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Senate panel endorses Alaska park land swap for small hydro project

WASHINGTON 11/17/11 (PennWell) -- A Senate committee has endorsed legislation that would authorize a national park land exchange and construction of a 100-kW hydroelectric project in a non-wilderness area of Denali National Park in Alaska.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed Nov. 10 and sent the full Senate the Kantishna Hills Renewable Energy Act of 2011 (H.R. 441). The House passed the bill Oct. 24. (HydroWorld 11/1/11)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the ranking minority member of the energy committee, welcomed passage of the bill, which is similar to S. 313, which she introduced in the Senate with Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, sponsored the House bill.

"Not only does it promote the use of clean hydroelectric energy, it will reduce the traffic of fuel trucks on the Denali Park Road, which will provide for a better park experience for all visitors to one of Alaska's premier attractions," Murkowski said.

If passed by the full Senate, the bill would allow the Interior Department secretary to authorize micro-hydropower projects of no more than 100 kW in the park. That would allow Doyon Tourism Inc., a Fairbanks-based native corporation, to build a project on Eureka Creek to power Katishna Roadhouse, a back-country lodge that Doyon owns 100 miles inside the park. The lodge currently is powered by diesel generation.

It also would allow for a land exchange within the Katishna Hills area, defined as the area of the park within two miles of Moose Creek. The land exchange is to consolidate ownership of park and Doyon Tourism lands, including those affected solely by the Doyon hydro project. Park land near Doyon land at the mouth of Eureka Creek would be exchanged by February 2015 for 18 acres of land owned by Doyon within the Galena patented mining claim.

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