top of page

Updates from a Soggy Summer

Updated: 6 days ago



The summer season has been mostly rainy in the Susitna Watershed. The rain has contributed to our beautiful, lush forests, and a welcomed lack of forest fires. 

Summer Solstice showed us more fog than sun, high water during early July kept us watching the riverbanks at the end of main street in Talkeetna, and July 4th was celebrated in a downpour. 


Soggy days have been punctuated with delicious sunshine and opportunities to get outside and enjoy the lush greenery the weather patterns have provided. The mosquitos have been voracious, but we are anticipating a good berry year with all of the rain and the abundance of these pollinators. 


The Susitna River Coalition typically slows down during summer months-- but this year has been an exception. Exciting events, local concerns, and planning ahead for issues that we anticipate gaining momentum in the next few months has kept us very busy.

As always, we are grateful to those of you that support our work and who engage with these important issues for the Susitna's communities. We hope to see you at some of our exciting community events during the remaining weeks of summer!

 

Riparian Setback Ordinance, Look for the SRC and Watershed Happenings

 

Riparian Setback Ordinance: Mat Su Borough Assembly Hearing, July 18, 2023



The Setback Ordinance discussion is still happening and your participation is still vital! 

Are you new to the issue? In late 2022, an ordinance was introduced to the Mat Su Borough Assembly, amending MSB 17.55 and MSB 17.80 to allow habitable buildings to be built within 75 feet of a waterbody.The Mat Su Borough currently requires a setback for buildings to be a minimum of 75 feet from the ordinary high-water line.

We applaud the Assembly and Planning Commission for continuing to work on this ordinance and continuing to listen to and responding to public input. However, the updated version is still not ready for a vote as it does not address the issues that instigated revision in the first place. The ordinance, as written, still does little to protect landowners, habitat, or future issues from arising. 


The Assembly needs to break the ordinance into two separate actions. One ordinance must deal with bringing properties that are out of compliance into compliance, and a second action to protect important riparian buffers and implement important riparian conservation tools. Riparian zones not only protect the quality of fish habitat, but landowner investments, as well. 


Click here and here to learn more about riparian zones.

Also see our speaker series highlighting the importance of riparian zones. 

The Mat Su Borough Assembly will hold a hearing on July 18th, 2023 at 6:00 PM. See the agenda here.

The Susitna River Coalition (SRC) recommends the Borough NOT approve this Resolution. The SRC believes the ordinance should be rewritten to strengthen protections to valuable riparian habitat. The ordinance should include a mandatory vegetated habitat buffer. In addition, the Borough should assist existing landowners bring properties into compliance and enforce the 75 foot buffer requirement moving forward. The SRC is in favor of the creation of a diverse working group, as suggested by the Mat Su Borough Fish and Wildlife Commission, to more fully address the issues that have yet to be resolved.

To hear the discussion about the Setback Ordinance at the May 18th Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting, click here. 

Click here to learn more about the Fish and Wildlife Commission recommendations to the Mat Su Borough Planning Commission.

_____________________________________

For tips and instructions for testimony, see the SRC's suggestions and guidelines.

Written comments are due by 2:00 PM on July 18, 2023. We encourage you to send comments prior to this deadline to give the Assembly more time to review the comments in advance of the meeting.

------------------------------------------------------------

If you would like help preparing your testimony, please email margaret@susitnarivercoalition.org and we would be happy to assist.

 

Riparian Planting Day: Plants for Salmon


On Saturday, June 3rd we held the 2nd annual Riparian planting day, planting native trees and improving salmon habitat along Montana Creek near the Yoder Road bridge. With the help of over 60 volunteers, we planted well over 300 native trees and shrubs, enjoyed fry bread from Knik Tribe and learned more about the needs of baby salmon living right along the section of creek we were planting!  


This was phase 1 of a multipart project to restore 450 feet of habitat on Montana Creek. More to come! 


We want to give a big thanks to all of the wonderful volunteers who came out, grabbed a shovel, and got to work! We couldn’t have done it without you! 


