Help return water to the Eklutna River

Lower Eklutna Dam before removal
The Lower Eklutna Dam is gone, but the river is still starved for water.

For the most part, Alaskans enjoy healthy habitat and thriving fisheries. Because of this, our work is primarily focused on protecting this habitat that enables us to continue fishing with our families and friends. 

There are areas in Alaska, however, where we have opportunities to go back and right a wrong for the sake of the fish and the local communities who depend on them.  

The Eklutna River in south-central Alaska is one such opportunity.  

Originally brought to our attention by TU members in the Anchorage and MatSu areas, rebuilding the Eklutna River fishery is important to the Native Village of Eklutna, Anchorage and MatSu anglers, area residents, and Trout Unlimited.   

For nearly 90 years, the abandoned lower Eklutna Dam blocked salmon migration on the Eklutna River, contributing to the downfall of the salmon fishery.  In September 2018, we, along with many others, rejoiced at the successful removal of the lower dam. This dam removal marked a first step in reconnecting more than 8 miles of salmon habitat and securing a free-flowing future for the Eklutna River.  

The lower dam was a no-longer-used relic of the currently operating Eklutna Hydroelectric Project, which still operates another dam at the outflow of Eklutna Lake. This dam diverts the entirety of the river’s flow, starving the river of water. While the lake is an important source of water and power for the region, we believe there is a solution that returns water to the river without compromising these other important things. 

Step No. 2 for restoring the Eklutna River is getting an appropriate amount of water returned for fish. While a logical step, it will be no small featClick here to sign your name to support this effort. 

Trout Unlimited’s vision for the future of the Eklutna River is two part:  

  • Secure enough water in the Eklutna River to allow salmon to effectively spawn, rear and access the entirety of the river. 
  • Enable salmon passage around the upper dam to allow for recolonization of Eklutna Lake and habitat beyond the lake.   

Now is the time to accomplish this. South-central utility providers are legally obligated to mitigate for the impacts of the Eklutna Hydroelectric Project in the next few years. They are in the process of deciding what the next steps for mitigation might look like. In other words, now is the time to make it known that full restoration of a key South-central salmon stream is fully supported by area residents. 

Please use this quick form to add your name to a letter to Southcentral utility providers if you share this vision for the Eklutna River.  

Thank you for supporting this effort to reconnect and restore salmon habitat by bringing water back to the Eklutna River. 

Here are some resource that you may find helpful in your attempts to learn more about the unfolding restoration of the Eklutna Hydro Power Project 

Eric Booton is the sportsmen’s engagement coordinator for TU Alaska. He lives and works in Anchorage.

By Eric Booton.