JUNEAU, Alaska — Construction on a hydroelectric dam proposed for a lake southeast of Juneau could start as soon as summer 2018.

The Forest Service approved on Friday a special land-use agreement for Juneau Hydropower Inc., which is planning to build a 111-foot-tall (34-meter) concrete dam at the outlet of Lower Sweetheart Lake, the Juneau Empire reported .

“I would say we are now moving into the implementation phase, and I see no reason why they couldn’t begin actual construction in 2018,” said Brad Orr, district ranger for the U.S. Forest Service in Juneau.

The dam would be built above a series of waterfalls that block natural salmon passage into the lake.

The project has already received permission from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Forest Service permit was the final major regulatory hurdle remaining for the project.

Juneau Hydropower CEO Keith Comstock said the dam just has to finish its financial foundations. The company is working on signing an interconnection agreement with Alaska Electric Light and Power that allows it to link the Sweetheart Dam to a power line used by the Snettisham Hydroelectric Project. From there, the company will start looking to attain customers and investors.

“We’re making progress,” Comstock said of that interconnection agreement. “It shouldn’t take very much longer.”

Juneau Hydropower intends to send most of the dam’s electricity toward two big Juneau-area projects, according to Regulatory Commission of Alaska files.

About half the dam’s power would go to Kensington gold mine on a yet-to-be-built high-voltage power line.

“I think Kensington burns more diesel and produces more power than the city of Haines and the city of Skagway combined,” said Duff Mitchell, the project’s managing director. “It’s not an insignificant customer.”

The other half of the dam’s electricity is earmarked for the Juneau District Heating project, an effort to supply space heating to offices and homes in Juneau’s downtown core.

“That’s still the plan,” Comstock said. “The power purchase agreements are there. We just need the interconnection.”


Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com