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Susitna Springtime

Break Up: An Ecosystem Shaping Season

We've all been waiting for spring during these in-between times-- The liminal space between winter and spring, where ice still spans the river and rotten snow makes Alaskan's even more cabin-bound than in the winter.

And then a miraculous change occurs. The ice breaks free and shatters the silence of winter. Huge blocks of ice come pouring downstream atop silty water. As the water moves, trees caught in the ice snap, chunks of bank fall into the flow, and pancakes of ice scour the gravel bars. Ice jams form, forcing water into back channels and flood the main banks.

Break up is a dynamic, ecosystem shaping process that maintains the character and vitality of northern rivers, including the Susitna. These dynamic processes would be altered, if not totally eradicated, if the Susitna Watana Dam were ever built.

The proposed Susitna Watana Dam would be load-following. This means that a reservoir would exist behind the dam, and water would be released as needed to produce power. Well, in Alaska, most power is needed during the winter months. . Load-following dam operations—like that proposed for the Susitna dam—severely alter the natural flow of river systems by dramatically reducing summer flows and increasing winter flows. During the winter, such large amounts of water would be released so that some hydrologists believe the river would cease to freeze. With no freeze, and thus no freeze-up and break-up, the river as we know it would cease to exist.

Ice is flowing on down the Susitna River, and we are excited to celebrate the emergence of water in its liquid form, signifying the beginning of spring.

We've got a lot going on this Spring and Summer with fun events, and updates on the Borough Level. We will keep you updated throughout the summer, and please keep us updated on your adventures in our incredible watershed during the bright, beautiful days of summer.


Riparian Planting, MEA Elections Wrap-Up

and Watershed Happenings

Saturday, June 3, 2023, from 10-2, join us to plant native trees, protect water quality, and improve salmon habitat along Montana Creek at the Yoder Road Bridge. We'll be planting 230 native trees and bushes! 

In addition to re-establishing habitat (the real goal!), all attendees will receive a free small white spruce tree to take home.

There will be informational booths, minnow trapping presentations, free hot dogs and other goodies, salmon cornhole and games, and maybe a temporary tattoo or two. It should be a fun and beneficial event. Invite your friends and family and bring your shovels (we'll have plenty if you don't have one).

This is a family-friendly event, everyone is welcome!

Hosted by the Susitna River Coalition, the Mat-Su Borough, ADFG, Knik Tribal Council, the Mat-Su Salmon Habitat Partnership, USFWS, and Trout Unlimited Alaska. 

Please contact us and see the Facebook Event Page with any questions.


Update: Mat Su Borough Setback Ordinance

In December 2022, a new ordinance (OR-23-002) was introduced to the Mat-Su Borough Assembly, amending MSB 17.55 and MSB 17.80 to allow buildings to be built within 75 feet of a waterbody. The Mat-Su Borough currently requires a setback for structures to be a minimum of 75 feet from the ordinary high-water line. There are currently no habitat requirements in this ordinance.

Click here and here to learn more about riparian zones.

Also see our speaker serieshighlighting the importance of riparian zones.


The Mat-Su Planning Commission heard the proposed ordinance again on April 3, 2023. After the Planning Commission, the ordinance moved on to the Mat-Su Borough Assembly on April 4th. 

At the Mat-Su Borough Assembly meeting on the April 4th, Assembly persons Yundt and Tew requested the item to be pulled from the agenda so the staff could work through modifications.

On Monday, May 15th, the rewritten ordinance was reintroduced to the Planning Commission.

There will be a public hearing for the ordinance on June 5th, 2023. We will keep you posted with tips for testimony.


Thank you for Voting in your

Electric Co-Op Board Election


The 2023 MEA Board Election wrapped up on April 25th at the Annual MEA Membership meeting in Palmer. There were two at-large seats available this year, here are the results. Anastasia Buretta won the 3-year term seat, and Dan Tucker (the incumbent) won another 4-year term. It was a very close race for second place.

Anastasia won with 1,414 votes (12.5%). Coming in 3rd was Ted Leonard with 1,329 votes (11.7%), and Connie Fredenberg trailing behind by only 3 votes. We congratulate all the candidates for the time and effort they put into their campaigns!

At our candidate forum, when asked about the Su Dam, Anastasia Buretta said “The risks that are associated with the Susitna Watana project do not outweigh the rewards… Before we start spending a very large amount of money on a project that has a lot of risks associated with it, I think it’s important that we start looking at other options first.”

We look forward to her representing the MEA member-owners and her work on our utility co-op for a more sustainable, reliable, and resilient energy system.

We want to thank everyone who voted, as every vote really made a difference. Also, a huge thank you to all of our members and volunteers for participating in such an important election!


In the News:

“As natural gas shortage looms, Alaska Electric utilities and advocates are feuding over a renewable power bill”

A new article by Nat Hertz in Northern Journal sums up the conflict over how much and how quickly renewable energy should become integrated into the Railbelt electric grid.

The Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which was initially introduced by Governor Dunleavy last year and reintroduced again this year by Anchorage Democrat Sen. Loki Tobin and Wasilla Republican Rep. Jesse Sumner, would require all 5 electric utilities to reach a goal of 80% renewable energy generation on the grid by the end of 2040 with increments of 25% by 2027 and 55% by 2035.

According to Hertz, there have been ongoing disagreements about this bill between the utilities and legislators who support it. Utility managers argue that they are already working enough to add renewable projects to their energy portfolio, while RPS-supporting legislators and advocates are concerned that their efforts are too weak and will not result in the significant changes we need to wean off natural gas before its depletion in Cook Inlet (2027). In a recent federal study, “Alaska’s urban utilities still generated 80% of their power from fossil fuels in 2020.” 

The utilities are instead pushing for importing Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) into the state. Sumner is quoted saying, “It’s horrifying for the people I represent, because it’s going to mean higher energy costs.” Not only would it be expensive, but it would divert our energy dollars out of the state. By investing in local, renewable resources already proven to be reliable such as wind and solar, we can stabilize energy prices and lower carbon emissions. 

The diversification of our energy generation brings a relief in pressure to solve our current natural gas problem by attempting damaging massive projects like the Susitna-Watana dam and jeopardizing our watershed, it’s wildlife and ecosystems.


Community Solar

The Community Energy Bill (SB 152), introduced to the Alaska State Legislature on May 15th, 2023, would allow citizens to invest in shared solar arrays not located on their homes or properties and enjoy the benefits of net-metering (receiving credits on their electric utility bills for the amount of power generated).

These arrays would be larger than a regular rooftop solar installation but smaller than a utility-scale project. "Community Solar," as it is more commonly referred to, is allowed in over 40 states, but current regulations don't allow this type of solar-sharing in Alaska. 

Although some Alaskans want to participate in solar energy generation, they're not able to afford the initial upfront cost of solar panels for their own homes or their renters or properties simply don't have the best setup for solar installation to work efficiently. This bill would not only reduce energy costs and lower carbon emissions, but it will also give more power to the hands of communities and individuals.

Read more about it on KTNA here.


Upcoming Events


Defend the West Su: Spring Break Up BBQ

Friday, May 19 from 4-7 PM

Want to learn more about the West Susitna Industrial Access Road?

Defend the West Su is hosting a family-friendly BBQ in Wasilla this Friday, May 19th. Come on down to enjoy food, community, and gain more information about AIDEA's 100+ mile proposed industrial access corridor through the Western Susitna drainage.

See the Facebook Event Page for more information.

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Smith Joel
Smith Joel

i love this pic

geometry dash meltdown

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