seapa board

The Southeast Alaska Power Agency Board of Directors met in Wrangell Wednesday, March 25, 2015.

A power agency that supplies electricity to three Southeast communities is moving forward with plans to expand its hydro storage capacity by selling bonds.

The board of directors of the Southeast Alaska Power Agency (SEAPA) voted Thursday to take on additional debt to fund an expansion of its hydro storage capacity. It was a 4-1 vote, with Joe Nelson of Petersburg voting against the bond plan.

SEAPA owns two hydropower facilities that provide electricity to Wrangell, Petersburg and Ketchikan. The SEAPA Board of Directors is made up of representatives from each of the communities.

SEAPA plans to raise the dam at the Swan Lake facility near Ketchikan to increase hydro storage capacity by 25 percent, which should reduce dependence on diesel power. To fund the dam raise, SEAPA wants to refinance existing debt and sell new bonds to raise up to a total of $11,365,000.

SEAPA CEO Trey Acteson said the agency is in the middle of the bond process.

“We’re just finalizing the information gathering from the member utilities and incorporating those into the documents to get the deal done. And today the board voted to approve that process moving forward at a certain level,” Acteson said.

But SEAPA can’t take on new debt until elected officials from all three communities also approve the bond proposal. Acteson visited the three communities to request their support.

The Wrangell Borough Assembly voted Tuesday to support the proposal. Acteson said he expects Petersburg and Ketchikan to follow suit by mid-April. SEAPA predicts it will acquire the funds in May.

Meanwhile, a license amendment for the Swan Lake project is still being reviewed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Acteson said that was supposed to come through this month, but interveners cost the process money and time.

“Right now, they’re just doing a final legal analysis with our amendment with FERC legal because there were a couple of interveners in that process,” Acteson said. “We don’t expect a long delay for that, and we expect to see that in the next couple of months.”

If FERC approves the amendment, the Swan Lake project will enter the final design process.

At its meeting Thursday, the SEAPA board found out a major design issue was just resolved.

“The flashboard design modeling that we’re doing is really a critical juncture with what we call the Board of Consultants. They’re a board of experts that are approved by FERC ahead of time, and they kind of shepherd the design process through the amendment. And I think it’s a great, positive advancement that we’re making it over some hurdles for those design changes,” Acteson said.

Acteson expects construction of the Swan Lake dam raise will be finished by the end of 2016.

The SEAPA board also approved a contract to build more than 100 helipads and approved a contract to integrate the agency’s alarm and control systems.

SEAPA is continuing a five-year study of possible hydro sites. The agency is also evaluating the potential for generating wind power on Mitkof Island and harnessing geothermal energy on Bell Island.