A map of the proposed hydro project.

A map of the proposed hydro project.

A hydro power project in the Haines Borough is making progress in permitting and land use authorizations. Southern Energy Inc. is hoping to construct two dams at the southeast end of Walker Lake to provide energy throughout the Chilkat Valley. The project may also increase access to the Walker Lake area. 

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources has authorized an easement for the proposed hydroelectric dam project on state land 30 miles north of Haines in the Porcupine area. The easement, requested by Southern Energy Inc., would allow the company to construct and maintain an access road, a water diversion pipe, and a buried electrical transmission line at Walker Lake.

Recently the easement period increased, granting the hydro project 20 more years to make use of the state land, but the acreage of the easement was reduced by two thirds due to changes in the company’s development plans.

Questions remain about how recreation use at Walker Lake might be affected.

The Haines State Forest Management Plan designates the area as public recreation land. Alaska Department of Fish & Games lists Walker Lake as a sport fishing spot for grayling.

Building a road to Walker Lake for the hydropower project could increase access and recreation opportunities if the road is made available to the public.

Chris Carpeneti is a natural resource manager for Alaska Department of Natural Resources. He wouldn’t speak on tape but said that Southern Energy Incorporated will need to come up with a plan for managing access at Walker Lake and the Haines State Forester would have to approve it.

According to Haines State Forester Greg Palmieri, the Division of Forestry wants to provide as much public access as is reasonable while identifying areas of the hydro project that need to be restricted for safety.  Palmieri also noted that he has been examining other options to expand recreational access to the north end of Walker Lake

In written comments on the easement, Southern Energy Incorporated President John Floreske said he is open to “limited” public access on the easement area for recreational users. The company envisions access limited to four-wheelers and foot traffic.

So far there has been relatively little pushback against the hydro project. Walker Lake and Walker Creek are not catalogued as anadromous. However, Walker Lake drains into Little Salmon River, which is anadromous. In 2013, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the project’s initial mitigation plans.

Public comment on the proposed easement is open until December 28, 2018.  All comments must be submitted to: DNR, Division of Mining, Land and Water, Southeastern Regional Office by mail at 400 Willoughby Avenue, P.O. Box 111020, Juneau, AK 99811-1020, by fax at 907-465-3886, or by electronic mail to chris.carpeneti@alaska.gov to ensure consideration