Wild Su Feast, Winter Speaker Series, & West Susitna Access Road Updates
*Virtual* Wild Su Feast!! November 19-December 3, 2021
Susitna River Coalition’s *Virtual* Wild Su Feast is a joyous celebration of the wild foods that Grew, Walked, Flew, or Swam in the Susitna River Watershed and the communities that depend on and enjoy them.
Send us your recipes and images in this virtual celebration and to be entered into prize drawings.
To make this virtual event special, there will be prize drawings and the compilation of your recipes for a Wild Su Feast Cookbook. Adding to the celebration are a series of online events with local food producers to connect and inspire us all.
Participation from anywhere, utilizing foods from the watershed, is welcome.
The “Feast” will last two weeks, running from November 19th through December 3rd. Instead of competing in categories, participants will earn entries into four grand prize drawings for gift cards to local restaurants and businesses in the Susitna Valley!
Each participant must REGISTER here and then will have the opportunity to throw their name into the “drawing bowl" to win some great prizes.
Need some inspiration? Purchase last year's cookbook!
Love this event? We need sponsors to help make it happen!
This November, the Susitna River Coalition is asking:
How does our free-flowing Susitna Watershed inspire you?
November 3, 2021 @ 6 PM
Artist Talk and Virtual Art Show with Artist Katelin Walczyk.
Katelin is an artist at Lofted Acre Studios LLC west of the Talkeetna mountains in south-central, Alaska. Subject matter found in her work includes landscape, natural resources, and the human experience relative to nature and man-made objects and ideas. She is always seeking the connections between science, beauty, and spirituality, resulting in her livelihood and her art.
November 10, 2021 6PM
*Virtual* Paint & Sip for the Susitna with Artist & Teacher Kerri Lathrop
Let's get that creativity flowing at the same CFS (cubic feet per second) as the mighty Susitna! Get your ticket to log in with friends for a Wednesday night art party complete with river-themed music and some Susitna River trivia.For this virtual event, grab your brushes and a hot cup of tea--or wine-- and join us to paint a watercolor of two iconic Alaskan critters: the Salmon and the Bear. Both animals reliant on the free-flowing Susitna river and it's intact ecosystem.Registration required.
November 17, 2021 @6PM
Artist Talk & Art Show with Bush Pilot, Journalist, and Artist, Katie Writer
Katie Writer utilizes the slow speeds of her SuperCub airplane to take stunning photos of the Susitna Watershed. Her photos document the changing of seasons and the many textures of the landscape. While these photos are incredible works of art by themselves, Katie often takes her photos and translates them into oil paintings. Watch via Zoom or Facebook Live.
Dates To Watch
November 17, 2021 From 9 AM to 5 PM
The Mat Su Salmon Science and Conservation Symposium will be held virtually these year. There are many interesting scientific presentation's on the docket. The Susitna River Coalition will present on Three Developmental and Legislative issues to watch for the health of the Susitna Rivershed. These include: The West Susitna Access Road, SB97 and the repeal of Recreational Rivers, and the Susitna Watana Hydro project. Registration required.
December 15, 2021 @ 5:30 PM
Caribou Management with the Susitna Watershed with Heidi Hatcher
January 19, 2022 @ 6 PM
Archaelogical History of the Susitna Watershed with Dr. Katie. Krasinski
West Susitna Access Road Update
Phase III MOU
Things were pretty quiet around the West Susitna Access road during much of the summer, but the issue is once again starting to heat up.
Last Thursday, October 21, the Mat Su Fish and Wildlife Commission met. The West Susitna Access Road was on the agenda and AIDEA was invited to present. AIDEA did not show up to give the update that was on the agenda or to answer the Commission's many questions-- despite invitation and opportunity to do so.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, October 27, 2021, AIDEA will be meeting with the intention to approve the acceptance of $8.5 million from the state's Revolving Fund's. This is another example of AIDEA's unelected board making decisions about the allocation of large amounts of Alaskan's money without support of the people or the entities that they purport to be in partnership with.
A piece published in the News Miner, submitted by SRC board member Heidi Knudsvig, highlighted the overwhelming issues with AIDEA and this project. The piece was edited down for publication, but here is the letter in its entirety:
"The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) Board is expected to pass a resolution at their upcoming Wednesday board meeting accepting 8.5 million from the general operating fund - in addition to AIDEA’s current uncommitted fund balance of just under 400 million dollars - for pre-development studies for the West Susitna Road Project. The project proposes the construction of a 108-mile long road to an unproved mineral field with claims by an Australian Mining Company.
