The Southeast Conference is working toward the creation of a regional solid waste facility and a governing body to oversee it.
During its Mid-Session Summit at Centennial Hall on Monday, the Southeast Conference Environment Committee crafted a draft of an ordinance creating a regional solid waste authority, which it hopes to bring before local governments in coming months.
Chairman Jon Bolling said the committee will be working on a draft development plan to go along with the ordinance. Bolling is hopeful it will be ready for community input and possible consideration before the end of the year.
The ordinance would allow any Title 29 local government in Southeast Alaska to join the authority, if adopted by the communities' local councils or assemblies.
"The enabling ordinance is intended to clearly define the powers and duties of a specific regional solid waste authority," Bolling said. "Obviously the one we're working on is one that would be specific to Southeast Alaska."
Southeast Conference is a regional nonprofit organization created in 1958 that promotes strong economies and healthy communities. It is comprised of municipalities, Native corporations, businesses, civic organizations and individuals from throughout the Alaska panhandle.
The enabling ordinance would require the regional authority to eventually craft a development plan, Bolling said, but the committee wants to create the document to give Southeast governing bodies the opportunity to see how the authority would be legally structured, and what its duties would be.
The ordinance has been in the works for nearly a year, he said.
"Nobody has been through this process before and we are being very deliberate about what we're doing because I don't want to leave anybody behind," Bolling said. "Because there is no history here for how to formulate these things, we're just going about this at a speed that everyone is comfortable with."
Bolling gave a presentation to the Juneau Assembly on Monday night to update its members on work the Southeast Conference has been conducting on the solid waste issue. He told Assembly members that two years ago, a number of communities in Southeast Alaska collectively spent roughly $2 million to send solid waste to the Lower 48, shipping most of it to eastern Washington.
"Part of the reason we're working on this is that we're hoping there is a way of keeping that $2 million in Southeast Alaska, generate a few jobs, create a new economy, a bit of a new industry for communities that have a need for it," Bolling said.
Bolling did not give a specific answer to which community may want to host a regional solid waste facility when asked by Assembly member Bob Doll, but said there are a number of communities that have personally expressed interest to him.
"It is fair to say that there are communities interested in ultimately being a collection point for this solid waste facility," he said.
"My interest at this point is that the public and the Assembly be aware of this option and consider it when it's evaluating the entire issue of solid waste," Doll told the Assembly.
Bolling said there are a lot of common problems that the communities of Southeast Alaska face when dealing with solid waste disposal, but ultimately each community will have to make a judgment call on whether or not to participate in a regional authority.
"We have commonalities in regards how we deal with solid waste between us, but there are also some idiosyncratic differences," Bolling said during an interview on Tuesday. "I think on the whole there's probably some merit in working together collectively to tackle the commonalities."
Bolling believes a regional authority could be a real possibility in the future, if it gains regional support.
"If we do a good a job on developing the enabling ordinance and the phase one development plan, and communities see the merit in it, then yeah, I'm guessing it will go forward," he said. "But those are decisions that those governing bodies will have to make."