... and We're Hiring!!!
The Mat-Su Borough wrapped up their public outreach for the West Susitna Industrial Access Corridor Project this month, and marked the end of this phase of the project by releasing a summary report.
The summary report from the Borough was released on April 18th, and marks the completion of the borough spear-headed public outreach project. Most striking about this report is the lack of actual numbers demonstrating the overwhelming lack of public support for the project.
In all categories identified, the vast majority of folks that showed up to testify indicated a complete lack of support for the project, whether public or private.
Individuals commented on a variety of concerns in oppositon to the project citing concerns from environmental damage and wilderness loss, to negative effects of access like crime sprawl and financial problems, a lack of analysis of actual costs vs. benefits, problems with the public process, and questionable feasibility.
Assembly Meeting Presentation:
Manager Brown presented the outreach information at the Borough Assembly meeting in April.
You can watch it on YouTube HERE - The West Su discussion starts at 33:15 and lasts around 15 min.
Manager Brown said the key takeaways were that about 60% opposed, much less than the December meetings because their "nets were cast wider" and that the main concerns were mining vs. access. It is important to highlight that looking at their report (page 4), Public Meeting #2 (the final one) that it looks like well over 80% of the public still opposed the road, and the combined undecided and opposed response from meeting #1 is also close to that same 75-80%.
The Assembly is still being misled about public involvement and their role in this project. No one on the Assembly seemed concerned that they wouldn't be able to vote on the project again, as they all thought they would in December.
There was no opportunity for the public to ask questions or engage after this presentation.
So What Happens Next?
This summer, AIDEA will hire a 3rd party contractor to assist with advancing pre-development work and field studies, file an application with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to advance to the 404 permitting process, and begin an environmental impact statement (EIS) through the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA)This will impact the Federal and State permitting process as well as the scoping and draft of the environmental impact study.
What kind of permitting is needed?
For AIDEA to construct the West Susitna Access industrial corridor, it will need to obtain a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit to fill wetlands and other waters from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. For the Corps to issue the 404 permit, it must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act by preparing an environmental impact statement, or EIS. This process typically takes 2 to 3 years and involves a couple opportunities for the public to engage. We should know much more about the EIS timeline after AIDEA submits its wetlands permit application to the Corps.
In addition to obtaining a wetlands permit, AIDEA will need to obtain permits from the State. The State will likely engage in that process after the EIS is completed. Some State permits may come after the Corps makes a decision on whether to issue a wetlands permit.
The timeline for federal permitting is extremely fluid with no exact dates at this point. We expect the public to be able to participate between 2-3 times during the federal permitting process, and we will keep you updated on these processes as they unfold.
As the legislative session is extended beyond 90 days and we have yet to hear the details Governor's budget... Let's make sure that no more state funding is spent on an AIDEA boondoggle!
MEA Co-Op Board Elections:
Make your Voice Heard by April 26, 2022
It is important to elect MEA board members who support expanding collaboration along the railbelt, speaking out against wasteful projects such as the Susitna-Watana Dam, and increasing engagement from member-owners like you! MEA plays a large role in the Railbelt Reliability Council (RRC) which is an effort between electric associations from Fairbanks to Homer to share power and innovation ideas.
Energy innovation is great, but projects such as the Susitna-Watana Dam have shown us that we need responsible board members advocating for responsible renewables on the MEA board and the RRC. That is why the Susitna River Coalition has launched a program to engage member-owners of MEA across the 4,500 miles of power-line to get out and vote for good candidates in the MEA board elections every spring.
Tuesday, April 26th @ 6PM
MEA Virtual Annual Membership Meeting:
Members can attend the meeting in person at the Curtis D. Menard Center in Wasilla or participate via Zoom. See the MEA webpage for more information.
Which Seats are up for Election in 2022?
During the 2022 MEA Board Election, an At-Large seat is up for a vote as is the Eagle River seat. All member-owners can vote for the At-Large seat while only member-owners in Eagle River can vote for the Eagle River district seat. Want to learn more about the candidates? Check out the candidates responses to the SRC Candidate Questionnaire and the recording of the SRC candidate forum on Youtube to see where each of the participating candidates stand on issues relevant to the Susitna River Coalition community.
Learn more about the election, and see the full responses to the Susitna River Coalition candidate questionnaire Here.
What else is on the MEA Ballot?
The 2022 MEA Ballot also includes a vote on some changes to the co-op bylaws.The bylaw changes decrease board transparency and erodes membership rights. For a great description of the bylaw changes and how they would affect member-owners, see this write-up by the Alaska Energy Transparency Project.
The power of Co-Ops lies in the voices and opinions of member-owners. When board and management transparency decreases, the Co-op crumbles. Vote against these bylaw changes, and let the MEA Administration know that you do not agree with the bylaw changes.
Interested in being the SRC's Energy Coordinator?
Passionate about Utilities, Renewable Energy, and keeping the Susitna River dam-free? Then you might be the right fit for the SRC's Energy Coordinator Position!
This position works at the community level to communicate the importance of large-hydro alternatives on the legislative and local level to protect the Susitna River Watershed and prevent the Susitna-Watana Hydro project.
The right person will work well both independently and as part of a team, including staff, volunteers and partner organizations across the state. We are looking for someone who is innovative, creative, and passionate about a free-flowing Susitna River and the energy systems at play in the Susitna Watershed.
This position works closely with the Executive Director, Communications Manager, and Board as well as in close coordination with other organizations sharing our vision. The position is based remotely with preference given to candidates living or working in Talkeetna or the Mat-Su.