According to US Census Data, more than 20% of Alaska’s roads are in poor condition and the state ranks among the top 15 for the number of bridges that are structurally deficient. Yet, AIDEA and Governor Dunleavy are pushing forward a road project that would not only have major implications on the health of heavily used fish and game resources but would also create an additional eleven bridges and 156 culverts.
With West Susitna Road cost estimates at 2-4 million dollars a mile, there is no reason to spend 8.5 million dollars on what will certainly be another failed investment, especially when these general funds are greatly needed throughout the state.
Despite the AIDEA statement that the Borough is a project partner, the Borough Mayor, The Mat-Su Assembly, and the Mat-Su Fish and Wildlife Commission have voiced extreme skepticism and opposition to the project.
The Susitna River Watershed is a rich, biologically diverse area and is heavily relied on for subsistence, personal use harvests, and hunting and fishing tourism. A new road through this vibrant area could come with a slew of new hunting and ATV use regulations. The area is home to some of the most critical Chinook and Sockeye salmon habitat in Interior Alaska the Susitna Flats State Game Refuge, state designated Recreational Rivers, and traditional territory of the Ahtna and Dena’ina people who continue to use the area today. Before this valuable area is turned into an industrial thoroughfare – with a high flow of travel projected for mining trucks, Alaskans should have the opportunity to weigh in on the future of this area.
Looking at AIDEA’s record, it’s lack of independent cost-benefit analysis for projects, and the clear mistrust from the public - AIDEA is turning out to be a bad investment for Alaska. AIDEA is operating under the assumption they can allocate state funds for bad Alaska projects to benefit foreign entities, and then convince Alaskan’s we need to spend more money to make them viable.
AIDEA’s poorly guided project investments are costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars and their track record now mainly consists of failed and costly projects. Let’s invest in Alaskans and not add another boondoggle to AIDEA’s already impressive list of mismanagement."
Ecological Hydro Power V.
"Bad" Hydro Power
On October 20, the Susitna River Coalition welcomed hydrologist Dave Brailey for a presentation and discussion on his remarkable Juniper Creek hydropower project. Dave highlighted the complexity of his work. Also emphasized was the Matanuska Electric Association's inadequate steps to improve the presence of renewables on the MEA grid, despite the voted-on preferences of their owner-members. (If you missed Dave's talk, take a look on our YouTube Channel).
But why does the Susitna River Coalition support Dave's Juniper Creek as a "good" project while fighting against the AEA's "bad" Susitna-Watana hydro project?
One major reason for this, is that the Susitna Watana hydro project would be load-following. A load-following dam relies on a reservoir. Water is released from this reservoir, creating energy as it is needed. In the case of the Su hydro project, the reservoir would have a massive linear extent of 47 miles.
Load following dams disrupt the ecosystems where they are placed. Besides the obvious limit of salmon passage, load following dams disrupt the freeze up and break up of Northern Rivers which are dynamic and important forces that shape the ecology and hydrology of river systems, influencing the formation of side channels and tributaries, and disrupting the vegetation that one might find. Additionally, sediment and nutrients headed downstream are trapped behind the dam. Another negative is that many square miles of upland game habitat is disrupted.
The Juniper Creek Project is a run-of-river hydro project. A run of river hydro project does not disrupt many of the essential functions of a water feature, including break up and freeze up. Nutrients are allowed to pass downstream, and there is no reservoir displacing upland habitat. Though there are many positive differences from a load-following dam, the placement of this project considered fish population health. The hydro site is a safe distance from the salmon run, and engineers and hydrologists made sure the site was far enough upstream from the closest salmon habitat so as not to disrupt habitat.
Hydro power is not inherently bad, and the Susitna River Coalition supports ecologically responsible projects that will support Alaskan energy needs through thoughtful renewables.
Interested in getting involved in MEA elections and renewable energy on the railbelt? Contact us!
The Talkeetna Community and the SRC have been following the issues surrounding the Comsat Quarry, and submitted public comments regarding the project. You can read the SRC's comments here.