Ketchikan’s long-planned Whitman Lake hydroelectric dam project is a little closer to getting built, after the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly introduced a grant Monday to help the city with construction costs.
There was little discussion of the issue. Only Assembly Member Bill Rotecki offered a comment before the vote.
“This body often tries to do things for economic development,” he said. “There’s some things that are clearly good for economic development, and that is good infrastructure; and having sufficient power is probably one of our best investments in that realm. And not to mention the fact that it’s also good for all the local residents.”
A negotiated grant agreement and a second vote by the Assembly still is needed before the 2.5 million dollars can be transferred. But, with a unanimous vote Monday, continued support is likely.
Borough Manager Dan Bockhorst said his office is working with city officials to negotiate details of the grant agreement.
“Both the borough attorney and I have spent a considerable amount of time with our counterparts at the city,” he said. “Things are going well and we will have a proposal for consideration by the Assembly on Dec. 17. We’ve had four drafts at this point in time, but again things are moving smoothly along, but there is a considerable amount of work involved in it.”
At one point, the city had considered abandoning the Whitman Lake project because the cost of construction is over budget, even after reducing the scope. A suggestion that the borough could help prompted the City Council to move forward with the project.
The city has $23.7 million for Whitman — $15 million in voter-approved bonds and $8.7 million through a state grant. The cost reductions brought the total cost down to $26.2 million, leaving an approximately $2.5 million shortfall.
Construction on the project must begin in March, to comply with the federal license.