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Southeast Alaska News

New Barrow hotel to open April 22

Fri, 2014-04-11 00:09

BARROW — Barrow is about to have a new hotel.

A subsidiary of the Arctic Slope Regional Corp. says the 70-room Top of the World Hotel will open April 22 in Barrow.

The new facility replaces a hotel which suffered smoke damage when the adjacent restaurant, Pepe’s North of the Border, burned down last Labor Day weekend.

Officials say the old hotel will not reopen.

The new hotel is located next to the post office. Rooms will have Wi-Fi and cable. It also will have three conference rooms and a fitness area.

New members welcome!

Thu, 2014-04-10 17:27

In this photo from 2008 Morning Edition Host Melissa Marconi Wentzel brings her newborn boy Caellum into KCAW for the first time. Every single person that loves and supports Raven Radio was at some point…not yet a member. Is that YOU? Please join your friends and neighbors to keep us flying strong and contribute whatever amount is comfortable right now. Thank you!

Petersburg science students back from Fairbanks symposium

Thu, 2014-04-10 16:41

Eleven students from Petersburg High School displayed research at the Alaska Statewide High School Science Symposium late last month in Fairbanks. The young scientists and their teacher took home awards from the annual gathering on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus.

Police arrest one following gun shots in Petersburg harbor

Thu, 2014-04-10 16:27

Petersburg police cordoned off middle harbor Wednesday morning and took one person into custody following gun shots in the harbor.

Police chief Kelly Swihart said his department had a report of multiple gun shots fired from a boat in middle harbor around 6:20 a.m. “Officers responded to investigate and heard more gun fire. Weren’t exactly able to tell where it was coming from, from their position and called for assistance. We were able to develop a little bit of information pinpoint where it was coming from and we have taken one person into custody,” Swihart said.

Police arrested 56-year-old Terry Slafter and he’s facing a charge of reckless endangerment. Slafter was living on a boat in the harbor. Police recovered a rifle from the scene and maybe a couple dozen empty shell casings. Swihart says no shots were fired by police officers during the incident and no shots were fired at police during the incident. Slafter did receive some minor injuries during his arrest. Police have not heard of anyone else injured by the shots or any damage.

Swihart says officers closed off middle harbor during the response as a safety measure. “Yeah anytime we’re responding to a dynamic situation like that we wanna make sure that we do what we can to keep the public safe to keep them out of the immediate area. And you know we wanna be able to keep our officers safe too. The fewer people we have to manage the more we can focus our attention on the situation at hand.”

The police investigation into the gun shots is ongoing and they do anticipate forwarding additional charges against Slafter.

Borough assembly advances budget after testimony

Thu, 2014-04-10 16:17

Petersburg’s borough assembly has put aside talks of budget cuts for the time being. The assembly Monday voted to advance a draft budget proposed by borough staff with no reductions for the school district and community service organizations. Local residents urged assembly members not to make across the board cuts. However, the borough budget won’t be finalized until later this spring.

Next year’s spending plan does not come up for official assembly approval until meetings in May and June. However, borough staff presented the assembly with a draft budget this month and asked for early direction about changes they’d like to see. Assembly members last week proposed cuts to appropriations to the school district, Petersburg mental health services and other local organizations along with borough departments. However, they fell short of the four vote majority needed to suggest those changes.

The talk of budget reductions prompted opposition from the public this week. Sue Paulsen said she opposed across the board budget reductions “We all know this is a time of transition when it comes to the city of Petersburg becoming the Petersburg borough. And there’s going to be a big change in the tax base. And there’ll no doubt be discussions about what appropriate reserves in each area ought to be. And of course I bow to you, you’ll be having these discussion it’s not going to be easy. But a general reduction in services right off the bat seems to me absolutely inappropriate at this time, not justified by an in articulated gesture to save money.”

Others who testified also sought no reduction in the borough’s one point eight million dollar contribution to the school district or payments to other community service organizations.

