Angoon is one step closer to weaning itself from expensive diesel-generated electricity.
A federal commission ruled that it doesn't have jurisdiction over the proposed Angoon hydroelectric project, cutting a swath through the red tape that normally accompanies these projects, said Carlton Smith, president of Kootznoowoo Inc., the Native village corporation for Angoon.
Kootznoowoo proposes diverting part of Thayer Creek's flow into a 42-inch-diameter pipe, which will run about three-quarters of a mile to a 1-megawatt powerhouse. The creek is about seven miles north of Angoon, which is south of Juneau on the east side of Admiralty Island.
The U.S. Forest Service, which Smith said has authority over the project, couldn't comment on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruling because it hasn't been analyzed yet, said Pete Griffin, district ranger for the Juneau area.
Griffin said the project will have an increased environmental sensitivity because it's within the Admiralty Island National Monument.
"I feel very good about the working relationship (with the U.S. Forest Service) right now," Smith said.
The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, a critic of many regional development projects, was contacted by Kootznoowoo and didn't have any reservations.
"Small hydro projects are a great way to supply small communities with power," said Aurah Landau, a SEACC organizer. "We look forward to working with them on this project."
The creek supports a small run of chum, coho and pink, Smith said. He said the project would dump the diverted water back into the creek just below a set of falls that are considered impassible for salmon.
Plans call for construction to begin in spring 2005 with the first power to be generated in fall 2006.
A small port would be built for staging construction. Other components include roads, a 10-foot-high diversion dam, about 4,000 feet of piping to a generator plant, power lines and a submarine cable to Angoon. The project is estimated to cost $8.1 million.
The amount of money Angoon residents would save depends on the amount of grants the project gets, said Mark Dalton of HDR Alaska, which did a feasibility study of the project for Kootznoowoo.
Angoon residents pay 32.75 cents per kilowatt-hour, said Vern Rauscher, general manager of the Tlingit-Haida Regional Electric Authority. Juneau pays 9 cents per kwh.
Angoon gets its power from two diesel-powered generators. The generators have a 1.1-megawatt capacity and would be used as backup to the hydro plant, if built. THREA recently had to pay $1.62 per gallon (tax free) for diesel fuel, Rauscher said.
"It's added quite a fuel component to our bill," he said.
THREA supplies power to Angoon and four northern Southeast communities at the same rate, Rauscher said. But if Angoon residents are to realize the maximum savings, they will have to form their own electrical company, which would buy the power wholesale from Kootznoowoo.
Dalton with HDR estimated residents would save about 12 cents per kwh if 75 percent of the project's costs are covered by grants. For a couple of other similar-sized projects in remote villages, the 75 percent funding threshold wasn't a problem, he said.
Mike Hinman can be reached at: