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OF THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE
CONCERNING S. 3820,
A BILL TO AUTHORIZE THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR
TO ISSUE PERMITS FOR A MICROHYDRO PROJECT
IN NONWILDERNESS AREAS WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES
OF DENALI NATIONAL PARKAND PRESERVE,
TO ACQUIRE LAND FOR DENALI NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE
FROM DOYON TOURISM, INC. AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
SEPTEMBER 29, 2010
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 3820, a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to issue permits for micro-hydro projects in non-wilderness areas within the boundaries of Denali National Park and Preserve, and for other purposes.
The Department supports the intent of this legislation, but would like to work with the sponsor and the committee to address several significant concerns noted below.S. 3820 would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to issue permits for micro-hydro projects in a limited area of the Kantishna Hills in Denali National Park. The legislation would also authorize a land exchange between the National Park Service (NPS) and Doyon Tourism, Inc. (Doyon) involving lands near the historic mining community of Kantishna that would be mutually beneficial to the NPS and Doyon.
This legislation will reduce the use of fossil fuels in the park, and thus lessen the chance of potentially catastrophic fuel spills along the park road and at the Kantishna lodges.It will lower the number of non-visitor vehicle trips over the park road, lessen the noise and emissions from diesel generators in the Moose Creek valley, and support clean energy projects and sustainable practices while ensuring that appropriate review and environmental compliance protects all park resources.
Doyon Tourism, Inc., a subsidiary of Alaska Native corporation Doyon, Ltd., has requested permits from the NPS to install a micro-hydroelectric project on Eureka Creek, near their Kantishna Roadhouse. The NPS supports the intent of this project, however, neither the Secretary nor the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has the statutory authority to issue permits for portions of hydroelectric projects within national parks or monuments. We believe that the authorization contained in this legislation is necessary to enable the NPS to allow this micro-hydroelectric project within the park.
The Kantishna Roadhouse, at the end of the 92-mile-long Denali park road, has been in business for 28 years, hosts approximately 10,000 guests per summer, and currently uses an on-site 100 kilowatt (KW) diesel generator to provide power for the facility.The proposed hydroelectric installation would reduce but not eliminate all use of the diesel generator at the lodge, because early in the tourism season the creek may still contain ice and a backup system would be needed.
Currently, delivery of diesel fuel to the lodge requires a tanker truck and trailer to be driven the entire length of the Denali park road. Noted for its undeveloped character, the road is unpaved for 77 miles of its 92-mile length, crosses high mountain passes without guardrails, and is just one to 1½ lanes wide with pullouts.The road is justly famous for wildlife viewing opportunities and in order to protect wildlife as well as the road's scenic wilderness character, vehicle traffic is limited.A seasonal restriction on private vehicle use was instituted in 1972, and a numerical limit on overall vehicle use was established in special regulations in 2000.Reducing the amount of diesel fuel hauled over this road in tanker trucks protects park resources by reducing the risk of accident or spill, and simultaneously reduces overall vehicle use of the road.
Eureka Creek is a 4-mile-long stream that drains a 5 square-mile watershed and discharges about 15 cubic feet per second (cfs) during the summer. Most of the floodplain has been disturbed by past placer mining, but no mining claims exist on the creek now and no other landowners besides Doyon and the NPS own any property near this floodplain.The project would include an at-grade water intake, with no impoundment, about one mile upstream of where Eureka Creek crosses the park road.A water conduit, or penstock, would carry the water downhill to a small building on Doyon land that would house a micro-hydro generator, capable of producing approximately 100 KW.An electrical distribution line would carry the electricity to the lodge, about 600 feet from the hydro generator. A battery bank would store surplus electricity to accommodate peak power demands and maintenance shut-downs of the generator.Water diverted from Eureka Creek through the micro-hydro generator would be piped to Moose Creek less than 100 feet downstream from the mouth of Eureka Creek.
Camp Denali, another lodge in the Kantishna Hills, is within the area addressed by this legislation.Camp Denali opened in 1952 and the owners installed a micro-hydro generator system prior to the 1978 Presidential proclamation that included Kantishna as a part of what is now Denali National Park.After 1978, Camp Denali became a private inholding surrounded by the park, and found that parts of its micro-hydro power system were within the park, a situation which the NPS lacks the authority to permit or retain.This legislation, if amended, would allow the NPS and the owners of Camp Denali to work out permit conditions for those parts of the existing hydro project that are now on park land.Besides the Kantishna Roadhouse and Camp Denali, there are two other lodges in Kantishna that may pursue similar projects in the future and thus would benefit from the authority granted in this legislation.
Doyon owns 18 acres on the patented Galena mining claim in the Kantishna Hills and would like to exchange that acreage for park land in Kantishna of equal value near its other properties.The NPS would also like to pursue this exchange to consolidate land holdings in the area.Existing land exchange authority from ANILCA and other legislation is sufficient to effect this exchange.Thus, while we believe that this provision is unnecessary, we support its intent.
Our concerns with the bill are as follows:
1)The bill as introduced requires the Secretary to issue permits for the micro-hydro project within 180 days of enactment.While the Department supports the intent of this new authority, permit issuance should be discretionary and based on an evaluation of the environmental impacts of each project proposal.At the same time, the Department commits to a timely review of project proposals given the potential environmental and economic benefits of these projects.
2)The permitting authority provided by this bill would apply to several different micro-hydro electric projects in the Kantishna area, yet various elements of the bill as introduced apply solely to a project by Doyon.For example, the definitions found in section 2 of the bill specifically include the water intake and pipeline for the Doyon project but do not mention Camp Denali or other potential future permittees, and Section 3 refers to "the micro-hydro project" in the singular rather than the plural.We suggest that the bill be amended to clearly provide the Secretary the discretionary authority to permit any of several projects.
3)Both the proposed micro-hydro project and the proposed land exchange sections of the legislation should be amended to explicitly require compliance with NEPA and other environmental and cultural resource protection laws to evaluate the impacts of any proposal authorized by this legislation and afford public comment before the Secretary makes the decision on whether the project(s) should be permitted.
4)As written, a land exchange is mandated.The land exchange should be discretionary, based on a careful analysis of all its proposed elements, which have yet to be determined, and upon public input.
We believe that the permitting authority granted in S. 3820 would provide a tool that the Secretary could use to lower fossil fuel use in Denali National Park, while protecting park resources, and that a land exchange would be hastened through passage of this legislation.We would welcome the opportunity to work with the sponsor and this committee to address our concerns and recommendations.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement.I would be happy to answer any questions that you may have.