“And I would just like you to think long and hard and I know we have some tough planning to do as far as long term goals with the budget for the financial stability of our wonderful community,” said teacher Ginger Evens. “But just we need to take a long term plan and look. And I think when some of these cuts came out at first, it’s quite shocking when there hasn’t been mention of any kind of cuts and then all of a sudden, we’ve already been making our plans with the district, knowing personally what Ive been involved with the budget discussions that we do do long term planning and I would just ask the same of the assembly.”

Parent and coach Matt Pawuk is a graduate of Petersburg High School and encouraged the assembly to keep school funding at current levels. “You know I am immensely appreciative of the teachers that we have. I work closely with some of the teachers as a coach, things like that. They do a heck of a job. I know my sister’s on school board so I follow things a little more closely than others might. I encourage you to look at the budget and find out where we’re wasting money because I just don’t see it happening. I think everything that we put into our kids is a very good investment.”

Hospital CEO Liz Woodyard thought the borough could bring in more tax revenue. “Just like a hospital, the schools, mental health, the museum, they’re all important to bringing people to Petersburg and keeping people here. So I would support personally with more tax, to pay more tax. Because I think the services are worth it, or tobacco tax or an alcohol tax, personally I would because I feel it’s very important and I feel the taxes are pretty reasonable here.”
The borough already will be seeing more tax revenue in the upcoming year from new property and sales in the expanded municipal boundaries. Money from the state is also expected to increase. Overall the draft budget anticipates putting aside some 437,000 dollars for future purchases of land or other development.

Vice mayor Cindi Lagoudakis also noted that the borough has money saved already. “Currently we have over 20 million dollars in reserves. That money is being invested and its held in reserve for emergencies and in some places its depreciation funds that are allocated to different departments. Though it is allocated to different departments the assembly does have the ability to move that money between projects and functions if the need arose. The fund has increased over the last 3-4 years by 300,000 to 400,000 dollars every year. Now it makes sense to keep that money in reserve I’m not saying we should get rid of it but just but just to let you know that there is money available.”

Lagoudakis noted the general fund reserve is currently just under four million dollars, only a half million dollars from the maximum allowed in policy for that reserve account.

Other assembly members said they were glad to hear from the public on the issue. Here’s Jeigh Stanton Gregor. “Speaking for myself, it’s important to have these discussions now as opposed to the first week in May when we sit down to have the first official reading of this budget. Frankly speaking the last week including the meeting, was good democracy. It’s good to hear where people are at. Good to hear what’s important to members of the community. Important to hear consequences of decisions we make.”

Stanton Gregor liked an idea by Kurt Wohlhueter to hold community forums about how to address future needs. And Bob Lynn thought the borough would have to make some choices in the future and did not think people wanted to pay more taxes. “I’ll say that I had a young woman talk to me this morning, said that she was holding down two jobs in order to make ends meet and she said whatever you do she says don’t raise taxes. And I’m just saying that on the other side of the coin. And I think we do have to, we are going to have to take a look at how we are going to continue to make ends meet.”

Lynn appreciated that the school budget was on a different schedule than the borough’s budget and did not think it was the right time to make cuts to the school contribution. He and the others voted to support the staff’s draft budget which maintains the current level of funding to the school district and community service grants. The spending plan will be up for its first official vote in an ordinance before the assembly at its first meeting in May.

Petersburg assembly nixes rezoning requests

Thu, 2014-04-10 16:06

Owners of two parcels of land in the Olsen subdivision in Petersburg will not be getting a permanent zoning change to store fishing gear and construction equipment on the residential lots. Petersburg’s borough assembly voted down the zoning change on Monday.

The Olsen subdivision is near Hungerford Hill and Scow Bay, over two miles south of downtown Petersburg. Owners of two residential lots there want to continue storing fishing gear and construction equipment on their land and sought a zoning change to allow that land use.

It’s not a popular idea with some of the neighboring land owners. Joe Aliberti owns a lot in the subdivision and told the borough assembly a zoning change would decrease the value of his land. “They filled this lot knowing that it was a residential lot. It’s been a residential lot. It’s been zoned a residential lot. They did it for a reason when they first did it. There’s a good break there. If you start putting industrial or commercial along that side then the lot along this side no one wants to build a house there either.”