We also want to give a big shout out to the partners who made it all happen: The Mat-Su Salmon Habitat Partnership, Trout Unlimited, Mat-Su Borough, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Knik Tribal Council and Trout Unlimited. Added thanks to additional event and greater project sponsors– Trout Unlimited Southcentral Alaska Chapter and National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration.

 

Find the SRC Around Town

 

Big Elodea Rodeo


The Mat Su Elodea Task force is hosting the Big Elodea Rodeo on July 21st, 2023 at the Big Lake North State Recreation Site. This event, held from 12:00-6:00 PM, will be a day of food, games, and fun for the whole family. 

Big Lake is a new home to the aquatic invasive species, Elodea. Individuals that recreate in our Mat Su waterways play an important role in stopping the spread of this harmful plant. Join the Task Force to learn about Elodea, how you can mitigate the spread, and enjoy an educational Sunday by the lake.

 

Sunshine Community Health Fair


On August 12th, from 11AM to 4PM, join us at the Sunshine Community Health Center's

Community Celebration!

The Susitna River Coalition will be there with temporary tattoos, a few children's activities, and information on how we keep our free-flowing watershed healthy. 

Join us at this family friendly event to learn about all of the amazing things going on in our community.

For more information, contact margaret@susitnarivercoalition.org.

 

Find us on Main Street!


On sunny days throughout the summer, you can find us on Main Street in beautiful downtown Talkeetna outside of the House of ReLove and Spinach Bread.

Grab some mint tea and spinach bread while you chat with us about our work with ecologically responsible renewables, tracking the proposed AIDEA boondoggle: West Susitna Industrial Access Road, and our other projects and initiatives.

 

Energy Updates in the Watershed

Our watershed electric co-op, MEA (Matanuska Electric Association), recently teamed up with Chugach Electric Association to install a 24 megapack Tesla battery system for baseload energy storage this June. This 80MWh (megawatt per hour) project will cost a total of $63 million, but is projected to save around $121 million over 15 years. Energy will be stored for use during disruptions to power on the Railbelt grid such as power outages, which will improve resiliency, lower reliance on natural gas, and modestly reduce energy costs for ratepayers. MEA owns 25% of this battery system, while CEA owns 75%. Read more here.


This comes at a crucial time to find alternatives to natural gas as Hilcorp’s contracts with Railbelt electric utilities are ending as early as 2024 for HEA (Homer Electric Association) and in 2028 for CEA (Chugach Electric Association) and MEA. Recently, BRG (Berkeley Research Group) presented a report that was commissioned by the Alaska Utilities Working Group, which includes Enstar. An article in ADN and Alaska Public Media both report on their findings. 


The working group’s preferred option would be to attract more investment in Cook Inlet. However, with very little interest from producers in recent years, this is an improbable scenario. The second option - to import Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) potentially from Canada or Mexico to a facility in Nikiski would cost approximately 50% more than current Railbelt energy rates according to a recent ADN article. The proposed pipeline, although presented as a solution to fill the supply gap, actually “wouldn’t start delivering gas until 2030, a few years after Cook Inlet gas demand is estimated to outstrip supply,” according to a story by Sabine Poux at Alaska Public Media.


All of the options on the report would raise the price of energy for Alaskan ratepayers who rely on Railbelt energy utility co-ops for power. None of them offer solutions that would help Alaska reduce our dependence on natural gas. With more diversification by investing in local clean energy such as wind and solar, comes energy independence and less pressure to build massively damaging projects like the Susinta-Watana Dam.


ACEP (Alaska Center for Energy and Power), along with the Alaska Energy Security Task Force has started an Energy Symposium - a new series of 8 webinars discussing energy issues. The first one was presented Thursday July 13, 2023 and focused on Future Natural Gas Supply for the Railbelt. To find out more and register for the next Zoom webinars, you can go here or contact Brittany Smart at bsmart4@alaska.edu.


Want to get more involved in the energy landscape of the Susitna Valley? Contact June at june@susitnarivercoalition.org.

5 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page