My turn: AEL&P shouldn't be vilified

Posted: Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Juneau I was raised in had more power outages and proportionately much higher power rates. This "disaster" has brought it all back and made me realize that due to Alaska Electric Light & Power Co., we now have power that is more reliable and cheaper by far than "the good old days."

I would ask those who are vilifying AEL&P to please think back to last winter's ice storms in the southeastern U.S. There were hundreds of thousands without any power for weeks and months. Did anyone here miss a lick? AEL&P had back-up power in place and ready to go. That costs money, as it will to rebuild that back-up generation after we are back on hydro power.

AEL&P has a highly trained and highly paid workforce, which is good for the community. They work in the worst conditions possible when there is a power problem to make sure we can stay warm and asleep while they are working. This takes a lot of money. Much of the repair work and maintenance is done on the mountainsides with helicopters, which is dangerous and costs more money.

I went to Snettisham last week in my boat and looked for myself. My comment is that if we have managed to keep that line charged for more than 35 years without a major problem, I tip my hat to everyone involved in the construction and maintenance of that line. I am sure, in hindsight, that some improvements could have been made, but the "expert" who says that for $100,000 concrete abutments should have been put in place reminds me of the "expert" estimators for the new high school.

You wonder why there is no sympathy for Juneau, when for years we have had among the lowest, if not the lowest, electric rates, even after equalization. Did anyone thank AEL&P? Our average electric rate for the year will still be lower than most Southeast Alaska communities.

For those worried about the fact that the shareholders of AEL&P have made a profit in past years, I suggest you begin a campaign to have the government buy out the company and run the power grid in Juneau. See how that works out. Think of the tremendous investment, operating costs, huge payroll and the liabilities of running that company. Shouldn't they get a good return for taking such risk?

They are investing millions in more hydro power at the Dorothy Creek project, which will provide more back-up power as well as make sure Juneau has enough power for any growth in the future. Baring growth, the project will ensure that power is available to sell to the few private projects that provide jobs in the community. It seems that some don't understand that the investment must be paid for by users, and everyone expects a fair return on an investment.

I also have a problem with the personal attacks on Bill Corbus.

This man has been in the forefront of every anti-Capitol move fight we have had. He has contributed his time and money to community and state. Enlightened self interest, you say? I say thank goodness or we would have lost the Capitol years ago.

On a personal note, I know of individuals that Mr. Corbus has helped financially and through encouragement who would not have survived in this community without his help.

Every time I hear complaining about someone who has done well for themselves, I think back to a time when I was feeling low about my situation in life, and I heard a woman on the radio complaining about people in the community who have money when she has nothing. After putting up with her whining for a period of time, the local announcer said, "The only people I know in this community who have more money than me are either smarter than I am, or have worked harder than me and in most cases both." I remember thinking about the people I knew and it was invariably true.

A few people have a head start through family but many squander that opportunity. Juneau should be thankful Bill Corbus wasn't one of those or we would have been much worse off.

• Tim Whiting is a Juneau resident.

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