The lots are owned by Richard Burrell and Aaron and Katrina Miller. Aaron Miller emphasized the community’s need for fishing gear storage space and noted the town’s support of the commercial fishing industry. “Where we come up short is on the gear storage end. None of us need to venture too far from our homes to identify a property zone violation of one kind or another. Ideally living in a perfectly planned community, like what they’re doing in China, whatever, brand new cities, no one would have to live next to a power skiff across the street, or a gillnet corkline stretched across their neighborhoods, the other neighbor’s driveway or a stack of crab pots obscuring their view as they drink their morning coffee. But Petersburg is not a planned community. This is not Scottsdale. It’s not Palm Springs.”

Miller wants to build a warehouse on his land and pointed out the improvement would bring more tax dollars to the borough. The Millers had a conditional use permit for fishing gear storage approved in 2011 but did not build a netshed or fence that were conditions of that permit. They sought a permanent zoning change last year.

Richard Burrell has stored construction equipment on his lot . He told the assembly that the residential properties had no municipal sewer or water service if people were to build homes. “You know everybody’s looking down on me like Im polluting or some damn thing but Im not. All I want’s a parking place.”

Burrell and the Millers originally sought a change to industrial zoning for the lots.
Planning and Zoning Commissioner Chris Fry explained the commission’s recommendation for commercial land was a compromise. “Our goal was to find a solution that was reasonable to all parties involved. And we had multiple meetings on this and asked for what the concerns were and we tried to address them. We had much deliberation on this topic and we tried to find a solution that would work. We decided not to grant the industrial zoning originally requested cause that would’ve made things worse, not better.”

The land owners agreed to commercial zoning and agreed to add a fence and green belt separating the lots from the neighborhood road. Industrial lots in nearby Hungerford Hill are behind the Olsen subdivision.

Assembly member Nancy Strand was against the rezoning. “It was residential when they bought ‘em. It creeps it over so that all the arguments of it becoming a buffer don’t seem reasonable to me because there’ll be residential across the street that will be now next to the spread of this, so I’m afraid I can’t support it.”

Meanwhile, Jeigh Stanton Gregor came down on the other side of the issue. “In the case of this one, I am going to vote for it. Not easily; I’ve wrestled with this one more than the other issues on the topic. I don’t necessarily know if there is a right or wrong. I hear Mr Aliberti’s points, I hear Mr. Burrell etc’s points. In this case Im going to support it because I think, in the big picture I don’t believe it sets a dangerous precedent for the future.”
Stanton Gregor and Kurt Wohlhueter were the only votes in favor of the rezoning and the changes for both lots failed in second reading by a vote of 2-3.

21 artists open Sitka museum gala (but not Warhol!)

Thu, 2014-04-10 13:52

Hal Spackman has over twenty ideas for more exhibits at the Sitka Historical Museum, but prefers ideas from the public. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

The Sitka Historical Museum opens its first exhibit at 6 PM this evening (4-10-14), under the leadership of new director, Hal Spackman.

The Past Inspires the Present will run through May 31st. The show features the work of 21 contemporary Sitka artists alongside historic pieces in the museum collection which served as inspiration.

Spackman told the Sitka Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday that the idea came from local watercolor artist Norm Campbell, who offered to coordinate the show.

Spackman said he was impressed by the quality of local work that has been contributed to the exhibit, and by the amount of talent in the community.

He took a phone call during his chamber presentation proving that there are some Sitka-artist wannabes out there in the larger world of art.

Andy Warhol, who died in 1987, was a little too late for tonight’s opening. (AP Photo)

Phone rings
Spackman — Hello? Andy who? Warhol? I’m kind of in the middle of something here. Yeah, it’s a pretty cool event. Yessir, Mr. Warhol, there’ll be some really great works there. Well, there’s nothing you can do from up there? Well, I just appreciate you calling me.
(To audience) Sorry. Have to take a few calls there…

The opening Gala at Harrigan Centennial Hall will feature a silent auction and dinner. (Tickets $35.)

