Bonds approved for Juneau hydro project

State OKs up to $60 million for Lake Dorothy project to start in May

Posted: Friday, April 07, 2006

A state board approved up to $60 million in bonds for the planned Lake Dorothy Hydroelectric Project south of Juneau, and construction could start in late May, utility officials said Thursday.

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"It's very good news," said Corry Hildenbrand, president of Lake Dorothy Hydroelectric.

The bonding will pay the total cost of the project and a portion of the proceeds will also be used for additional new construction on Juneau's electrical grid.

Because the bonds are tax exempt, they will also save Juneau ratepayers money, state officials said this week.

Hildenbrand had hoped to start construction of the 14.3 megawatt project - a 20-foot concrete diversion dam on Bart Lake in Taku Inlet - this month. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is still reviewing final approval documents for the project, though.

"It's taking a little longer than we'd like," Hildenbrand said.

The $48 million hydroelectric project about 16 miles south of Juneau will require a new 1.8-mile road and the diversion dam. It will take a couple years to build and initially will provide power to Greens Creek Mine on Admiralty Island. Eventually, power will be distributed to Juneau and Hoonah. The Alaska Electric Light and Power Co. will operate it.

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority Board (AIDEA), a public corporation set up by the state Legislature, approved the bonds on March 29.

Because the bonds are tax-exempt, AEL&P customers will save about $6 million over the term of the bonds, AIDEA Executive Director Ron Miller said.

"This financing will help keep AEL&P's electric rates among the lowest in the state," Miller said.

The Taku Inlet hydroelectric project was originally announced in 1996 and approved in 2003.

In the future, the developers plan to drill a tunnel to tap nearby Lake Dorothy, which has twice the hydroelectric potential of Bart Lake. That 30-megawatt project is likely 20 years down the road, according to Hildenbrand.

• Elizabeth Bluemink can be reached at elizabeth.bluemink@juneauempire.com.



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