Confluence of Talkeetna and Susitna Rivers
Contact:  Andrea Ray

PSD Provides Climate Expertise for NMFS Study Request


April 18, 2013

Andrea Ray of the ESRL's Physical Sciences Division (PSD) participated as a climate expert in a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) hearing on 3 April 2013, to evaluate NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service's (NMFS) request to require a climate change study in the licensing decision for a large new hydroelectric dam. The dam is proposed by the Alaska Energy Authority for the Susitna River in south-central Alaska – an important salmon habitat. The event was a Technical Conference held by FERC to receive clarifying information to inform their decision regarding studies requested by NMFS. In 2012 Dr. Ray worked with NMFS to develop "Susitna River Project Effects Under Changing Climate Conditions Study Request," which argued that an assessment of climate change on the basin is necessary to evaluate the hydropower project's effects on aquatic and riparian species. This request was rejected by FERC.

NMFS has input into licensing of hydroelectric dams because the Federal Power Act requires FERC to give equal consideration to "protection, mitigation of damage to, and enhancement of, fish and wildlife (including related spawning grounds and habitat), the protection of recreational opportunities, and the preservation of other aspects of environmental quality". NMFS has the mission and regulatory authority to protect and manage these.

Ray's involvement in providing climate information and assistance in formulating and writing the Susitna study request came out of assisting NMFS with their contribution to the NOAA Energy Plan in the Fall of 2011. She worked with them to articulate the climate science that would be needed to assess climate change effects on hydropower that in turn affect flows for NMFS-managed fishery and riparian resources.

PSD researchers provide critical climate information to a variety of NOAA-managed programs and projects as well as to external stakeholders and decision makers such as Department of Interior agencies.