Spackman told the Chamber that the exhibit is the first in a series planned for the museum. Coming up next in June will be The Coast Guard: Honoring our Heroes. In October, the museum will install A Sportsman’s Paradise: Walking the Trails of the Past. And next February — Sitka’s Stories: A Community Remembers.

Spackman, who last worked in Sitka as the superintendent of Mt. Edgecumbe High School, put up a list of over twenty more ideas for exhibits. “I came up with these on my own,” he told the audience, “but I’d like to hear from you.”

Spackman said he was especially interested in ideas for temporary exhibits in the outdoor area, known affectionately as “The OK Corral,” alongside Harrigan Centennial Hall, where the new Historical Museum will one day be built. He expected that the new facility would be opened in 2017.

Budget process: Knowns & known unknowns

Thu, 2014-04-10 13:36

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Board of Education met last Wednesday, and moved a few budget line items around before approving a first reading of the Fiscal Year 2015 budget.

Ketchikan’s school district budget process is full of knowns and known unknowns.

The unknowns that we know about include how many students the district will have next year and how much the Legislature will provide for each of those students.

A proposal in the Senate would increase the base student allocation by $400, but most people consider that unlikely. Another proposal that is making its way through the House has better chances of final approval, and would increase the BSA by $185.

Taking those unknowns into consideration, Superintendent Robert Boyle and other administrators came up with their best projections, and then built a budget around them. The program-based budget is prioritized, with the most important expenses at the top. Here’s Boyle, explaining his “staff versus stuff” budgeting philosophy.

“Staff at the top of the budget, stuff lower down,” he said. “Staff is difficult to arrange for and make changes. So the idea is that we actually use our materials purchases as a reserve account.”

The exception this time, though, is preschool funding. The school district is not required to provide universal preschool, but it has done so for the past few years, in hopes of boosting school performance later.

In the proposed 2015 budget, preschool was placed not only below the red line, but also below the thin black line.

Let me explain: Several lines segment the district’s 2015 budget, indicating which programs are cut at different funding levels. There’s a red line at the $31 million level, which is based on the current BSA. A thin black line a little ways below that is the cutoff level if the Legislature approves its $185 BSA increase.

A thick black line at the bottom of the budget reflects the unlikely $400 BSA increase.

The Legislature isn’t the only consideration, of course. There’s also the local contribution, which is decided by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly. That body has told the School Board to expect $7.8 million, and that’s what the budget was built on. However, the district is going to ask for $8.3 million.

Preschool funding, and where it’s placed in the district budget, became a bit of a political pawn. Here’s Board Member Dave Timmerman.

“I would like to put the preschool items right where the borough has to decide whether they want preschool or not,” he said.

His amendment to move those items right to the thin black line passed, although that placement makes it likely that preschool will be funded without the Assembly increasing what it had planned to provide for local schools.

There were a few more adjustments before the Board approved the budget in first reading. Another hearing will be needed before a final vote. Boyle said he feels positive about next year’s district budget.

“With moving the preschool up to where … we actually expect our projection, administration respects and compliments the board on that decision,” he said. “I like the budget.”

Boyle said there should be fewer unknowns by the School Board’s April 23 meeting, when a final vote will take place. The district must submit its budget to the Borough Assembly for review by May 1.

School board considers budget

Thu, 2014-04-10 09:59

The Ketchikan School Board continued work on the 2015 budget, which will be considered in final reading April 23rd.  The nutrition program and policies were also discussed.  School Board Member Ralph Beardsworth provides more information.  SB041014

House Resources advances gas line bill

Thu, 2014-04-10 00:16

JUNEAU — Following an intensive amendment process that began last week, the House Resources Committee on Wednesday passed out its rewrite of a bill aimed at advancing a major liquefied natural gas project.

The committee considered dozens of proposed amendments and debated many of them at length — even some that were ultimately withdrawn — over the course of several days.

read more

UAF investigates injections given to students

Thu, 2014-04-10 00:16

FAIRBANKS — An assistant professor was placed on paid leave while the University of Alaska Fairbanks reviews the injecting of about 30 students with a solution not intended for human use.

