Homer Alaska - Letters

Story last updated at 4:52 PM on Wednesday, October 5, 2011

HEA piece fails to answer questions

In a Sept. 7 Point of View article, I questioned why Homer Electric Association would submit a proposal to the state to receive grant money for constructing the Grant Lake Hydro Project when neither economic nor environmental feasibility have been demonstrated. Brad Janorschke's (general manager of HEA) reply didn't answer my three questions, but did give an overview of the environmental studies needed by this project for various permits. I am aware of these studies, actually having quoted from them to support the questions I raised. I also know that these studies provide the basis for mitigation plans to reduce environmental impacts.

While Brad appears optimistic that these studies and mitigation plans will prevent any "serious impact," a more objective view might find reason for skepticism. Besides the issue of defining just what is "serious," we shouldn't be so naive to think that even a rigorous study ensures adequate mitigation. Mitigation plans are not always right, nor are they always properly implemented or enforced. A recent study of hardrock mine water quality permits found that 64 percent of the mitigation measures failed to achieve their objective. There is reason to question.

Furthermore, the intent of mitigation studies (with rare exception) is how to build the project, not if the project should be built. My bottom-line question on economic feasibility was if the Grant Lake Project should even be built.

Long before millions are spent on detailed environmental studies, a preliminary analysis should be done to determine if there is reasonable certainty that project benefits will exceed all project-related costs including externalities. I found nothing on the HEA website to indicate this was done. I hoped my article would shed some light on the question, but Brad's reply ignored any explanation of economic feasibility.

George Matz