City Mayor Bob Sivertsen speaking at the March 6, 2019 Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce luncheon (KRBD staff photo by Maria Dudzak).

At a recent Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce luncheon, the city mayor and several department heads presented information on the state of the city and how Governor Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget might affect it.

City Mayor Bob Sivertsen spoke about the city’s powers, and says Ketchikan is unique in the state.

“Our community has a lot of infrastructure and opportunities other communities don’t. As I travel around the state, there are some that don’t have police powers, they don’t have road powers. I don’t think there are any that have harbors and ports to the extent that we do, in the amount of passenger influx that we have, along with having our own telecommunication company. We have a lot of stuff going on in Ketchikan.”

Sivertsen spoke about some impacts Governor Dunleavy’s proposed budget would have on Ketchikan if passed. He cited information provided by Senator Bert Stedman’s office. Sivertsen says Ketchikan is in a better position than most Southeast communities.

“Our biggest cut will probably come, as the City of Ketchikan, in a way of the fish tax. That’s about $414,000. Which we turn and go into our harbor facilities.”

Sivertsen noted it is a proposed budget and changes will be made. He says he’s confident local legislators will work to minimize impacts to Southeast communities. Sivertsen then introduced several department heads to discuss services, and current and upcoming projects.

Public Works Director Mark Hilson spoke about maintaining city streets, stairs and boardwalks; operating the landfill and wastewater treatment plant; and maintaining city-owned buildings and facilities. Hilson says the city benefits from several capital improvement projects.

“DOT has about $250 million in construction either ongoing or slated for us in the next five years or so.”

Hilson discussed ongoing construction projects and future plans, including reconstruction of Ketchikan Lakes Road.

Ed Cushing is Division Manager of Ketchikan Public Utilities Telecommunications. 

“KPU Telecommunications is really different. We are a for-profit, competitive enterprise, 100 percent owned by the City of Ketchikan, no tax payer supported. (It’s) strictly supported by the revenue that we generate from customers both on and off island.”

Cushing says many communities only have one cable TV provider and one wireless provider. He says Ketchikan benefits by competition from several providers. Cushing says studies are being done, and plans underway, for a subsea fiber-optic cable between Ketchikan and Prince Rupert to keep up with demand.

“Looking off into the future all we can see is more and more and more demand for data. 5G followed by 6G followed by 8G followed by 8K. You name it, the future is all data.”

Cushing says Ketchikan’s fiber network is already in place. When the subsea cable is added, there will be a direct fiber-optic connection to the Lower 48.

Steve Corporon says 2019 is the first time in 12 years as port and harbors director that he hasn’t overseen a major project. He says the dry weather helped speed up the Berth 3 barge recoating project.

Corporon gave an update on the plan to remove a rock pinnacle from Tongass Narrows to accommodate larger cruise ships.  He says permits should be approved by May with work starting next winter. 

With the drought in Southeast, Corporon says he’s seen social media posts suggesting selling water to cruise ships is to blame for low lake levels. He says KPU sold 38 million gallons of water to cruise ships last year. Corporon says this sounds like a lot of water, but is not. He says that amount would provide only about 50 minutes of electricity.

“Selling water to the cruise ships is good for KPU Water. They make money on that, which they don’t make money on a lot of the water they sell. It’s really just a spit in the bucket, pun intended, for the power consumption around here. And I’m not just making this stuff up, this is figures from KPU Water and KPU Electric.”

Corporon says about 1.2 million cruise ship passengers are expected to visit Ketchikan this season. The first ship arrives April 27th and the last departs on October 5th.