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One of the most important projects for southern Southeast Alaska is expanding the Swan Lake reservoir to increase power.
Ketchikan, Petersburg and Wrangell all will benefit because while the reservoir is closest to Ketchikan — 22 miles south — the other two communities are connected to the transmission system that disperses power.
The expansion would reduce the reliance on diesel power, saving about 800,000 gallons in the winter. While saving diesel, the additional capability and storage would increase the system's flexibility and maximize its capabilities by about 25 percent.
The Southeast Power Authority, which manages the hydro power sources in the region, suggests raising the dam 15 feet at an estimated cost of $12.3 million. As it stands now, the dam is 174 feet high.
Preliminary engineering, studies and licensing efforts have been completed in the past year and a half. Additional engineering and licensing will be necessary.
The state provided $3 million in 2012 toward the project. The $12.3 million being sought during the next legislative session will cover the final design, construction engineering, project management and construction.
With those funds, the project could be completed in 2016, significantly improving the power system and the infrastructure for the southern Southeast region's future economic development.
This is the top item on the community's capital project priority list, as well it should be. As with any type of power, there never is enough. With the increase in electrically powered technology at both homes and businesses, and diversions from fuel to electrical energy, this part of the state once again needs to increase its clean power generation.