H.R. 220

To authorize the expansion of an existing hydroelectric project

Statement for the Record
U.S. Department of the Interior
H.R. 220, to authorize the expansion of an existing hydroelectric project, and for other purposes
House Natural Resources Committee
Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans

April 4, 2017

Thank you for providing the Department of the Interior with the opportunity to present our views on H.R. 220, authorizing the limited expansion of the Terror Lake Hydroelectric Project on Kodiak Island, Alaska within the Kodiak Island National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge).  This legislation would authorize the licensee for the project to occupy not more than 20 acres of federal land within the Refuge to construct, operate and maintain the Upper Hidden Basin Diversion Expansion.  The bill does not affect environmental review pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, FERC licensing requirements or the ability of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to require licensing conditions under the Federal Power Act.  

The FWS has worked closely with State of Alaska, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and the project operator to develop conditions intended to minimize impacts to resources of the Refuge, particularly brown bears and their habitat and food resources.  Because the project will move forward under those agreed upon conditions, the Department supports this legislation.

In May 2016, the Kodiak Electric Association (KEA) filed an application with FERC for a non-capacity license amendment to supplement their existing Terror Lake Hydroelectric Project.  FWS staff and KEA met on September 14, 2016, and subsequently on September 22, 2016.  FWS and KEA came to an agreement on a set of modified conditions including a condition to avoid disturbance of Kodiak brown bears.  In February 2017, KEA filed a Right-of-Way permit application with the Refuge.

The alpine slopes surrounding Terror Lake offer denning habitat for Kodiak brown bears, the primary species for which the Refuge was established.  Bears on Kodiak Island enter their winter dens in October through December, with most denning in November.  Males usually emerge by May, single females and females with older cubs by June, and females with new cubs through mid-July.  Breeding occurs shortly after emergence and generally ends by late June.  Therefore, FWS requested that construction be avoided while bears are in or emerging from their dens and breeding in the project area.  

KEA consulted with FWS and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) on timing of bear denning because the project start date is an important element for KEA.  In an effort to balance KEA’s project needs with bear conservation in the area, FWS and ADF&G agreed and recommended that construction activities and project-associated helicopter traffic at the portal site (south end of Terror Lake) be prohibited from January 1 to June 1 of each year to avoid disturbance of brown bears in, and emerging from, dens.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide this statement.  

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