The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly on Monday night voted in favor of authorizing a City of Ketchikan grant application to help build the Whitman Lake Hydroelectric Project.
The grant is not to exceed $2.5 million, the amount the city needs to complete the project. During discussion, Andy Donato, an engineer with Ketchikan Public Utilities, addressed the assembly. He says Ketchikan had a relatively wet summer which kept the reservoirs full. However he says, this past October had one of the lowest rainfalls on record. Donato says he doesn’t know for certain, but believes it will be difficult to keep up with hydropower needs this winter. He says this illustrates the benefit of raising the dam at the Swan Lake dam and moving forward with the Whitman Lake project.
“So these two projects are the cheapest projects you’re going to see in any near future in the next increment in generation, period. So if somebody’s got some other surprise, please bring it on, but I think these are the cheapest options we’re going to have. And we’re seeing very significant load growth. We’ve got some new buildings in the area that have taken a lot of load. We have some minor improvement in the residential area. And we’re seeing conversions from fuel oil to electricity such that now when we see the temperature dip below 40 we see a pretty large spike in our load.”
Donato says there will be more spikes in use requiring the use of costly diesel fuel if additional hydropower is not provided.
Tim McConnell of KPU also addressed the assembly.
“So basically we’ve done everything except for about $2.5 million right now, and we’re talking about a short-term cash flow problem. And to throw this away, this baby in the bathtub, just because we have a cash flow problem when you’re talking about hydro on even more than a one hundred year basic. I just think, in view of the nine to 14 years we’ve put into it already, it would just be a tragedy to lose 12.5 thousand megawatt hours. You can’t get it any cheaper as Andy (Donato) pointed out.”
After discussion, the assembly voted unanimously to approve the grant.
Also Monday night, the Assembly approved an ordinance amending the FY2013 borough budget to provide additional funds to the transit department and Ketchikan International Airport. Funds will come from state and federal grants. One portion of the proposed funding was removed – $21,000 for the purchase of a transit support vehicle.
The FY2014 community Capital Improvement Project Priority List was also approved. The list places two city projects at the top of the list – Ketchikan Medical Center improvements, and bridge repair and rehabilitation. Third on the list is Saxman’s Mahoney Lake hydroelectric project, and fourth is the Performing Arts Center submitted by the borough.
Also Monday night, Mayor Dave Kiffer read a proclamation honoring former mayor Mike Salazar for his 17 years of service on the to the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.
The next meeting of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly is December 17th.