Red Tape Stalls Alaska Co-op Project
Red Tape Stalls Alaska Co-op Project

An Alaska co-op leader envisions a planned hydroelectric power project as a major boost for a $500 million seafood fishing port in a remote community.

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Cordova Electric CEO Clay Koplin surveys the site for the Crater Lake Water and Power Project. (Photo By: David Little)

But the federal government must help cut the red tape to prevent the initiative from stalling, according to Clay Koplin, CEO of Cordova Electric Cooperative and mayor of Cordova.

"Federal participation in energy infrastructure development is, perhaps, more essential than ever," Koplin told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee March 14.  
 
Koplin, whose co-op is nestled along Alaska’s Prince William Sound, said project development timelines and costs doubled for its Humpback Creek and Power Creek hydroelectric projects “primarily as a result of an ineffective regulatory framework.”

Meanwhile, the co-op’s Crater Lake Water and Power Project has yet to enter construction. A 2016 energy bill authored Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, who chairs the committee, and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., provided several needed fixes, Koplin noted.

Political maneuvering sidelined the legislation in the last Congress.

“Federal grant and loan programs are critical for developing infrastructure if only to offset the current regulatory costs,” he said, adding “the greatest risk to developing energy infrastructure is often regulatory uncertainty.”

Murkowski said she is planning further committee hearings on energy infrastructure and will consider streamlining the process to license and relicense hydropower projects and establish other regulatory solutions to deliver electricity.

“Developing and constructing new energy infrastructure projects can help make energy cleaner, cheaper, and more abundant—and it can have a tremendous impact on rural communities,” she said.

Koplin, who also is mayor of Cordova, said the Crater Lake project would do more than power the town of 2,300’s vital fishing fleet, which each year produces over $65 million of catch at the point of landing.

Among other services, the dam would facilitate tidal, solar and wind energy while providing direct protection from downstream flooding and help teach students about hydroelectricity, he said. 

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