The $7.5 million Eklutna River dam removal project initiated in September 2016 was completed this summer, according to Brad Meiklejohn, Alaska State Director of the Conservation Fund–a private and national non-profit organization.
Meiklejohn says the dam deconstruction will allow future restoration of salmon runs that existed in the river before 1929, when the dam was built for a federal hydroelectric project.
“This project was completed safely, on time and under budget,” says Meiklejohn. “I commend the Eklutna Native Corporation and Eklutna Construction and Maintenance, LLC for their careful diligence and determination under extremely difficult circumstances. This has been the most ambitious river-restoration effort ever attempted in Alaska.”
The dam and adjacent property is owned by Eklutna, Inc., the largest private property owner within the Municipality of Anchorage.
The 61-foot, concrete dam was part of a hydroelectric project that became obsolete with the completion of a 4-1/2-mile diversion tunnel from Eklutna Lake to the Knik River. The tunnel was part of a $32 million federal hydroelectric project (1951-55) that is still in operation today.
“It’s exciting that salmon can now swim upstream in the Eklutna River for the first time in 88 years,” Meiklejohn adds. “The focus turns now to restoring normal water flows to the Eklutna River to allow salmon to re-populate the river and return to Eklutna Lake for spawning.”
Along with Eklutna, Inc., major stakeholders include three power companies: Municipal Light and Power, Chugach Electric and Matanuska Electric Association; as well as the Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility—all of which draw water from Eklutna Lake.
Frank E. Baker is a freelance writer who lives in Eagle River with his wife Rebekah, a retired Birchwood ABC Elementary school teacher.