LIHI Certificate #22 - Black Bear Lake Project, Alaska

The Black Bear Lake Hydroelectric Project located at Black Bear Lake on Prince of Wales Island, northeast of Klawock, Alaska. The project is partially located in the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska. The project is owned by Alaska Power and Telephone Company doing business as Black Bear Hydro, Inc.

The project includes: a 600-foot-long siphon; a 30-inch-diameter penstock with a vacuum pump assembly and structure; a 30-inch-diameter 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 with total installed capacity of 4.5 MW; and a 4.5-mile-long, 34.5-kV overhead transmission line. The lake is used as a natural reservoir with no dam. The project is load-following.

A screened intake is used to prevent fish from entering the penstock. The 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 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 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 some 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 electric power.

The electric power is then transferred to the substation where a step-up transformer adjusts the current to the voltage that is needed on the electrical grid, in this case 34.5 kV. Switchgear in the powerhouse is located in the office where operations are monitored and adjusted to meet load demand. Operations can also be monitored from a remote location.

Project Name Black Bear Lake
LIHI Certificate No. 22
LIHI Certificate Term May 19, 2016 - May 19, 2021, extended to August 31, 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 19,631 MWh
Facility Type Load following storage project
FERC No. P-10440 issued 1993, expires 2043

The project operates in a store-and-release mode and is located on a 215-acre reservoir – Black Bear Lake. The project provides minimum flows which vary by month. The requirements are as follows: January – 9 cfs, February – 12 cfs, March – 9 cfs, April – 15 cfs, May – 22 cfs, June – 15 cfs, July – 19 cfs, August – 17 cfs, September – 24 cfs, October – 20 cfs, November – 15 cfs, December – 9 cfs. The project limits reservoir drawdown to 15 feet. In a Low Water event, the project converts to true run-of-river operations to protect downstream aquatic resources. This flow regime was developed in consultation with Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Waters within the project reach are designated pristine. No water bodies associated with the project are included on Alaska’s Listing of Impaired Waters.

No anadromous fish species are present in the project area. The project does provide sufficient flows to support downstream anadromous fish reproduction. Resident species (primarily found downstream of the project) include rainbow trout and several salmonid species including chum, pink, sockeye, coho, and dolly varden. The project’s screened intake facility mitigates resident species entrainment and impingement.

The project lands consist of over 175 acres, 170 within the Tongass National Forest. The terrain around the reservoir shoreline is generally steep and primarily consists of bedrock and talus slopes. Active management was deemed unnecessary, and the US Forest Service oversees most of the project lands.

No threatened or endangered species are present in the project area, nor are there any cultural or historic resources in the area. Several agencies including the State Historic Preservation Office and US Forest Service concluded that no cultural or historic resources would be impacted by the project.

No recreational resources exist at the project. In lieu of recreation facilities, offsite mitigation efforts include funding of the Twelvemile Cabin in Tongass National Forest which is managed by US Forest Service. The cabin is a fully accessible resource on Twelvemile Inlet on Prince of Wales Island.


Certification History

July 16 2021: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) has received a complete recertification application from Alaska Power and Telephone Co. for the Black Bear Lake Project located on Black Bear Creek in Alaska.

This is the second time the project will be reviewed using LIHI's 2nd Edition Handbook. LIHI developed a streamlined application format for such projects to facilitate review in accordance with Section 6.1 of the 2nd Edition Handbook. This review process verifies the information submitted, considers any public comments received when the application is deemed complete, and assesses whether there have been any material changes at the facility or in the LIHI Handbook that affect compliance with the LIHI Criteria.

LIHI is seeking comment on this application. 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 LIHI by e-mail at comments@lowimpacthydro.org with "Black Bear Lake Project Comments” in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, 1167 Massachusetts Avenue, Office 407, Arlington, MA 02476. Comments must be received at the Institute on or before 5 pm Eastern time on September 14, 2021 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.

The project description and complete application can be found below.

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 comments@lowimpacthydro.org 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.