Our Work

Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project – Fish Distribution

Fish Distribution and Abundance Study

The Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) required fisheries consulting services to support its application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the proposed Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project on the Susitna River in Southcentral Alaska. The project would have included the construction of a dam, reservoir, and related facilities in a remote part of the Susitna River.

Kleinschmidt played a significant role in this complex project, leading components of hydrology, fisheries, and aquatic ecology studies. These studies were developed in cooperation with state and federal resource agencies including the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Kleinschmidt’s engineers and hydrologists developed a flow routing model of the entire river corridor to understand current and future flow conditions. Our team applied the IFIM/PHABSIM method to determine how the quantity of available fish habitat changed with instream flow Project releases. Our fisheries ecologists documented fish distributions and fish-habitat associations as well as current and future barriers for fish movement.

Our team also led extensive fish population, invertebrate and food web studies with multiple consultants, universities and state agencies. Studies included estimates of downstream migration with rotary screw traps, biotelemetry of resident and anadromous fish with PIT tag arrays, winter studies of fish populations and the winter incubation environment, macro-invertebrate community structure and function, and isotopic tracing of food.

The Kleinschmidt team acted as an extension of AEA staff, providing program management services, coordinating more than a dozen consultants and other stakeholder study teams including state and university groups. We managed multiple concurrent, multi-year studies and helped meet FERC deadlines by reviewing reports and budgets as well as testifying during a study dispute hearing before a FERC-appointed independent reviewer / arbitrator on the validity and appropriateness of the study designs.