Anchorage Assembly preps for legal fight with Bronson administration over future of Eklutna Dam

a white, snowy landscape of a dam covered in snow and mountains covered in snow.
The Eklutna Lake dam covered in several feet of snow on Dec. 26, 2023. Many stakeholders are now advocating for the complete removal of the dam to reconnect salmon with the lake. (Mizelle Mayo/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage Assembly is now prepared to sue Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration over its support of a proposed plan to partially restore the Eklutna River. 

According to a resolution the Assembly passed on Friday, the Bronson administration overreached when it signed a confidential agreement related to the city water utility’s water rights without the public or Assembly involved. 

“Members of the administration took executive action and sacrificed legislative authority of this body,” said Assembly Chair Chris Constant. “And we had to eat the sandwich of, ‘If you don’t do what we say, you’re going to be sued.’”

The confidential agreement is just one piece of the dispute between the administration and the Assembly. They also have major differences over what the city’s position actually is when it comes to the future of the Eklutna River, lake and hydroelectric project. 

The mayor supports a plan to partially restore fish habitat on the Eklutna River while minimizing impacts to ratepayers, taxpayers, power generation and drinking water.  

But the Assembly wants to completely remove the dam at the river’s headwaters. The impacts of that haven’t been thoroughly studied, but it’s what the Native Village of Eklutna wants and they think it could restore bountiful salmon runs. 

The Assembly also says the administration is subverting and ignoring the city’s official policy for full restoration of the Eklutna River. It authorized legal action to protect its legislative authority and policymaking role. 

Assembly Vice Chair Meg Zaletel said it’s unfortunate things have gotten to this point. But she is optimistic that it can be resolved.

“Figuring out a path forward that acknowledges and respects our role as the legislative branch of government, that is open and transparent with the public, and makes sure that the Native Village of Eklutna has a proper seat at the table as well,” she said. 

Zaletel emphasized that negotiation and mediation are still viable paths to avoid litigation. 

A spokesperson for Bronson’s office said on Tuesday that the administration and Assembly have not made any moves toward negotiation or mediation, and declined to comment on the Assembly’s resolution.

The Eklutna Hydroelectric Project owners have a deadline to deliver a revised plan to the governor in April.

Jeremy Hsieh covers Anchorage with an emphasis on housing, homelessness, infrastructure and development. Reach him at or 907-550-8428. Read more about Jeremy here.

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