Students have told officials that clinical procedures professor Sherry Wolf told them to repeatedly inject each other with the solution that is only intended for use on pads during training exercises, UAF spokeswoman Marmian Grimes told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

read more

Troopers name 2 men killed in Alaska plane crash

Thu, 2014-04-10 00:16

ANCHORAGE — The remains of two pilots have been found in the wreckage of a small commercial plane that crashed during a training flight near a Southwest Alaska town, state troopers said Wednesday.

The pilots who died in the crash Tuesday afternoon near Bethel were identified as Derrick Cedars, 42, of Bethel, and Greggory McGee, 46, of Anchorage. They were the only two on board.

read more

Alaska House moves closer to killing minimum wage initiative

Thu, 2014-04-10 00:15

The Alaska House Labor and Commerce Committee has advanced a bill to increase the state’s minimum wage, but backers of a minimum wage ballot initiative say the bill is only a cynical political ploy.

House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, previously told the Empire that the bill will pass the House. Senate Majority Leader John Coghill, R-Fairbanks, said there is “reluctance” in the Senate.

The House Labor and Commerce Committee moved HB384 out of committee on a 6-1 vote Wednesday with Democratic Rep. Andy Josephson of Anchorage voting against the bill.

read more

Housing reform bill advances; would allow landlords to seize PFDs

Thu, 2014-04-10 00:15

An effort to modernize the Alaska Landlord and Tenant Act for the first time in nearly two decades cleared a House committee hurdle Wednesday.

Sponsored by Rep. Doug Isaacson, R-North Pole, HB282 moved out of the House Judiciary Committee without objection.

“I really like the bill,” said a smiling Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage.

If approved by the House and Senate, HB282 allows a landlord to garnish a renter’s Permanent Fund Dividend for any repairs that cost more than the renter’s security deposit.

read more

Senate Finance advances budget bill

Thu, 2014-04-10 00:14

JUNEAU — The Senate Finance Committee advanced a $2.1 billion capital budget Wednesday.

Perhaps the biggest change compared with the draft unveiled earlier this week was a $245 million financing package for a heat and power plant at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The figure includes state funds and $157.5 million in anticipated bond revenue. The committee advanced a separate bill, SB218, that would increase the borrowing limit of the Alaska Municipal Bond Bank Authority as part of that overall package.

read more

Fishermen suggest moratorium on Yukon king fishing

Thu, 2014-04-10 00:13

FAIRBANKS — A dire Yukon River king salmon forecast that could bottom out below last year’s low returns has some rural Alaska residents calling for a moratorium on subsistence fishing for the species.

“These fish are not going to be here forever, not the way we’re catching them,” Orville Huntington said Tuesday during a pre-season planning meeting with fisheries managers from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “It wouldn’t hurt to take a few years off and say, ‘Let them go.’ There are other fish out there.”

read more

Conservation can ease Thursday night’s planned outage

Wed, 2014-04-09 21:35

Rocket or diesel turbine? With added hydro capacity comes the need for added backup power. This Titan 130 diesel turbine will help keep Sitka powered in emergencies. (City of Sitka/Chris Brewton)


Large parts of Sitka will be without power for most of the night tonight (Thu 4-10-14) — or not, depending on what actions residents take to conserve electricity.

The Sitka Electric Department is installing the switches and transformers needed to operate a new backup generator, and will have to completely de-energize the Marine Street substation to allow linemen to perform the work safely.

But, as KCAW’s Robert Woolsey reports, the Department has a trick up its sleeve that will keep the electricity on at most homes, as long as we power off our big appliances.


Listen to iFriendly audio.

The power outage is scheduled to begin at midnight, and last six hours. Unlike most outages in Sitka, when a tree falls on one of the main transmission lines, there will actually be plenty of power — just no way to get it around to everyone.

The Marine Street substation will be taken offline during the installation work. Utility director Chris Brewton says technicians will take the circuits normally fed by Marine Street, and tie them into the Jarvis substation — and “backfeed” power to all of Sitka.

