Petersburg Pilot -

Kake power intertie features at SE Conference

 


A Kake-Petersburg Intertie (KPI) project update was given during this week's Southeast Conference held in Wrangell.

The KPI includes a proposed electrical transmission line that would connect Kake to a SEAPA (Southeast Alaska Power Agency) substation in Petersburg. Kake, a community of just over 550 people, is situated on the northwest coast of Kupreanof Island and is working to find cheaper alternatives to costly diesel, which provides the bulk of their power currently.

“The Kake-Petersburg Intertie would transmit power at either 69 or 130 kilovolts (kV) and consist primarily of single wood-pole structures,” according to a public memo released this June by SEAPA and Commonwealth Associates, the project management office for the KPI.

The project has been in the works since 2010 and has recently picked up steam as agencies work to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for public release this fall. The EIS is required by NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act of 1969) for projects that will have an environmental impact.

The document is still in preliminary stages and is currently under revision to address concerns from the Forest Service.

The preliminary EIS outlines four alternative routes for the KPI. The current proposed action is a northern route going west across the Tongass National Forest on Kupreanof Island with a 1.2-mile directional bore, a cable running below the sea floor, crossing Frederick Sound and the mouth of the Wrangell Narrows.

The current route is being pursued after other alternatives raised concerns for the Forest Service, including “potential impacts on the unroaded character of the city of Kupreanof, and potential impacts to Petersburg Creek, an important area for fish and wildlife, recreation and tourism and subsistence,” according to the Notice Of Intent released this summer.

Though completing the EIS has already proven to be a lengthy process, more challenges remain up ahead.

The intertie project comes at a price tag of an estimated $60 million, which has not yet been secured. Currently about $3.8 million has been appropriated and will fund project development and permitting.

“We have enough funding to get construction-ready,” SEAPA CEO Trey Acteson said. “Right now SEAPA's got a commitment to get it to construction-ready.”

Acteson and other stakeholders are now looking to the state legislature for funds, but they anticipate challenges there as the state continues to face a budget shortfall.

“It's going to be a heavy lift,” Acteson said. “It's very difficult.”

One possible avenue for funding is to tie the project to a broader spending project such as an infrastructural investment package.

The other potential long-term challenge relates to energy supply. There are two facilities–Tyee Lake and Swan Lake–currently serving SEAPA's three member utilities, Petersburg, Wrangell and Ketchikan. After SEAPAs board meeting earlier this month, Petersburg Municipal Power and Light Superintendent Joe Nelson said even the recently approved Swan Lake expansion, which will increase the reservoir's capacity by 25 percent, won't be enough to meet Ketchikan's power needs.

To that end the Whitman Lake hydroelectric facility will begin supplying power to Ketchikan to help them decrease their use of diesel as a supplementary and costly power source.

When asked about the availability of power for Kake, Acteson said that Kake would not present a great burden to the system since they are a small community. He also said that SEAPA does have excess power available to sell at certain times during the year. This has been the case recently with Swan Lake and Tyee, Acteson said. He added that the Swan Lake expansion will also increase the energy

supply.

Also, as part of their long-term plan, SEAPA is also looking to develop new hydro-projects. During his presentation at the conference, Acteson said SEAPA is evaluating 60 unique sites in its focus area for possible hydropower project development.

Locally the KPI has come to the forefront in recent weeks after the Alaska Department of Transportation gave a public presentation Aug. 13 on its draft long-range transportation plan for Southeast. ADOT's regional planning director Andy Hughes took heat from the audience comprised of Petersburg and Kupreanof residents, many of whom challenged the fully-funded $40 million road to Kake but expressed support for the unfunded KPI.

Both Hughes and KPI project manager Mark Schinman both emphasized that the two projects are independent of one another though they are running parallel and there has been some discussion of possible agency cooperation regarding the two projects.

A draft EIS for public review is scheduled for release this October and will be followed by public meetings this November.

 

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