collection, conceptual design, permitting, and other required tasks to facilitate AEA submitting an application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for an operating license. The balance of funds may be used to support other contracts dedicated to environmental studies for the projects.

A larger Susitna River project was studied by the State of Alaska in the mid-1980s with the assistance of a joint venture that included Harza Engineering, which merged with Montgomery Watson in 2001 to form MWH. Chakachamna was also studied in the same period.

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