By Marie L. Monyak
April 09, 2006
Those attending the Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce luncheon this week benefited from an informative presentation by Dave Carlson, CEO of the Four Dam Pool, who explained why the project is so important to the people of this area and why there is such an urgency to gather the support needed to complete this project.
"Alaska got left behind when the West was electrified," Carlson stated. "In the Pacific Northwest, Bonneville came in and built the hydro plants; [they] built the transmission lines throughout the Northwest. Bonneville still owns those transmission lines. Alaska, as far as I'm concerned, got left in the dust. We're in the 1910's compared to the rest of the nation. We need an integrated system so we can be like everybody else."
To better understand the electric power infrastructure (or lack thereof) in Southeast Alaska it helps to understand where it all began. Based on research, Bonneville, which Carlson was referring to, is in fact the Bonneville Power Administration, a federal agency of the U. S. Department of Energy that was created by Congress in 1937. For two decades, from 1940 through 1960, Bonneville constructed the transmission lines that provide power to most of the Northwest United States. But not Alaska.
The initial Four Dam Pool was
established by the Alaska Legislature in 1981 and owned and managed
by the Alaska Energy Authority. The pool consists of four dams/hydroelectric
projects; Swan Lake, Tyee Lake, Terror Lake and Solomon Gulch.
In 2002, an agency formed by the utilities that purchase power
from the projects, purchased the initial project and became the
Four Dam Pool Power Agency.
Photograph by Mike Martin ©
The Four Dam Pool finances were also discussed. Based on information from their website, when the Four Dam Pool Power Agency purchased the project for $73 million in 2002, they pledged $.04 of every kilowatt hour purchased to repay the loan to the to the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA).
According to Carlson, "The only money we've gotten so far is federal money plus program receipt money. What I mean is, for every kilowatt hour you purchased from the Four Dam Pool back in the 90's, you paid $.04 to the state. 40% of that $.04 went into the intertie (it was around 15 million through those years). This 40% of the $.04 now goes to the Four Dam Pool to pay our debt service and to pay all our replacements and do all the renewals."
Over and over Carlson stressed the need for 50 million dollars to complete the Swan Lake-Tyee Lake Intertie Project. He volunteer advice for residents saying, "What Ketchikan can do is agree to cover the O & M costs, not proceed with any additions or upgrades to local hydros because it directly impacts the economics of the intertie and to let the governor know that we need this project done and funded. And we need to let the legislature know we want it, especially southeast legislatures."
Currently, Swan Lake provides 50% of Ketchikan's power. The City of Ketchikan website lists Beaver Falls hydro, Silvis Lake Hydro and Ketchikan Lakes hydro as the additional resources.
"We've spent over 50 million dollars on this project so far." Carlson said. "If it were to be abandoned, it would be one huge black eye on the State and on Southeast." He did add various bits of encouraging information. To those concerned with the environment he said, "The power that the Four Dam Pool sells out of the hydros, to the communities, displaces about 25 million gallons of diesel a year."
In terms of economics, Carlson said, "Hydro produces stable power, whereas diesel averaged $50 a barrel in 2005 and now in 2006 it's around $60 to $65 a barrel. Oil prices are high and the forecast doesn't predict them going down, yet here we live in the land of hydro. We live in a rainforest, the rain is a fuel, it powers the turbines and the rain is free so we need to utilize it."
"Swan-Tyee is totally permitted and designed, we just need the money," Carlson stated. "The number the Four Dam Pool came up with to ask the state for is $40 million, and we thought we could get $10 million from Senator Stevens. The permits are going stale, (special use permits), they're only good till 2007."
"This is going to take some shouting and yelling and my advice to you is to call Senator Stedman and the Governor and Representative Peggy Wilson and say we want this project done! If abandoned, we stand to lose $55 million that's been already invested," Carlson said in closing.
Russell Thomas of the Ketchikan School Board will be the invited guest speaker at the next Chamber lunch to be held at noon at the VFW on Tongass Avenue Wednesday.
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