Wrangell’s longstanding water shortage issue caused fish processors to cut water consumption in half and the borough to urge the public to cut down 30 to 50 percent. Wrangell’s assembly and borough manager declared a local emergency disaster July 12.

Public works director Amber Al-Haddad updated the assembly at its regular meeting Tuesday.

She says her department is moving forward on modifying the water plant’s roughing filters.

“Our hope is that we can gain 10 [to] 20 percent improvement on that filtration system and even that will go a long way to assist us with that,” said Al-Haddad. “That’s something that can be done in short order and potentially provide us with immediate results”

The water plant’s filters are clogging rapidly, making keeping up with demand difficult.

Al-Haddad says the materials for the modification are on a barge and should arrive next week. She says public works will be working with the department of environmental conservation to approve the potential fix. The borough expects to spend up to $25,000 on that project.

Assembly member Daniel Blake applauded Wrangell’s two fish processors for each plant’s conservation efforts.

He also expressed concern over using a grant that would fund installing a bypass to one of the plant’s two reservoirs, allowing the other to be drained and worked on.

“If we improve the quality of water going into the plant to begin with, it’s going to make these problems much easier to deal with,” said Blake. “So if at all possible, the money is there and we’re running out of time to use it, I’d love to see something get started on that this winter.”

Al-Haddad told the assembly she should have that project out for bid by the end of the year. The grant needs to be used by 2018.

The borough is testing a new type of water treatment later this month in hopes of solving the problem, which has plagued Wrangell for years. Al-Haddad said if the treatment method proves successful, the department will seek funding to convert Wrangell’s plant.

The first reading of an ordinance that would remove one of two tax-free days this fiscal year was also approved. The Chamber of Commerce would select which tax-free day to eliminate.  There will be a public hearing on that ordinance August 23.

The assembly also approved a creating an ANSEP committee to update them on the potential 400-bed boarding school. The committee will include assembly, tribal and school officials. The school would be built on the former Institute property.