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‘Go With the Flow’ event to release water from Eklutna Lake into the Eklutna River

Since 1929, water from the lake has not flowed naturally downstream uninterrupted
Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 6:35 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - For the first time since 1929, water will flow from Eklutna Lake into the Eklutna River, and one of the sole purposes of this is to bring salmon back to the river and lake.

For almost a century, salmon have been blocked from swimming upstream to Eklutna Lake due to hydroelectric dams, but on Saturday, that will change.

“Salmon have an overall effect on the whole river system because when they spawn they decompose,” said Native Village of Eklutna President Aaron Leggett. “The nutrients that are transferred to the overall environment benefit everything.”

Leggett says the water people see flowing downriver today is mostly runoff from Thunderbird Creek.

Currently, 90% of Anchorage’s drinking water comes from Eklutna Lake, Leggett said, and another portion is used for hydroelectric power. Now, the big question is what will happen when water comes down the river after all these years.

“What is that sweet spot, where we can hopefully have water come down the river, there’s enough water for salmon habitat spawning, rearing all of that and obviously still provide drinking water, and provide some power generation?” said Leggett.

Leggett said this is the first test to find that sweet spot with the highest flow of water on Saturday. Then over the following days, they will drop the water to different levels to see what is happening. Leggett said this is a process that could take several years.

Right now, he said they are going to be working on flushing out the river from debris and sediment build-up over the years.

“The big question is what happens when water comes down the river after all these years,” he said. “There’s a lot of vegetation that’s grown up and they want to see how the channels go.”

Leggett says this event is symbolic in bringing the community together while rehabilitating the river.

Go With the Flow takes place from noon to 2 p.m. this Saturday at the Eklutna Canyon Campground.

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