This Juneau Hydropower Inc. photo shows an overview of the Sweetheart Lake Hydroelectric Project site. (Courtesy Photo / Robert Johnson)

This Juneau Hydropower Inc. photo shows an overview of the Sweetheart Lake Hydroelectric Project site. (Courtesy Photo / Robert Johnson)

Sweetheart Lake project still in the works after partnership ends

Permit application withdrawn after Tokyo-based partners terminate agreement.

A long-gestating project that could greatly increase Juneau’s power supply has hit a snag but is moving forward, as a hydropower facility at Sweetheart Lake remains a priority, according to Juneau Hydropower Inc. managing director Duff Mitchell.

“Juneau Hydropower will continue to work with AIDEA, the State of Alaska, the Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Law, Regulatory and Public Advocacy, the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, AEL&P, and the Couer Alaska Kensington Mine as we proceed forward,” Mitchell said in a statement. “Juneau Hydropower is appreciative of its public support and assures that the project will be a cornerstone hydropower for Juneau’s energy future.”

Earlier this month, Juneau Hydropower formally withdrew its application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity from the state regulatory commission for a proposed hydroelectric facility on the east shore of Gilbert Bay. The Sweetheart Lake Hydroelectric Facility has been in the works for over a decade, and could boost the supply of electrical energy in Juneau by up to 25%, according to planners.

The withdrawal cited the unexpected termination of an agreement with Tokyo-based developer J-POWER that helped Juneau Hydropower be “managerial, technically and financially fit.”

Regarding J-POWER’s termination of the agreement, Juneau Hydropower released a statement which indicated that on May 1, 2023 J-POWER communicated that it was “very unlikely” to proceed with the project and “almost certainly” would soon to terminate the Joint Development Agreement.

Despite the setback, Mitchell said the company continues to “vigorously” pursue the $200 million project.

“We have to build at Sweetheart Lake, and we need to build the transmission line to the Kensington Mine,” Mitchell said. “We’re significantly expanding Alaska’s grid but even more significantly expanding Juneau’s grid. We’re opening up land in the north end of the borough for development and it’s on clean energy as opposed to running it off of diesel. Kensington on a good day burns more diesel and generates more electricity than Haines or Skagway combined.”

Mitchell further said that the Juneau docks currently represent about 16.7% of greenhouse gas emissions in Juneau and the Kensington Mine about 17%. Mitchell said electricity generated by Juneau Hydropower would provide sufficient power to electrify Juneau’s docks and curb those numbers.

“It could completely take all of the diesel that’s being burned, which is millions and millions of dollars a year out of the atmosphere and also lower the cost of power for our second largest taxpayer and employer in Juneau.”

The partnership between Juneau Hydropower and J-POWER was announced in a news conference last year that featured Gov. Mike Dunleavy, as well as an international group of developers. At the time of the announcement, developers predicted the project would break ground this summer.

Despite the agreement termination, Mitchell said much work has already taken place at the location site and progress continues to be made, though no firm timelines have been established at this time.

“We’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on geotech studies, we’ve upgraded all of our design,” Mitchell said. “In that geotech study we moved the dam site a little bit so that we’re now on even better bedrock than we were before.”

Juneau Hydropower wishes to continue with the project, according to the withdrawal and will search for other investors and partners and may file a new application certificate of public convenience and necessity at a later date, but “does not believe it is appropriate to go to a hearing or spend further time on the application in light of this turn of events.”

Mitchell further said that due to recent financial incentives that have been made available through the Inflation Reduction Act, along with other Federal programs that could help lower the cost of power, it’s possible the project could be completed financially with solely Juneau investors.

• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at jonson.kuhn@juneauempire.com.

Sweetheart Lake’s outlet shown here from September of 2023. The hydroelectric project is said to continue making progress in good faith despite a recent application withdrawal after Tokyo-based developer J-POWER’s termination of a prior Joint Development Agreement. (Courtesy Photo / Duff Mitchell)

Sweetheart Lake’s outlet shown here from September of 2023. The hydroelectric project is said to continue making progress in good faith despite a recent application withdrawal after Tokyo-based developer J-POWER’s termination of a prior Joint Development Agreement. (Courtesy Photo / Duff Mitchell)

A westward view of Sweetheart Lake. (Courtesy Photo / Duff Mitchell)

A westward view of Sweetheart Lake. (Courtesy Photo / Duff Mitchell)

An east view of Sweetheart Lake. (Courtesy Photo / Duff Mitchell)

An east view of Sweetheart Lake. (Courtesy Photo / Duff Mitchell)

The Forest Service’s high altitude aerial photo of Sweetheart Lake shows the entire project and the lake, which is 5.5 miles long and 1/2 mile wide. (Courtesy Photo / USFS)

The Forest Service’s high altitude aerial photo of Sweetheart Lake shows the entire project and the lake, which is 5.5 miles long and 1/2 mile wide. (Courtesy Photo / USFS)

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of July 20

Here’s what to expect this week.

Police and other emergency officials treat Steven Kissack after he was shot on Front Street on Monday, July 15, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Names of officers involved in death of Steven Kissack released, along with more details of standoff

JPD states Kissack threatened to kill officers; one officer who fired gun cleared in 2016 shooting.

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, speaks on Jan. 4, 2024, at a town hall meeting on the possible Albertsons-Kroger grocery merger. The meeting was held at the Teamsters Local 959 headquarters in Anchorage. Peltola said on Tuesday she has not decided whether to support her party’s likely candidate, Vice President Kamala Harris. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Rep. Mary Peltola withholds support for Kamala Harris, is ‘keeping an open mind’

Congresswoman says she’s considering Harris presidency’s affect on Alaska as an oil-dependent state.

People arrive for a service at Resurrection Lutheran Church on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Lawsuit: Resurrection Lutheran Church leaders have been ousted, clarity in ‘ministerial work’ needed

Pastor Karen Perkins, two others targeted in long-brewing feud at church known for helping homeless.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Sunday, July 21, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Saturday, July 20, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Friday, July 19, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Michele Stuart Morgan (right), a Juneau Board of Education candidate, signs a qualifying petition for Jeff Redmond (center), who is also seeking one of three school board seats in the Oct. 1 municipal election, just before Monday’s filing deadline at City Hall. At left, Deputy Municipal Clerk Diane Cathcart processes last-minute paperwork filed by candidates. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Here’s the candidates certified for the Oct. 1 municipal election ballot as the filing deadline passes

Two running for mayor, seven for two Assembly seats, six for three school board seats.

A U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Sitka helicopter hovers over Sitka Sound during routine hoist training on April 25, 2023. (Lt. Cmdr. Wryan Webb/U.S. Coast Guard)
Coast Guard calls off search for trio who went missing flying from Juneau to Yakutat

Haines pilot Samuel Wright, Yakutat residents Hans Munich and Tanya Hutchins were on plane.

Most Read