Sitka’s tap water smells bad at times, and it turns yellow at others — but it’s safe to drink. And it’s also temporary. In about 40 days, the community should be back on its primary water source at Blue Lake. Sitka’s environmental superintendent, in the meantime, has been assuring residents that they are not imagining things. Sitka’s water has a stronger odor than usual — but it’s safe.
After 53 years of continuous service, the turbines at Sitka’s Blue Lake Hydro plant are quiet. Walt Dangel, one of the original powerhouse operators at Blue Lake, threw the switches turning off the plant in a small decommissioning ceremony Monday morning (8-18-14). Dangel was assisted by Frank Rogers, Sitka’s senior plant operator. The two old turbines produce a combined 6 megawatts of power. They’re being replaced by three new turbines that will produce 16 megawatts.
City officials updated the Chamber of Commerce on the Blue Lake hydro project this week. Engineer Dean Orbison reminded the Chamber that Sitka has continued to rely on Blue Lake for drinking water through the construction. But for about two months this fall, the city will have to switch to Indian River.
Governor Parnell’s proposed budget includes no money for Southeast hydro projects. Budget includes several million dollars for Sitka infrastructure, but more for transportation projects elsewhere. City officials disappointed the budget includes no money for Sitka’s Blue Lake dam. Next year’s Stikine king salmon return expected to improve, but not enough for a commercial fishery.