The City of Sitka will ask the state legislature for more than $40 million dollars to help fund a hydropower expansion.
The request tops the list of legislative priorities for the city, which Assembly members unanimously approved last night. Sitka annually sends its priorities to Juneau as sort of a wish list for state funding.
Sitka hopes for an additional $43 million to cover raising the Blue Lake dam by 83 feet. The state already has chipped in more than that, but the extra money is needed after construction bids came in above engineering estimates.
In its note to the legislators, the city argues that if Sitka were to bond for the extra money, electric rates would go up by 60 percent to pay for the bonds. Officials say it could “cripple Sitka’s economy and result in even greater population loss and community hardship.”
The request leaves Sitka and travels down a long road, but maybe not a bumpy one. Sitka’s Republican senator, Bert Stedman, chairs the Senate Finance Committee, which writes the capital budget. And he’s urged the city to avoid dramatic increases in its electric rates. Stedman’s opponent in the fall election, Democratic Sen. Albert Kookesh, also agrees that Blue Lake is an important priority for Sitka.
But the request would have to make it through both chambers of the legislature in the upcoming session and escape the governor’s veto pen before the money shows up in Sitka.
Sitka’s other capital requests include another $42 million request, this one to help pay down existing bonds on Sitka’s Green Lake hydro project.
The list also includes requests to fund an alternate drinking water supply, a new transient float and improvements to Centennial Hall. And it urges more local control, better education funding, state revenue sharing and funding for harbors.
The Assembly last night also took steps toward expanding Kettleson Memorial Library. We’ll have details on that during Wednesday evening’s newscast, and later today on this website.