- Associated Press - Friday, December 4, 2015

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Federal regulators are seeking public feedback on Juneau’s new hydroelectric dam project that aims to provide additional electrical reliability to meet the city’s growing electric demand.

Members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission arrived in Juneau Wednesday to hear public feedback on the Sweetheart Lake Hydroelectric Project draft environmental statement. Three people provided testimony during the meetings, including Mayor Mary Becker. All spoke in favor of the proposed dam, the Juneau Empire reported (http://bit.ly/1PCgFFS).

“I really support this project,” Becker said. “I think that our city is looking forward to seeing how this goes.”

The project includes a 111-foot-tall concrete dam and powerhouse with overland and undersea cables connecting the powerhouse to existing power transmission lines. A two-mile underground tunnel would convey water from the lake to the powerhouse near sea level at the mouth of Sweetheart Creek.

Juneau Hydropower Inc., of which D. Keith Comstock owns 89 percent, has pushed for the Sweetheart Lake project for the past six years.

Comstock said he would like to see a steady supply of clean, inexpensive energy continue for Juneau. He said cheap energy is important for economic growth.

Additional electrical demand is expected to come as Juneau residents switch from oil-fired heat to electric warmth, from the spread of electric cars and a planned project to provide shoreside power to cruise ships.

“The demand is already there; we don’t have to wait for it,” said Juneau Hydropower vice president Duff Mitchell.

Alaska Electric Light and Power previously raised several concerns with the project in comments provided in January 2014. Among those concerns: AEL&P;’s existing hydroelectric dams are sufficient to meet demand, the existing grid might not be able to support a new dam, and Sweetheart Lake’s effect on rates.

AEL&P; spokeswoman Debbie Driscoll said the company’s opinion has not changed since those comments were written.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is accepting public comments through Dec. 29. FERC project coordinator John Matkowski said the commission’s decision on the project is expected by July.

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Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com

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