The various levels of "activism" were on full display against Chugach Electric's Snow River Dam Project over the past month and a half.
With over 1700 petitioners, 1000 individual comments, 20 motions to intervene granted, 41 individual FERC comments and not a single entity nor individual filing in support through FERC, it was clear from the very start that Chugach Electric was going to have to convince a lot of very smart people that their not-so-smart dam proposal was a good thing for Alaska.
A mountain of evidence piled up against this project. Most notably, scientific research and studies based on the hydroelectric capabilities and challenges that the Snow River Corridor has become historically known for. Since the early 1960s, the Snow River has been looked at as a potential hydroelectric site; however, multiple supporting comments and conclusions in various studies proved time and time again that this was not a suitable location for a large-scale hydro project.
Frankly, no location is suitable for a large-scale hydroelectric, storage-based system. History has proven, with the over 84,000 examples of the damage these sorts of projects have done over near a century and a half of experimenting with 600,000 blocked river miles.
Aside from overwhelming historical evidence against these sorts of projects and this location in particular, the abysmal roll-out of this project and the way it was presented brought to light some very disturbing trends within the Railbelt Utilities for waste and a lack of foresight. Potentially the most damaging maneuver was the Vice President of Production and Engineering for Chugach Electric, Paul Risse, who sent a letter to the manager of the Chugach National Forest, calling into question the Snow River's recommendation for congressional designation as a "Wild and Scenic" river - the ABSOLUTE highest honor a river in the United States can receive and with it, the highest level of protections. Less than 1/4 of 1% of all rivers in the US are special enough to receive this designation. This shameful attempt to strip the Snow River of its pristine status did not go unnoticed. Ultimately, on April 20th, we received a phone call from the CEO of Chugach, letting us know they were scrapping the project.
This victory highlights the importance of taking action, any action. We often ask ourselves "what can I do? I'm just one person." The truth is that you can do a lot. Whether you're on the front lines leading the charge or simply reposting an article or signing a petition, the key is awareness. Through a higher level of knowledge or insight into a problem, we can gain the strength to take action, important action that can truly change the world!