Ongoing drought conditions mean Ketchikan could be renting backup generators through the fall

Ketchikan before sunrise in 2007 (Creative Commons photo by traveler7001)

Managers at Ketchikan’s city-owned electric utility expect they will need to continue renting backup diesel generators through fall.

In a memo, Ketchikan Public Utilities Electric Division System Engineer Jeremy Bynum writes that the four rented generators likely will be needed at least until October. The diesel generators are in place because of ongoing drought conditions limiting access to hydroelectric power.

Renting the four generators through October will cost an additional $527,000, Bynum writes. The Ketchikan City Council is scheduled to vote on that expense during its regular meeting on Thursday. The funding would come from the public utility’s reserves.

If approved, the total amount KPU will spend on renting diesel generators will be about $1.3 million. The utility first rented additional backup generators last fall. KPU also owns some backup diesel generators.

Bynum wrote in a separate memo that the utility’s operations plan aims to maximize the use of hydropower while still protecting lake levels, in order to use as little expensive diesel as possible. But, less rain than usual and a thin snow pack mean lake levels remain low.

Also Thursday, the council will discuss whether to join and maybe help fund the Ketchikan Gateway Borough’s planned Community Tourism Strategy Project.

The borough has set aside about $80,000 for that project, which would focus on sustainable tourism, a well-trained workforce, neighborhood plans for tourism destinations, and reducing conflicts between the visitor industry and residents.

Thursday’s council meeting starts at 7 p.m. in city council chambers at City Hall. Public comment will be heard at the start of the meeting.

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