The board of directors for the Southeast Alaska Power Agency opted to delay action on a report calling for streamlining operations at SEAPA’s two hydroelectric dams.
The board met Dec. 11th in Ketchikan. Board members represent the three communities served by SEAPA: Ketchikan, Wrangell and Petersburg.
Ketchikan board member Bob Sivertsen also is a member of the Ketchikan City Council. He said the report will come back to the SEAPA board in June.
“While that’s happening, we’re going to do more research and more public education on exactly what it means,” he said.
The report from consulting firm D. Hittle and Associates noted a rising trend in the agency’s expenses, and suggested hiring a single operator for both the Swan Lake and Tyee Lake dams. Right now, Ketchikan Public Utilities operates Swan Lake, and Thomas Bay Power Authority runs Tyee.
That suggestion was the controversial portion of the report. Along with other recommendations, the change would lead to an estimated $450,000 to $500,000 in annual savings for SEAPA.
Ketchikan officials disagreed with the report’s findings, and say reliability, cost, efficiency and safety could be compromised by canceling the contracts. They say current contracts could be revised, leading to similar cost savings.
The Ketchikan City Council voted on Dec. 6th to officially object to the report. The City and Borough of Wrangell also objected. Wrangell Mayor Don McConachie said Wrangell’s primary concern was the short time frame.
“I’m not disagreeing with the report. At some point that needs to be done,” he said. “But when we’re discussing the future, not only the near future but the far future, we need to put a lot of thought into it and a lot of investigation.”
The Petersburg City Council neither objected nor endorsed the report, choosing to instead encourage SEAPA to thoroughly investigate options.
The SEAPA board this week also opted to start a marketing campaign to let the public know what’s in the report, and more about SEAPA. McConachie believes that’s a good idea.
“I am glad that they have decided to do a little bit of PR and get the communities understanding exactly what SEAPA’s intentions are and improve their image, because I think throughout the process right at the moment, it was damaged,” he said.
Sivertsen said it’s up to SEAPA management to decide whether to conduct the media campaign in-house or through an outside agency. He says it will be paid for through unspent funds that had been allocated to the D. Hittle study.
Also at the SEAPA board meeting, members approved a rebate that will be sent to each member community’s utility. Sivertsen says the total is about $800,000.
Ketchikan will receive the largest portion, more than $440,000. Petersburg is next with an approximately $190,000 rebate, and Wrangell will receive about $160,000.