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Southeast waste disposal plan differs from that of Juneau

Communities tread new ground to create authority structure

Posted: Thursday, December 24, 2009

Southeast Alaska's plans for waste disposal are moving along, and so are Juneau's - though there's currently no indication those two plans might be in the same direction.

Craig, Petersburg, Thorne Bay and Wrangell voted in their Oct. 6 elections to create the Southeast Alaska Solid Waste Authority.

Since then, those communities have appointed one board member each to the authority, which will hold its first meeting Jan. 12.

"We've been working on this for more than a couple of years," Craig city administrator Jon Bolling said in a recent interview. "The goal is to create this authority structure through which communities can work on options for solid waste disposal in Southeast Alaska. ... We're treading new ground here. We don't have an example to follow, so we're going to be moving ahead very deliberately to make sure the board understands the powers and structures of the authority."

Karl Hagerman, board member from Petersburg where he serves as the city's public works director, said the board is still in the stages of formation and will be discussing its goals and future direction at its January meeting.

After that, it will be discussing possible solutions and trying to recruit other communities, he said.

Some of those possibilities are continuing to ship solid waste - the current modus operandi for many small Southeast communities - or establishing a disposal facility in Southeast Alaska.

According to a 2006 Southeast Conference report, Ketchikan, Craig, Klawock, Petersburg, Sitka and Wrangell ship about 23,000 tons of garbage per year to Washington.

Juneau's annual waste stream of about 33,000 tons a year, deposited at its landfill, represents a large portion of Southeast Alaska's.

Hagerman said Juneau is a "huge factor in the solid waste situation in the region."

"In the solid waste world, volume is key," he said, adding that board members are still hopeful Juneau will get involved.

Juneau is not currently participating in the authority and has not provided any indication of being interested in doing so, though it's keeping the possibility open, said Assembly member and conference liaison Bob Doll.

So far to date, the authority has received about $125,000 in funding - $100,000 from the Denali Commission and the rest from other Southeast communities, including $5,000 from Juneau. It has requested $125,000 in matching funds from the Legislature to be used over the next three years.

Doll said municipalities that have contributed money toward the authority will have an opportunity to participate in future deliberations, even if they don't have a member on the board.

"At some point, I would expect our interest in doing that will fade, perhaps as we come up with our own methods for dealing with solid waste," Doll said. "But for the immediate future, what in effect happens is that we hold open the potential of participation."

Juneau is currently working on its own solid waste solution, having recently hired a solid waste coordinator and sketched out a timeline for steps over the next year.

Solid waste in Juneau will be the topic of an Assembly work committee meeting Monday.

• Contact reporter Mary Catharine Martin at 523-2276 or maryc.martin@juneauempire.com.



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