Cordova Hydro Powers Local Fisheries Industry

Cordova Hydro Powers Local Fisheries Industry

ACEP’s Amanda Byrd and Jennifer Schmidt with the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research traveled to Cordova last week to speak with residents about their food, water, and energy security connections and how hydropower has influenced the community.

The two interviewed residents and local leaders for a new video focusing on the food, energy and water connections in Cordova. This video is part of a series being produced for the National Science Foundation-funded MicroFEWS project.

Cordova has a long history with hydropower. Currently, two run-of-the-river hydro projects provide electricity to residents and the local commercial fish processing plants. In interviews, Cordova residents said they had seen savings from the renewable energy, which displaces expensive, imported diesel fuel for power generation.

Maintaining local resources in rural Alaska always poses interesting challenges. A hungry bear recently chewed through the communications cable from the run-of-the-river Power Creek hydro facility.

As in many of Alaska’s rural communities, Cordova’s energy and food costs are high. Hydropower provides a reduced rate for consistent, uninterrupted electricity. Commercial fish processing plants find the energy security attractive in the summer months.

A view of Cordova’s harbor makes clear the importance of fishing for both employment and food security. Excellent locally grown, affordable oysters can be found in town, and many residents rely on local fish, moose, deer and berries.
Large-scale locally grown produce is still a dream for many residents; however, the elementary school’s garden grows some vegetables, and three third- and fourth-graders were more than excited to show off their carrot-harvesting skills in the rain. The high school is also using a grow wall for herbs and flowers.

Finally, water security is sometimes an issue in Cordova when residents and fish processing plants compete for water. Competition is exacerbated by climate change, which has altered precipitation patterns around the community. However, upcoming hydro projects may help improve water security by collecting it in reservoirs.


Jen Schmidt, right, interviews Clay Koplin, Cordova Electric Cooperative’s CEO, at the Humpback Creek hydro facility. Photo by Amanda Byrd/ACEP.