Water To Be Released Again In Eklutna River

The following is courtesy of Trout Unlimited:

The restoration of the Eklutna River in Southcentral Alaska will get a big boost this fall. Water will  be released down the river for the first time in decades in late September 2021. For the first time  in 66 years, the Eklutna River will run uninterrupted from its headwaters to the sea. 

“We have waited a long time to see this day,” said Aaron Leggett, Chief of the Native Village of  Eklutna. “It’s finally happening, and it feels so good. We had gotten so used to just a trickle of  mud running through our village that we forgot how beautiful the river is. Since the dam came  down in 2018, the river has once again been running clear. We notice, the salmon notice, and the  bears notice.” The Native Village of Eklutna is the only traditional village within the Municipality  of Anchorage. 

The Eklutna River was the focus of a five-year, $7.5 million dam removal project completed in  2018 by the Native Village of Eklutna, Eklutna Inc. and The Conservation Fund. The Lower  Eklutna River dam was built in 1929 to provide Anchorage with its first major power source. The  lower dam never quite operated as planned since its reservoir quickly filled with sediment, and  it was abandoned in the 1950’s when a larger power project at Eklutna Lake diverted all the water  out of the Eklutna River.  

The effort to remove the lower dam involved a vast array of funders, including  the Rasmuson Foundation, Resources Legacy Fund, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation,  the Mat-Su Salmon Partnership, Orvis, Patagonia, and the Alaska Community Foundation. Curtis  McQueen, former CEO of Eklutna Inc. and current board member of the Rasmuson Foundation,  said “All of the hard work is finally paying off. This is the moment we’ve all be waiting for, to see  this river come back to life. Once people see how beautiful the Eklutna River is, everyone will fall  in love with it.” 

“This is what the fish need: more water,” said Eric Booton of Trout Unlimited, which has helped  raise awareness of the Eklutna River and helped support and fund some of the scientific research  into how to fix the problems. “It’s almost a miracle that all five species of Alaska’s Pacific salmon 

have survived in the muddy trickle after all we’ve put the Eklutna River through over the past 66 years.”  

Polly Carr, executive director of The Alaska Center, said “When you learn of the historic and on going connection between the Eklutna River and the Dena’ina people, you begin to understand  how important this project is. It has been an honor to support the beautiful vision of restoring the  river and the salmon it sustains.” 

Despite the success of the dam removal project, the Eklutna River runs dry and devoid of water  because an upstream dam at the outlet of Eklutna Lake diverts all the water out of the Eklutna  River for hydropower generation. “We always knew that removing the Lower Eklutna River dam  was just the first step in a very long process,” said Brad Meiklejohn of The Conservation Fund. “It  took a leap of faith to get to this point, but we stuck the landing.” 

The water releases planned for September 2021, are part of an instream flow study that will  help inform how to fix the river. Under an agreement signed in 1991, local electric utilities are  now engaged with NVE and state and federal regulators to remedy the impacts of hydropower  operations on the Eklutna River. That process, begun in 2020, is slated for completion by 2027.  

“We should give credit where credit is due. Everyone involved in this effort has worked hard and  in good faith to fix the river,” said Marc Lamoureaux, Environmental Coordinator for NVE. “Here  comes the water that the salmon, and the people of Eklutna, need.” 

A public celebration with members of the Eklutna River Restoration Coalition will be held on the  banks of the Eklutna River at noon on September 18th, 2021. For more details go to:  www.eklutnariver.org 

Native Village of Eklutna 

The Native Village of Eklutna is located on the banks of the Eklutna River in Southcentral Alaska.  We are a federally-recognized Dena’ina tribe that is the only Native community in the  Municipality of Anchorage, Alaska. The mission of NVE is to empower Eklutna  Village Dena’ina by promoting history, culture and identity of our sovereign nation, and to assist  in the education and well-being of our Tribe. For more information: Eklutna-nsn.gov 

Trout Unlimited 

Trout Unlimited, the nation’s oldest and largest?coldwater?fisheries conservation organization, is  dedicated to caring for and recovering America’s rivers and streams so our children can experience  the joy of wild and native trout and salmon. Across the country, TU brings to bear local,?regional,  and national grassroots organizing, durable partnerships, science-backed?policy muscle, and legal  firepower on behalf of trout and salmon fisheries, healthy?waters?and vibrant communities. In  Alaska, we work with sportsmen and women to ensure the state’s trout and salmon resources 

remain healthy far into the future through our local chapters and offices in Anchorage and  Juneau. For more information: www.tu.org 

The Alaska Center 

We are Alaskans working to make our home the best place to live. Our future is dependent upon  the health of the resources that sustain our diverse cultures and livelihoods, and the power of our  people to participate in the decisions that impact our communities. For more information:  www.akcenter.org 

The Conservation Fund 

The Conservation Fund is a national non-profit organization dedicated to creating solutions that  make environmental and economic sense. Founded in 1985, The Conservation Fund has  maintained an office in Alaska since 1994 and has worked across the entire state from Ketchikan  to Barrow. 

For more information: www.conservationfund.org 

For more information: www.eklutnariver.org 

Lower Eklutna River Dam Removal Video: https://www.eklutnariver.org/film