*Spring Is Here*
Coming Up: Important Dates for the Susitna
Public Comments, Open House, Speaker Events
West Susitna Access Road:
Open House # 2: March 23, 2022 from 4-7 PM
The West Susitna Road is a proposed 100+ mile industrial access road. The road would begin at Port Mackenzie and cut through the currently roadless heart of the Western Susitna drainage to end at a gold mining claim being explored by an Australian gold mining company. The road would include 156 stream crossings, 145 of which will get culverts and 90 of which will be designated for fish passage. There will be 11 bridges, 4 of them complex bridges.
On December 21, 2021, despite robust public testimony against, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly ignored their constituents voices and voted to approve Phase III of the West Susitna Access Road. This would be a 100+ mile industrial gravel road. Public testimony was well thought out, and the Assembly members received a lot of contact from constituents in the weeks leading up to the vote. Through this action, the Borough Assembly authorized AIDEA to continue down this route - with no requirements for public outreach, or independent cost-benefit analysis, on the timeline AIDEA proposed.
After this vote, the Mat-Su Assembly directed the Borough to use $50,000 of already allocated Borough funding to conduct public outreach during the first quarter of 2022. This outreach includes the collection of public comments and two public meetings. The end result of this Borough public involvement project will be a summary of comments representing current public sentiment about the proposed West Susitna Access Road. A summary of the comments to the Borough Assembly and AIDEA will be made before submitting it to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for consideration during the upcoming Clean Water Act permitting process.
An in-depth description of the project can be found HERE.
The Susitna River Coalition (SRC) is opposed to this project and recommends that it NOT move forward to permitting until more information about impacts, usage, and an independent cost-benefit analysis is complete.
WE NEED YOU TO PARTICIPATE. A quick written comment or oral testimony during one of these meetings is key to ensuring the Borough and the permitting agencies know that residents of the Borough do not want this private access road or to be a part of another expensive, drawn out, unnecessary AIDEA project. Tell them why this road would negatively impact you and how you interact in this area.
1. Online: https://bit.ly/susitna_access
2. Telephonically: 253-215-8782, Meeting ID: 860 7777 0537, Passcode: 150663
Susitna Oil & Gas Leases
Comment Period Deadline: March 31, 2022
The Alaska Natural Gas Corporation has applied for two ten year gas explorationlicenses for coal bed methane (CBM). License Area 1 has 434,835 acres and License Area 2 has 480,658 acres. This cumulative total of almost a million acres is approximately 1400 square miles. The areas are 7% of the whole Susitna River basin which breaks down to 64% of the Lower Susitna River Sub-basin and 36% of the Yentna River Sub-basin. The license areas encompass south of Willow and north to near Peters Creek and beyond Skwentna to the west.
These exploration licenses would be a disposal of state land. The licenses are only for coal bed methane gas and can be converted to a lease or leases with no other written best interest finding required. The ten year license terms requires a “work commitment” of $3 million for license area 1 and $3.3 million for license are 2. “Work commitment” is defined as the amount that the applicant will spend on exploration, drilling, remote sensing, geological, geochemical and geophysical studies. See the preliminary Best Interest Finding is available on DO&G's website.
Send comments to:
Best Interest Findings
500 W. 7th Ave., Suite 1100, Anchorage, AK 99501
or email to:
Comments must be received by 5:00 pm, March 14, 2022.
Need some talking points for your comments?
See the Susitna River Coalition's comments on the issue from 2022, the SRC's comments from 2017, Cook Inlet Keeper's Talking Points, and the Willow Area Community Organization comments.
Recreation Rivers Management Plan
The Susitna Basin Recreation Rivers Management Plan, implemented in 1991, designated six Susitna Basin rivers as Recreation Rivers. This designation provides important protections and management directives to maintain the quality and recreation values of these high-use waterways. The first plan was developed in 1991 and has not been revised since.
Recently, the Department of Natural Resources appointed a new Advisory Board in anticipation of revising the management plan. The revision of the Recreation Rivers Management Plan will dictate the fate of these incredible rivers and shape the future of the greater Susitna Watershed.
