Permitting underway for Cooper Creek salmon project

A project in the permitting phase could help improve salmon habitat in Cooper Creek.


Chugach Electric Association is looking for three special use permits from the United States Forest Service. Those permits are needed to carry out a project at the Cooper Lake Dam in Chugach National Forest, near Cooper Landing, that would change water flows to hopefully improve water temperatures for salmon.

Joshua Milligan, an environmental coordinator for the United States Forest Service, said the project grew out of some concerns raised when the dam was relicensed a few years ago. The way the dam was built in the 1950s hurt the salmon habitat, and this project, intended to fix the issue, was required as part of the relicensing process. The dam’s construction had sent colder Stetson Creek water into Cooper Creek.

This project would divert water from Stetson Creek into Cooper Lake. Flow from the lake would be changed to release warmer lake water into Cooper Creek.

“The idea is the salmon will benefit from that,” Milligan said.

Chugach is looking for three special use permits to move forward on the project. The permits are for the facilities needed to divert Stetson Creek, the access road to the Cooper Lake Dam and the transmission line between the Quartz Creek and Anchorage substations.

Much of the project was reviewed in 2006, but the permits reflect a few deviations from that plan. Those changes are primarily in the location of the Stetson diversion, the length of the access road and with the pipeline that would move water in the area. The pipeline alterations include changing the size, making it out of high-density polyethylene instead of steel pipe and using a different route. The outlet for the diversion would also change from the main Cooper Lake dam to the Cooper Lake spillway.

Chugach received its license for the project from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2007. That license required the utility to move forward on the salmon habitat project within six years. A final report on the feasibility of the project and options on how best to divert the water was finished last March. The report projected a total construction cost for the project of $15,831,477.

Comments on the special use permits are due Sept. 22. Milligan said a decision would likely be made in about five months.

To submit comments, contact Julianne Hanson, HDR Project Manager at 907-644-2165 or Joshua Milligan, Chugach Environmental Coordinator at 907-743-9436.