LIHI Certificate #22 - Black Bear Lake Project, Alaska

The Black Bear Lake Hydroelectric Project is a 4.5 MW hydroelectric project at Black Bear Lake on Prince of Wales Island, located at Sections 1 and 12; T73S, R82E, CRM, approximately 15 miles NE of Klawock. The lake's spill elevation is 1687 feet msl, with a surface size of 215 acres. With the licensed 15 foot drawdown, the lake provides approximately 3200 acre-feet of storage. The Black Bear Lake Project took five years to license and the total project costs were approximately $10 Million.

The lake is used as a reservoir, rather than using a dam, which is accomplished by using a siphon. The project is load-following with the only restriction being that startups and stops cannot exceed 1 cfs per hour, but operations may follow load.

Because there are rainbow trout in the lake, a screened intake is used to prevent fish from going into the penstock. A siphon, which is set up on the crest of land at the edge of the lake, is used initially to draw water out of the lake. Once the siphon is established, water passes through both a high density polyethylene pipe (HDPE) and steel penstock to the valve house where flow can be turned on or shut off without losing the siphon. The valve house also has a bypass pipe for bypassing flows to the creek when additional water is needed in the anadromous reach below the powerhouse. When the valve is opened at the valve house, the water flows through approximately 4,900 feet of pipe, some of which is buried and other above ground, to the powerhouse and the turbine.

The water is pressurized by the amount of head the project has (i.e. 1,500 foot drop in elevation) and the small nozzle (needle) the water must pass through as it strikes the runner (a series of spoon-like protuberances on a wheel) in the turbine, which in turn turns the generator creating electricity.

The electricity then goes to the substation where a step-up transformer adjusts the current to the voltage that is wanted on the electrical grid,in this case 34.5 kV. Switchgear in the powerhouse is located in the office where the operations are monitored and adjusted to meet load demand. Operations are also set up to monitor them from a remote location (i.e. one or more of our central offices).

As mentioned, there are rainbow trout in the lake that were stocked there in the 50’s. ADF&G had been concerned that the Project's annual drawdowns may be impacting the trout’s sustainability by dewatering their spawning beds. Population surveys were conducted for 7 years and a habitat survey was conducted in 2002.

The habitat survey found spawning habitat not just at the lake outlet but around the lake and at differing elevations, indicating that the lake trout spawn at other locations than just the lake outlet and are able to spawn when the lake experiences summer drawdowns.

There are also salmonid species that use the creek below the projects tailrace, i.e. chum,pinks, sockeye, coho, and dolly varden. Because of this the Project is required to have a minimum flow in the creek that varies from month to month.

Monitoring of the anadromous reach was completed after five years in which no impacts were found from project operations.

Although, the original license required development of recreational facilities at Black Bear Lake with the U.S. Forest Service (FS), once the conceptual design was investigated on-site it was determined that it would be impractical. Presently, the FS has developed an off-site location for a recreation cabin on the Island that the licensee will fund through a contractual agreement of $200,000, which was paid to the FS in January 2006.

The Black Bear Lake Hydro Project consists of the following features:

  • A 215 acre reservoir (Black Bear Lake) at elevation 1,687 with storage capacity of 3,200 acre feet
  • A 600-foot-long Siphon, 30-inch-diameter HDPE penstock with a vacuum pump assembly and structure at the high point elevation of    1,695 msl.
  • A 30-inch HDPE penstock with a total length of 4,900-feet (820-feet buried intake and siphon, 1,930-feet supported on concrete saddles,  and 2,150-feet buried to the powerhouse).
  • A 44-foot by 67-foot powerhouse with two horizontal Twin-Jet Pelton turbines operating with a gross head of 1,490-feet
  • A 4.5-mile long 34.5 kV overhead transmission line
Project Name Black Bear Lake
LIHI Certificate No. 22
LIHI Certificate Term May 19, 2016 - May 19, 2021
Owner Alaska Power and Telephone
State Alaska
Location Located at river mile 5 on Black Bear Creek on Prince of Wales Island, Tongass National Forest, Alaska.
Installed Capacity 4.5 MW
Average Annual Generation 23,000 MWh
Facility Type Load following storage project
FERC No. P-10440 issued 1993, expires 2043

Certification History

June 2, 2017:  On April 27, 2017, LIHI Executive Director Shannon Ames announced a Preliminary Certification Decision that the Black Bear Lake Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. P-10440) continues to satisfy the LIHI Certification Criteria.

As provided for in Section 4.2.5 of the LIHI Handbook, notice of the preliminary decision to certify was posted on the Institute’s website and sent to this stakeholder email distribution list on April 28, 2017.  A 30-day period was provided to anyone who commented on the original application to request an appeal, and no requests for appeal were received.

The Black Bear Lake Hydroelectric project is now deemed certified by LIHI for a new 5-year term. The effective certification date for the Black Bear Lake certification is May 19, 2016, expiring on May 19, 2021.

April 27, 2017: LIHI has issued a Preliminary Certification Decision that the Black Bear Lake Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. P-10440) satisfies the LIHI Certification Criteria.

As provided for in Section 4.2.5 of the LIHI 2nd Edition Handbook, the Preliminary Certification Decision, along with the Application Reviewer’s report will be posted on the Institute’s Web page for 30 days.  Notice of the posting will be provided to all individuals or organizations that commented on the initial Application Package.

December 16, 2016: The Black Bear Lake certificate has been granted a third extension of the current certificate term. The new expiration date is June 30, 2017. See the extension letter for explanation below.

The Black Bear Lake comment period has been extended to January 19, 2017.

November 18, 2016: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute has received a complete application for a new term of Low Impact Certification for the Black Bear Lake Hydroelectric project. The application materials can be found in the Files section below.

LIHI is seeking public comment on this application.  Specifically, we are interested in knowing whether you think the Black Bear Lake project continues to meet the LIHI Low Impact Certification Criteria.  Please review the program and criteria in LIHI’s revised Handbook and then review the Project’s 2016 application materials posted on the project page.  Comments that are directly tied to specific LIHI criteria (flows, water quality, fish passage, etc.) will be most helpful, but all comments will be considered.  Comments may be submitted to the Institute by e-mail at with “Black Bear Lake Project Comments” in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, PO Box 194, Harrington Park, New Jersey 07640.  Comments must be received at the Institute on or before 5 pm Eastern time on January 17, 2017 to be considered.  All comments will be posted to the web site and the applicant will have an opportunity to respond.  Any response will also be posted.

November 18, 2011: The Black Bear Lake Project continues to meet the Low Impact Hydropower Certification Criteria and has been certified for a second five year term, effective May 19, 2011 and expiring May 19, 2016.

April 30, 2011: Alaska Power and Telephone has submitted an application for recertification of the Black Bear Lake Hydroelectric Project.

December 19, 2006: The Black Bear Lake Hydroelectric Project has been certified as low impact for a five year term, effective May 19, 2006 and expiring May 19, 2011.

May 19, 2006: Alaska Power and Telephone has submitted an application for certification of the Black Bear Lake Hydroelectric Project. A public comment period will be open for 60 days, until July 19, 2006.