It’s a pretty technical maneuver, but might sound familiar to backyard electricians.

“Putting a jumper in place to connect two circuits together. Yeah, exactly.”

The problem is: With one substation offline, Sitka will have about half the available power it usually does. Around 9 or 10 megawatts. A typical load during the middle of the night, though, might be 12 to 14 megawatts — so we’ll come up short.

Brewton says there are some strategies to bring the load down for this one night.

“We’re taking our interruptible loads offline, our high school boilers and that stuff. We’re also asking customers that have emergency generators to go on their generator, and help relieve some of that system load. The objective is that if we can get everyone to conserve that still remains energized, we may have enough power to keep everybody in power and not turn anyone off.”

Customers who don’t have interruptible loads or emergency generators — which is practically everybody — can also help.

“The biggest thing probably is to turn off your hot water heater. I realize that’s going to be a pain because you turn it off at midnight and you get up at six in the morning, it’s going to be cold. Turn off your hot water heater, don’t do your laundry, and don’t decide to cook your Thanksgiving dinner.”

Or don’t cook Thanksgiving dinner between midnight and 6 AM on Friday morning, that is.

Housed, the Titan is less imposing — but the stack is still 7-feet in diameter. (City of Sitka/Chris Brewton)

This work is being done in preparation for installing Sitka’s new Titan 130 diesel turbine — which will supplement the two backup generators already in place at the Jarvis Street substation.

The Titan 130 is a jet turbine. It looks like something that should be attached to the bottom of an Apollo rocket.

And Brewton says it feels like it belongs on a rocket.

Brewton — It is really impressive. The exhaust stack on this thing is seven feet in diameter. It’s huge.
KCAW — Is it like standing behind a 737 at takeoff?
Brewton — It absolutely is, if not worse!

The new turbine is part of the overall upgrade to Sitka’s electrical system, and is being funded in the same bond package paying for the Blue Lake hydro expansion. It’s scheduled to go into service later this summer.

Assembly hears Benchlands plan, keeps Picnic Cove floathouses

Wed, 2014-04-09 18:16

The Assembly voted on Tuesday night to continue allowing floathouses at Picnic Cove, south of Sitka.

The Assembly was asked to consider removing Picnic Cove from the list of sites where floathouses are allowed. Floathouses are now allowed in four places near Sitka: Camp Coogan, Jamestown Bay, and Eastern Bay, plus Picnic Cove.

Marlene Campbell, the city’s government relations director, brought the proposal before the Assembly. She said that for two decades, the city has received public complaints that the single floathouse now in Picnic Cove blocks public access to the area. Campbell said that now might be a good time to reconsider the city’s policy; the floathouse’s longtime owner died recently, and there has been interest from several people in new floathouse permits for the cove.

Several members of the public spoke against the proposal. They suggested there was something larger at stake in the decision to limit floathouses – something at the core of Sitka’s identity. Resident John DeLong spoke for many when he said he feared it would limit the already dwindling ability to experience Alaska the way it could be experienced just a few decades ago.

“We would be leaving out some of the young people who would like to enjoy Sitka as we got to enjoy it 20, 30 years ago,” DeLong said. “I would really hate to see that be taken away from them.”

The assembly agreed. Member Mike Reif said that while he understood that floathouses can turn public land into de facto private space, the importance of maintaining opportunities for a distinct Alaskan lifestyle outweighed the harm to the public.

“We live in Alaska, we happen to have a national forest and other public lands all around us. 99-percent of the land is public,” Reif said. “If I was in California or some other coastal area where 90-percent of it was private, I’d say keep this public and keep it public access, do not allow a quote unquote quasi-private use of it by floathouses.”

“I’m going to support the private side here,” he said. “Because the public, the day-boating public, has many, many choices still.”

The assembly also heard an update on a proposed subdivision in the Benchlands. Todd Fleming and Jeremy Twaddle of the local contractor Sound Development, LLC, presented their first ideas for the subdivision during a work session before the assembly’s regular meeting.