The newly constructed Advisory Board is meeting:
The Susitna Basin Recreation Rivers Management Plan is still as valuable today as it was during its initial formation due to the potential for large scale development projects, like the West Susitna Access Road. The proposed West Susitna Industrial Access Road will bisect the heart of the Susitna watershed and cut through the Recreation Rivers route to the Yentna mining district in the Alaska Range. The road will provide access to mining claims staked by Australian junior mining companies. The road poses an existential threat to fish and wildlife populations, fishing and hunting opportunities, and the Recreation values that the Recreation Rivers were designated to protect. The access road, promoted by the Alaska Industrial Development Export Authority (AIDEA), received $8.5 million of appropriated funds from the State Legislature last year to advance pre-development work on the West Susitna Access Road in preparation to file for federal permits.
Deconstructing the Susitna Basin Recreation Rivers Management Plan would decrease the level of fish habitat mitigation and necessary permitting required for development projects around these waterways resulting in deleterious effects on fish and wildlife habitat.
Pacific Lamprey in the Susitna with Trent Sutton
Lampreys have experienced wide-spread declines in abundance on a global scale primarily as a result of anthropogenic disturbances. Even though these ancestral fishes share many of the same habitats as salmonids in freshwater ecosystems, native lampreys as a group have received little management or research attention. This paucity of information limits the development of management and conservation plans for lamprey species in Alaska, which includes Pacific Lamprey Entosphenus tridentatus, a species of conservation interest throughout much of its historical distribution. The Pacific Lamprey Conservation Initiative (PLCI), a diverse group of indigenous tribal organizations, federal, state and local agencies, non-profit groups, universities, and other Pacific coast entities, uses collaborative research, conservation actions, and outreach to achieve long-term persistence of Pacific Lamprey populations and their habitats while also supporting traditional cultural use. As the newest fish habitat partnership (FHP), PLCI is seeking ways to collaborate with other FHPs and partners throughout the historical range of Pacific Lamprey, especially those in Alaska, to increase awareness and understanding of the cultural and ecological importance of Pacific Lamprey, identify ways to leverage existing knowledge and resources to protect, and restore and enhance fish habitat for the benefit of all aquatic species and the communities they support. One of PLCI’s primary goals is to strengthen its network of Alaskan partners and knowledge of Pacific Lamprey as well as other lamprey species. In this presentation, we will discuss lamprey life history, the current state of knowledge on lamprey species n Alaska, describe ongoing and future research efforts on Pacific lamprey in the Susitna River drainage, and highlight opportunities for developing partnerships to foster a greater understanding on the distribution, abundance, habitat use, and life history of Pacific Lamprey in Alaska. Trent Sutton has been a faculty member at UAF since 2007, and previously held faculty positions at Purdue University (2001-2007) and Lake Superior State University (1996-2001). He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University, a Master of Science degree in Biological Sciences from Michigan Technological University, and a Ph.D. in Fisheries Science from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). Over his academic career, Trent has taught 31 different undergraduate and graduate courses, primarily in the areas of fisheries biology and management. He has completed 37 graduate students (31 M.S., six Ph.D.) and currently has four (three M.S. and one Ph.D.) graduate students in his research program. He has published 117 peer-reviewed journal articles, four proceedings, five book chapters, and is one of three co-editors of Fisheries Techniques, Third Edition. Trent is an active member in the American Fisheries Society, serving as a Past President of the Indiana and Alaska Chapters and the Education Section. Trent has served as the Associate Dean of Academic Programs for the UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences since July 2014 and as the co-Director (January 2015-June 2016) Director (July 2016-present) of URSA (the office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Activity) for the UAF Troth Yeddha’ campus, rural campuses, and CTC. Trent’s research program uses a field and laboratory-based approach to develop a greater understanding of the role of biotic and abiotic factors on the population ecology and biology of fishes and community structure in freshwater and marine ecosystems. Trent has current research projects directed at understanding the distribution, abundance, movement patterns, population dynamics, and life history of various species in large natural rivers and lakes in interior Alaska, the Yukon River delta, Prince William and Kotzebue sounds, and the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas. He currently leads the Beaufort Sea Long-Term Nearshore Fish Monitoring Program in Prudhoe Bay and has additional research projects involving lingcod, Arctic and Pacific lampreys, and sockeye salmon in Alaska. Join us via Zoom or FacebookLive.
Want to contribute to lamprey information in the watershed? The Knik Tribe has been working to understand the reported declines in lamprey in the MatSu watersheds, a great concern for salmon and other fish that depend upon larval lamprey for food. Some additional information is found here. Take the survey and help scientists understand Pacific Lamprey in our watershed!