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Federal regulators approve studies for proposed massive dam project in south-central Alaska

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Planning will move ahead this summer on a proposed south-central Alaska dam that, if built, would be one of the largest dams constructed in the United States in decades.

Federal regulators have given the Alaska Energy Authority approval for the remainder of its study plans for the proposed Susitna-Watana hydro project, KSKA reported (http://bit.ly/17URqDN ). The Alaska Energy Authority is a public corporation created by the state to build, buy, finance and operate power projects in Alaska.

A spokeswoman for the Susitna-Watana project, Emily Ford, said 180 people will be in the field this summer.

The Legislature recently approved $95 million to further advance work on the project.

The 735-foot dam would be between Anchorage and Fairbanks. Officials behind the effort have said the project would meet about half the energy demand for that region, the state's most populous.

The best estimate for capital costs has been tagged at $5.2 billion, though officials have given a range of $3.7 billion to $6.5 billion, and said the figure will be further refined as the project progresses.

The Coalition for Susitna Dam Alternatives is concerned about the project's effect on salmon, among other things. The group's Richard Leo said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission only approved some of the studies after recommending changes.

He said it remains to be seen what the Alaska Energy Authority will do to make the studies more effective.

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Information from: KSKA-FM, http://www.kska.org

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