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Contact: Jake Ohlson, 907-301-1877
BARTLETT COVE, AK – Trenching begins this week on a project that will allow Glacier Bay National Park to operate on clean, renewable power by the end of 2021. Over 20 years in the making, this project – known as the “intertie” – will make hydro the primary source of power for the park by connecting the park’s existing power system with the Falls Creek Hydroelectric Project, which powers much of the small Southeast Alaska community of Gustavus. This effort is a public-private renewable energy partnership between the National Park Service and Alaska Power and Telephone (AP&T), an energy and telecommunications provider serving rural communities within Alaska. Sharing an interconnected grid will provide power reliability and redundancy for both the park and Gustavus.
The intertie project requires laying buried electrical line and fiber optic cable from the park’s “Depot” and recycling area approximately 8.5 miles to the Gustavus AP&T power plant following a route along existing roadways, including Park, Mountainview, and Gustavus roads. Work will proceed from the park toward Gustavus, with trenching outside the park taking place within the State of Alaska’s Department of Transportation right-of-way.
The trench will typically be 18 to 24 inches wide and four feet deep and situated six to ten feet from the road pavement edge with occasional small deviations to work around natural features. Survey stakes visible along the road currently mark the location of the digging and of electrical system features, such as junction boxes and vaults. Following the placement of cables in the trench, the ground will be restored and revegetated, with care taken to avoid introducing non-native plants. To protect wetlands and waterways such as the Salmon River, and to avoid damaging paved roadways, several areas will be bored under rather than trenched.
Trenching activity is scheduled to take place Monday through Saturday from 7 AM to 5 PM, with no work conducted on federal holidays. Traffic interruptions should be minimal, as one lane of the roadway will be kept clear.
The park is currently powered by diesel fired generators located in a central powerhouse in Bartlett Cove. Access to clean, renewable power will eliminate the need for the park to ship over 38,000 gallons of diesel fuel annually through the sensitive marine environment of Southeast Alaska. The project will also reduce the park’s greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 600 tons of carbon dioxide per year. Carbon dioxide emissions generated by human activity are a primary driver of global climate change, which is significantly impacting park resources including its glaciers.
Today’s renewable energy partnership between the park and AP&T has its roots in a 1998 land exchange that made way for a “run-of-the-river” hydro system installed at Falls Creek, a stream flowing out of the Chilkat Range to the west of Lynn Canal. Operating since 2009, Falls Creek Hydroelectric Project provides clean power to Gustavus, eliminating the need to import an estimated 300,000 gallons of diesel fuel annually to this remote community. A 2013 feasibility study conducted by the National Park Service, followed by various additional studies and stakeholder engagement, including with city officials and Gustavus community members, determined that integrating existing park electrical facilities with the community electrical grid would be positive for both the park and community. In addition to the environmental benefits, the project will reduce infrastructure costs and is expected to result in lower power rates for the community.
Once completed, the intertie will be owned, operated, and maintained under a contract between the park and AP&T, which will also maintain the park’s generators to work along with existing AP&T generators in Gustavus for use as backup in case of drought or emergency. The fiber optic cable laid with the power cable will allow AP&T to monitor and control connections with the park. The construction contract and related maintenance agreement are being managed by the Denver Service Center, the central planning, design, and construction management office for the National Park Service.
Estimated dates for construction milestones in 2021:
June 4: Trenching begins within the park at the Depot and with work along the south side of the road toward the park entrance.
July 1: Trenching begins on the east side of Mountainview Road and continues along the south side of Gustavus Road.
September 30: Trench work ends at the AP&T Gustavus Power Plant near the Gustavus airport.
December 31: Intertie connection is complete.
Last updated: June 4, 2021