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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — A downtown Fairbanks power plant is seeking a water discharge permit to release warmer water into the Chena River during the summer.

The Chena Power Plant uses the river’s cold water to cool machinery, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported ( ) Thursday. The new permit seeks to increase the temperature of the discharged water from a daily maximum of 87.3 degrees to 95 degrees. The current release temperature is part of the facility’s existing 2003 permit.

The discharge keeps a mile-long section of the river from freezing, which is unpopular with skiers and people who use snow machines.

The plant wants to up its temperature because the current limit prevents it from operating at full capacity during the summer, said Dave Fish, environmental manager for the plant.

“The way the permit was originally structured, it kind of curtailed our operations in the summer times,” Fish said. “We were constantly up to a limitation that probably should have been addressed in the first permit.”

In addition to warming the discharge, Aurora Energy, which owns the plant, seeks to increase the volume as well, to as much as 24 million gallons (90 million liters) daily during summer and 21 million gallons (79 million liters) per day during winters.

Aurora included in its application a study that used a computer program to model how the warmer water would mix with the river water and affect fish populations, which concluded fish wouldn’t be hurt.

The Chena River is home to fish including Arctic grayling and sheefish. It’s an important spawning stream for Yukon River king salmon.

Alaska’s Department of Conservation agreed with the conclusion that the warmer water is unlikely to hurt fish, although it asked the plant to monitor the discharge to see whether it disperses as predicted by the study.


Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner,