More money is going into a project to update the Marine Street Substation. On Tuesday night (10/22/19), the Sitka Assembly unanimously approved $1.7 million dollars be moved to the project, to cover extra costs. 

Interim administrator Hugh Bevan said the project was a top priority as much of the city is connected to the aging infrastructure.  

“A substantial part of Sitka relies on this facility for electric power. If it goes down, the time to brig it back up again can be measured in months,” said Bevan. “It’s also a key supply point for power for continued expansion and development on Japonski Island,” Bevan said, referring to the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium’s plans to expand and build a new hospital facility on Japonski Island.

Bevan said inflation as well as additional drilling and excavation pushed the overall cost of the project beyond the bond funding earmarked for it in 2016. The money will come from a “restructuring” of the overall Electric Fund capital improvement program. 

Assembly member Valorie Nelson wanted to know if upping the budget for the substation would mean rate increases. Bevan said this specific action wouldn’t. But there were still budgetary issues ahead for the electric department.

“The overall financial structure of the Electric Department has major challenges,” said Bevan. “That’s another story for budget time.”  

And the Marine Street substation wasn’t the only energy related item broached by the assembly. The group also voted to accept a title to land near Takatz Lake- a land transfer that city attorney Brian Hanson said had been held up for decades.  

“This land is proposed to come to us through the Federal Power Act,” Hanson said, “Which identified important power sites and water sources for the country. This Takatz land is one of those power sources that was identified that would be beneficial to the City and Borough of Sitka.”

Hanson said in the 1980’s, the assembly gave the go-ahead for receiving the title, and it would cost the city nothing. Interim utility Director Jeff Wheeler said the area could be developed into another hydroelectric project, that could potentially supply Sitka and other communities with power, but not any time soon.

“The area around Takatz is the area that encompasses what you would basically use to build either a dam or blow a tunnel into it to get a hydro in there. Now is not the time to build that hydro, it’s way further in the future.”

The most recent cost estimate, Wheeler said, was around $355 million to build a hydro project at Takatz lake. 

In other business, the Sitka Assembly… 

  • Discussed the possibility of closed captioning assembly meetings, and one free method was demonstrated
  • Honored veterans in a Veteran’s Day proclamation 
  • On first reading, unanimously approved an ordinance to accept two grants from the Department of Homeland Security for upgrades to tech at the Sitka Police department, totaling over $90,000   
  • Unanimously approved a resolution of support for a Sitka Trail Works application for a Recreational Trails Program grant to fund improvements to Sea Lion Cove trail