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After about 15 years of analysis, lobbying, licensing and design, the Whitman Lake hydroelectric project is under way.
Dawson Construction, the prime contractor on the project, is expected to begin mobilizing next week, according to city officials.
Activity will be evident along Powerhouse Road as construction trailers and equipment is moved into place.
Trees, which need to be fallen in preparation for building the construction road, will be marked soon for the U.S. Forest Service.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission also will receive a plan outlining the contractor's intent to blast in preparation for the road.
The project is possible due to 2011 voter approval and cooperation between the City of Ketchikan and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.
The city nearly lost the project when construction bids came in higher than funds available.
Whitman was expected to be a $26-million project. Prospective contractors bid higher. Even with resharpened pencils, no bid came in below it.
The city needed another $2.5 million, which the borough provided. Full funding allows the city to begin building the project.
Electrical power is in short supply in Ketchikan. This is the case despite the completion of the Swan Lake-Lake Tyee Hydroelectric Intertie, allowing Ketchikan to utilize extra power from Wrangell and Petersburg.
As electrical demands continue to increase — with new technology and residents seeking lower energy costs, even Whitman is only one more link in a regional intertie likely to expand from Metlakatla to Kake in the not-too-distant future. As of now, the community's power sources will be tapped out by 2015. But by 2014 Whitman will meet some of that demand and provide energy for the Whitman Lake Hatchery.
The project will include two power systems. One will be installed in the hatchery, producing 700 kilowatts of power an hour daily. The other will produce about 3,900 kilowatts and operate 40 percent of the time when water levels are high.
The mobilization for this project signals economic promise for Ketchikan in the new year. All of the years of planning will pay off. And, as those who've worked on it for a decade and half would say, it's about time.