Lawmakers could have stopped Kake disaster

Posted: Wednesday, August 02, 2000

Here in Southeast, we are surrounded and deluged with water. It's all around us and it seems to fall on us all the time. It's something we just take for granted.

The same holds true for drinking water. It's one of those necessities of life that we just assume will always be there. Turn on the tap, water flows.

But such is not the case in Kake, which last week lost all its water supply after a tree crashed and broke an old wooden dam holding the town's water supply. For three days, there was no water to drink, forcing residents to scramble and the town's main industry, a fish processing plant, to shut down.

Fortunately, when disaster strikes Southeast, neighbors from around the area always immediately pitch in. The town of Petersburg sent water, the state ferry Le Conte opened its showers for the 800-person community and the Taku ferry also re-arranged its schedule to bring water. Countless other acts of aid have occurred, which just goes to prove that when trouble hits, Southeast residents are always first in line to help.

On Monday, Gov. Tony Knowles evoked the state's disaster laws - just short of a disaster declaration - to allow state departments to work on assuring there's safe water for residents and businesses.

While we appreciate the governor's actions, we'd be remiss if we didn't point out this situation just didn't develop overnight. The fact Kake's dam is aging, and has been out of state compliance for years, is nothing new. While there are plans to provide additional water, this situation has been allowed to deteriorate for years.

It is imperative the Legislature and the governor's office work together and develop a more comprehensive plan to take care of our infrastructure. Situations like this are bound to happen if we don't begin to look after our property.

This did not need to happen. It should not have happened. Now it will cost about $5 million for a new dam. Kake needs this dam and it is the role of state government to help these smaller communities when they are in desperate need.

We have a small village trying to survive with limited water. We should be pulling out all the stops, declaring it a disaster, and getting state and federal funds pushed through to help Kake out. It's what government is supposed to do, and it's the right and neighborly thing to do.

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