Lake Dorothy to go online in fall 2009

Project will help mitigate Juneau's need to use diesel fuel for part of its electric energy needs

Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The first phase of the Lake Dorothy hydroelectric project should be up and running by October of next year, according to Alaska Electric Light & Power Co.

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Company officials of the privately owned electric utility gave reporters a tour Monday of the $64 million project, which is located near the mouth of Taku Inlet just southeast of town.

The project will be fed by three lakes, with Lake Dorothy being the largest and highest of the three. It feeds into Lieuy Lake, which feeds into Bart Lake. Bart Lake then feeds into Dorothy Creek, which empties into Taku Inlet.

The completed project will dam Dorothy Creek. The water will instead run down an 8,294-foot-long pipe, called a penstock, from Bart Lake and into a powerhouse, where it will power a turbine and have its energy converted into electricity. The electricity will then run along power lines to the south for 3.5 miles and tie into the existing Snettisham power lines.

A road up to Bart Lake is complete, and workers are finishing excavating a tunnel for the penstock. The powerhouse is being built, and construction has yet to start on the actual penstock.

There also is a nearly completed tunnel that will start 130 feet under Lake Dorothy and will be used to drain part of the lake control the three lakes' water levels. The second phase of the project will run a lengthy penstock underground from this tunnel directly to the powerhouse.

The work site, which is about a 30-minute boat ride from Juneau, is crowded with heavy machinery. About 40 to 50 workers from four main contractors are working at the site six days a week, according to Scott Willis, AEL&P's vice president for generation.

"I think now we're smooth sailing," Willis said.

The project has had its difficulties. AEL&P is suing one of the first contractors it had working on the site over a contract dispute and was recently ordered to pay $125,000 in fines for destroying a bald eagle's nest and U.S. Forest Service cabin while blasting rock.

Rising construction costs also have affected the project's cost, Willis said. A look at the Empire's archives show the price tag for the project has risen dramatically. In 2002, the project was said to cost $30 million; in 2006, the total cost was listed at $48 million.

Willis said the project could wind up costing a few million dollars more than the current $64 million estimate by the time it is finished.

The final cost will be passed along to electric ratepayers in the form of a rate hike of a few cents per kilowatt-hour used, Willis said. As a regulated utility, any rate changes proposed by AEL&P have to be approved by a state regulatory agency.

Willis said the new hydroelectric project should be attractive to Juneau's ratepayers because much of the cost for the new project will be paid for by one of its biggest recipients of power: Greens Creek Mine on Admiralty Island.

The project also will mitigate Juneau's need to use diesel fuel for part of its electric energy needs, Willis said.

Currently, when water levels are low at the Snettisham hydroelectric project - Juneau's main source of hydropower - AEL&P uses diesel generators to power part of the city and passes the cost of that fuel onto ratepayers.

Willis said he foresees Juneau's energy demands growing, and without Lake Dorothy AEL&P would have to use more and more diesel to power the city.

• Contact reporter Alan Suderman at 523-2268 or e-mail

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