Now that water is running from the taps in Kake again, town officials want to ensure they won't go dry.
Mayor Lonnie Anderson is trying to get Kake added to a congressional emergency bill to fund replacement of the dam that broke in late July, leaving the town's 800 people without a predictable water supply.
"That would be one of the easiest ways for the state and community to get emergency funding," Anderson said.
In the meantime, town officials and business leaders are trying to get a temporary holding pool built alongside Gunnuck Creek before winter weather freezes the pumps and pipes currently carrying water directly from the creek to Kake.
"It will be exposed to floods and debris and ice. It won't make it through the winter," said Steve Andison, manager of Kake's nonprofit Gunnuck Creek Hatchery. "Whereas the community doesn't have a perception of emergency right now, it in fact is just around the corner."
Andison is helping the city get permits for the temporary holding facility. Without it, the 65 million salmon eggs incubating in the hatchery might not make it to spring, Andison said.
As they grow and develop, the young salmon need at least 900 gallons of water a minute pumped through their tanks.
"We're gambling on the notion that we'll get a stable, gravity-fed water system by winter," Andison said. "In the case of a dire emergency we'll have to choose which ones to turn the water off and let them die."
The state provided about $400,000 for the temporary water-holding area, which should get Kake through a few years, Andison said.
Another water project under way involves a pipeline from Alpine Lake. It should help when it is finished in February or March, Mayor Anderson said. The Alpine Lake pipeline was meant to supplement the dam with 15 million gallons a month, but it won't supply all the town's needs, said Anderson.
"With the operation of the cold storage, the hatchery, the whole schmear, we need just about a million (gallons a day)," Anderson said. "Especially in the fall when the fish processing business is going strong."
Anderson is seeking federal emergency funds to replace the punctured dam. The 50-year-old dam was damaged irreparably and is being removed to prevent further problems during heavy fall rains. Engineers estimate a new dam would cost about $7 million.
Anderson is confident Kake will find the water it needs.
"We've got our heels locked into the sand and we're determined to survive," he said.
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