Southeast Alaska Power Agency serves Wrangell, Petersburg, and Ketchikan, and over the past five-years many households have been converting from diesel heating oil to electric heating, and from that SEAPA has seen a 50% increase in the use of hydropower in the region.
This increase has pushed SEAPA to take a serious look at electric and water sources and what can be developed to ensure that power needs continue to be met in the years to come. Recently SEAPA filed a preliminary permit request to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for Sunrise Lake located on Woronkofski Island in the Wrangell Borough.
Vice Chair of SEAPA and Wrangell Mayor, Jeremy Maxand says the increased use of hydropower is a concern, while the regions not in a serious pinch yet, he says it’s time to begin looking at alternative sources of power, such as Sunrise Lake.
“This is a project that is in the City and Borough of Wrangell, and has been on the capital list for development primarily for a domestic water supply. It’s a small project, but it’s one that may fit into our existing hydro projects on the SEAPA system. It’s also close to a transmission line, and it’s one that is dual use as it can generate electricity, but it can also provide domestic water to Wrangell,” he says.
SEAPA CEO Dave Carlson says if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approves the preliminary permit for Sunrise Lake, it will give SEAPA a few years to do environment and feasibility studies to make sure it’s the right project for the existing power system.
“We’ll be putting together a study plan. We have three years and we will be taking a hard look at the economics and engineering first, then starting discussions with agencies. Assuming FERC does grant the preliminary permit there is a process where people can intervene in the process, and we encourage people to do that and get involved, so they understand what the process will be,” he says.
Mayor Maxand believes if approved the financing of Sunrise Lake as a hydropower project would be best done by SEAPA, while he says Wrangell would still have control of the domestic water supply.
“Hydropower projects are expensive. They take a lot of money and a lot of time, and they have a lot of risk. And I think the trend and the smart move is to go at these efforts collectively, publicly, and to share the risk and share the benefit, and that is how we are going to move together as a borough and as a region,” he says.
Wrangell resident Ernie Christen recently spoke at a Wrangell Borough Assembly meeting regarding his concern of SEAPA developing Sunrise Lake. Christen says Wrangell should be in total control of Sunrise and its water supply to ensure that Wrangell has enough water and electricity during heavy power use months.
“My main issue is that we have another entity involved which is SEAPA that we buy our electric power from. My issue is that we have another governmental entity that we have to deal with as opposed to if Wrangell was able to develop it on our own then we would only have to deal with ourselves. So control of the water source is my main concern,” he says.
SEAPA’s CEO Dave Carlson expects it will be three to four months before the preliminary permit status is determined. For more information on SEAPA Hydropower projects visit www.seapahydro.org.
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