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Adam Davis of the Organized Village of Kake leads a group of energy experts into the forest around his home community of Kake to explore micro-hydroelectic opportunities. (Photo courtesy of Sustainable Southeast Partnership.)

Representatives from communities in Southeast met up in Sitka last week to talk food security, energy, resource management and economic development. They are members of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, a collaboration to address these challenges through collaborative projects and educational workshops. KCAW’s Brielle Schaeffer has more.

Downloadable audio.

By next fall, Lindsey Hershey hopes to have a childcare center and chicken coop in Yakutat. And she’s also planning to have a community garden up and running.

“Yakutat doesn’t have an actually childcare facility right now I don’t think they have any childcare providers and it’s just going to provide stability for the parents,” she said.

While the childcare center addresses an immediate need, a chicken coop is tackling a future problem.

“The cost of eggs is supposed to go up drastically next year,” she said.

Hershey is a community developer for the City and Borough of Yakutat. She spent the week in Sitka working with the Sustainable Southeast Partnership to address problems in her hometown, and develop new ideas like a mobile, community garden.

“Yakutat has a lot of potential but they need somebody on the ground,” Hershey said.

And this group is devoted to showing folks like Hershey how to harness that potential. Energy, food, and the economy are big concerns for many communities throughout Southeast. Alana Peterson, Sustainable Southeast Partnership’s program director, says the key to the coalition is coming up with unique projects that can meet the needs of communities as big as Juneau or small as Hydaberg

One size does not fit all.

“All these partners come to the table with different resources, different capacities and we are basically just networking and seeing how we can work together and pool those resources,” Peterson said.

The mission of the coalition is “creating resilient peoples and place.” The Sustainable Southeast Partnership was started four years ago and includes watershed councils, tribal and city governments, and private entities. In Sitka, the partnership helped start Sitka Kitch, a shared community kitchen with classes on regional food preparation and preserving.

In Kake, partners are working on alternative energy and economic development projects. Adam Davis of the Organized Village of Kake says energy is a huge barrier to starting and sustaining businesses. For many households, he says, alternative energy is not an option.

“People are already strapped for cash as it is just keeping their monthly bills rolling so it’s kind of hard to make these investments in solar panels or microhydro turbines or wind for your home when you’re just barely getting by as it is,” Davis said.

However, the village is hoping to harness energy from Gunnuk Creek. Davis says the Inside Passage Electric Cooperative is looking into a hydro project that could potentially supply half of Kake’s energy needs.

“With these increased rains it does look like it’s going to be a viable option to get us off diesel at least when it’s raining so it does rain a lot,” Davis said. “Can’t wait for the day we can actually turn off our diesel generators even if it’s only part time.”

The village is also planning to renovate the historic Kake Cannery as a way to create jobs.

It’s one thing to generate these ideas and it’s another thing to get them going. The Sustainable Southeast Partnership provides a network for its advocates to keep up their momentum. For Hershey, the retreat in Sitka solidified the concrete changes she wants to see in Yakutat.

“I just want to be able to show the community with these small stepping stones we can do these type of things together and then they can take the knowledge that they gain from a chicken coop or community garden and do their own chicken coop or garden,” Hershey said.

The partnership meets throughout the year to continue to brainstorm and work on projects in its communities.