Sound Development bought a parcel of land near Kramer Avenue from the city last fall. Fleming and Twaddle don’t plan to build houses themselves on the site; instead they plan to put in the necessary infrastructure to make the land ready for new homes, and then sell the lots to buyers who would build their own.

The city paid $3-million for the full Benchlands property back in 2007. While it wasn’t an explicit condition of the purchase, affordable housing was a priority for many when the land was purchased, and Mayor Mim McConnell asked whether the newest plan would honor that intent.

Twaddle said that Sound Development planned to write in limits on how large houses on the site could be.

“By limiting to this square footage of, say, 1400 square feet, you’re going to automatically limit the value of the home,” he said.

Twaddle said he didn’t see any other way, as a developer, to mandate affordability.

“That’s really going to be the only controlling, limiting factor,” he said. “It would be very difficult for us to try and go in as a regulatory authority, and go, ‘You can only realize this much inflation over this period of time,’ or things like that. It would be difficult to do that. I think just the simplest mechanism is to say, hey, your house can be X amount of square feet and that’s it.”

The current proposal envisions seventeen lots on a new cul-de-sac to be built off Kramer Avenue, near Jacobs Circle. Twaddle said they won’t know how much they expect to charge for the lots until further along in the development process.

Fleming and Twaddle stressed that the plan is in the very early stages, with nothing yet set in stone.

Let’s bear down!

Wed, 2014-04-09 16:31

Could you bear life without Raven Radio? There are almost 200 of you that haven’t yet renewed your membership to Raven Radio since last spring, which leaves us about $15,000 short of our goal.  There is simply no stopping until we get there. So if you haven’t pitched in yet, please do so now or if you prefer, call the station during business hours at 747-5877. Thanks to you and to everyone who has contributed and thanks for the photo go to Richard Nelson, host of Encounters heard on Sunday mornings at 10:30.

Swan Lake gets boost from Senate Finance

Wed, 2014-04-09 15:42

SEAPA photo

The Swan Lake hydroelectric dam expansion project got a big boost this week from the Senate Finance Committee.

When the committee’s proposed capital budget was unveiled, it included about $3.3 million for the Southeast Alaska Power Agency’s plan to raise the Swan Lake Dam by about six feet.

That might not sound like much, but it will make a big difference to southern Southeast hydropower, according to SEAPA’s CEO, Trey Acteson.

“I like to put that in terms of offsetting diesel,” he said. “What it will do is replace up to 800,000 gallons of diesel generation a year, as our diesel dependency grows.”

Energy demand is growing faster than expected among SEAPA’s three member communities – Ketchikan, Petersburg and Wrangell – and when the inexpensive hydroelectric power runs low, those communities turn to backup diesel generators.

If Swan Lake can hold more water, though, that means the hydropower will last longer.

“What it allows us to do is it allows us to capture water that would have been spilled over the dam,” he said. “As it is now, if we get large inflows and we can’t use the water fast enough. This will allow us to capture that and shift that over into the winter months when we would potentially have to supplement with diesel.”

Ketchikan Public Utilities is building a new hydroelectric project at Whitman Lake, and Acteson said that project works well with the planned Swan Lake expansion.

“As many people know, the Whitman project is essentially run-of-river. It comes out a small reservoir, but it only has about a day or two of reserves,” he said. “So if KPU could run Whitman and while they’re running, we could bank that water in Swan and not lose it. It’s actually a very nice marriage.”

The cost estimate for the Swan Lake project is $13.3 million. Acteson said he’s pleased with the Senate Finance Committee’s funding for the project, and he’s hoping the House might add a little more when the budget goes to that body.

Other potential funding sources include the Alaska Energy Authority’s Renewable Energy Fund program, and bonds.

Acteson said the project makes sense for southern Southeast Alaska.

“The great thing about the project is it utilizes existing infrastructure,” he said. “You don’t need a new powerhouse, you don’t need a new penstock, you don’t need a new dam – we’re just going to raise it – you don’t need new transmission. We’re essentially just maximizing an existing facility. We consider it the low-hanging fruit for the region.”

If all goes well, Acteson said the expansion project should be completed by the end of 2016.