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4/27/2013
SEAPA: Swan Lake is a go

By ANDREW SHEELER

Daily News Staff Writer

The Southeast Alaska Power Agency board declared Thursday that it is moving forward with an expansion of the Swan Lake reservoir despite a lack of funding the from the Alaska Legislature.

That decision and others were made at SEAPA’s all-day board meeting in Ketchikan.

Board Member Sam Bergeron, who also sits on the Ketchikan City Council, said in a telephone interview Friday the board was doing "good work."

"The board is taking the easiest projects that bring us the most returns in the short term," Bergeron said, referencing the Swan Lake expansion as well as adding a stream gauge to the Tyee Lake dam and other projects.

Bergeron said SEAPA was approaching the Swan Lake expansion much like the City Council approached the Whitman Lake hydroelectric project, by pursuing the expansion despite a funding shortfall.

"It’s a desperately needed project," he said. SEAPA is pursuing further funding for the expansion.

Also Thursday, the board gave SEAPA CEO Trey Acteson permission to recruit for a new engineer and administrative assistant. Acteson also gave a lengthy presentation Thursday, describing all the services provided by SEAPA.

"We do a whole host of things that are wrapped up in our 6.8 cents (per kilowatt hour)," Acteson said in a telephone interview Friday.

Only one speaker addressed the board during the public comment portion of the meeting: City Mayor Lew Williams III. The mayors of both Wrangell and Petersburg were invited to the meeting but did not attend.

Williams urged SEAPA to work more closely with the member utilities, Ketchikan Public Utilities and the Thomas Bay Power Authority. He said there was a perception among KPU employees that SEAPA had an attitude of "it’s SEAPA’s dam and KPU be damned."

Williams said that SEAPA should represent the communities and "not just SEAPA." One area where greater cooperation is needed, he said, is regarding the operations and maintenance agreement between SEAPA, KPU and Thomas Bay.

"I guess (the tension) all began with the O & M agreement," Williams said. SEAPA commissioned a report, released last fall, that recommended consolidating operations under SEAPA’s banner. The agreement will be considered by the SEAPA board at its next meeting, but Bergeron said he did not support scrapping the existing agreement.

"I can tell you that I am fully in support of continuing on with the O & M agreement with KPU and Thomas Basin," Bergeron said Friday.