EKLUTNA DAM REMOVAL
RESTORE THE RIVER
The Eklutna River, traditionally known as Idlughetnu, and its wild salmon runs have supported the Dena’ina (Eklutna peoples) since time immemorial. Historic hydroelectric development on the river has drastically diminished the river’s formerly flourishing salmon fisheries.
The Alaska Center is a member of the Eklutna River Restoration Coalition, a coordinated group of Tribal and non-government organizations working to ensure that a healthy Eklutna River and strong salmon runs are produced by the mitigation process to make up for the Eklutna Hydropower Project’s impacts to fish and wildlife.
Joining these groups are thousands of Alaskans and utility company ratepayers who have pledged their support for returning water to the Eklutna River and restoring fish passage.
TIME TO MOVE FORWARD
In the early stages of Anchorage, our power companies dammed and devastated the Eklutna River to provide power to the growing community.
For centuries before the dams, the Dena’ina people harvested food from the river rich with salmon. Stories have told that the Eklutna River may have been one of the area’s most abundant salmon streams, bearing all five species.
In 1929, the 70ft. Lower Eklutna Dam was built in a 300ft. deep narrow-walled canyon with an 1800ft. long tunnel to a powerhouse that provided power to Anchorage until 1955.
Then to meet growing power needs, a second dam – the Eklutna Power Project – came online upriver. The Eklutna Power Project left the Lower Eklutna Dam useless.
The Conservation Fund in partnership with the Eklutna Native Corporation and the Native Village of Eklutna raised 7.5 million dollars to remove the deadbeat dam. The dam was torn down in 2018, but to restore the Eklutna River we will need water to be diverted from the use of the power companies back into the river.
The utility companies that own the dam, which is part of the Eklutna Hydroelectric Project, are legally obligated to begin making up for its impacts on fish and wildlife by 2027, and the temporary water release was part of a scientific study to determine what needs to be done.
In Fall 2021, water was released to help scientists understand how the downstream river reacted to flowing water, what important fish habitat was made available at varying flows, and more. The temporary water release was a great success!
The flows were just one-tenth of the historical volume of water that would have flowed down the river and were temporary, but they provided information critical to inform the legal process that one day could return flowing water to the Eklutna River for good.