|Phil Steyer, from Chugach Electric Association addresses a meeting of the Chugach Electric, US Forest Service and the Hope and Sunrise Community. The April 12 meeeting was held to discuss problems with electrical service to the area.|
The long-awaited meeting between Chugach Electric Association, the US Forest Service (USFS) and residents of Hope and Sunrise met together on April 12 at the Hope Social Hall to discuss the problems of providing electrical service to the communities of Hope and Sunrise. Spokesman Phil Steyer led Chugach’s presentation. While Bill Bernier, Director of Operations and Edward Jenkin, P.E. Director, Engineering Services Divi-sion, New Construction made up the rest of the team providing answers to technical questions related to Hope’s power problems. Also attending this meeting, Jenny Evans, new District Ranger stationed in Seward, Nicole Longfellow, a Fuel Specialist, and Mark Kormey who administrates permits and is the forester technician represented the USFS. After Chugach’s presentation, those folks were available for questions related to the USFS support of the powerline improvements.
Originally Chugach Elec-tric began providing electrical power to Hope and Sunrise in 1967. During the 17.7 miles of line into Hope, the powerline crosses several properties. These lands include the State of Alaska-DOT, USFS, Kenai Peninsula Borough and privately owned lands. The original line passed through right-of-way land generally between 20 and 40 feet wide. The line is difficult to access and examine for damage, much of it must be walked or hiked, often during heavy snow conditions making it hazardous to Chugach’s employees.
The cost to provide electricity to Hope and Sunrise, between December and the end of January was $638,000. The annual revenue generated from the two communities is only $210,000. It is estimated that there is $345,000 still needed for repairs just to the damaged part of the powerline that occurred this past winter. That cost does not include expenses for additional long-term improvements. In addition to these costs, there was over 1,800 hours of overtime logged by Chugach employees working to get power restored to Hope and Sunrise.
With the increased number of beetle killed spruce trees outside of the right-of-way cleared land, the tall dead trees uphill, easily fall into the powerline. This creates hazards beyond just power outages; the downed tree, along with live wires, creates a major fire hazard. Knowing that this was an ongoing and serious problem, which would require possible removal of many dead trees, Chugach Electrical provided a report for a grant application of $500,000 to the Denali Commision in Jan. 2006. This application was submitted nearly a year before all the outages was experienced this winter. A copy of this report is available at the Hope Library for anyone who would like to read it. Copies of this report were handed out to residents attending the meeting.
The report highlights a combination of unique problems along the Hope powerline. The line has been divided into four different sections. Section 1 is located from the Hope Substation to mile 1.7 of the Hope Highway. This area is the most dangerous as the line crosses several avalanche chutes and is the most difficult to service and repair. Chugach would like, with the permission of the USFS, to relocate and to bury that portion of the line. Section 2 runs from mile 1.7 to mile 5.5, Section 3 runs from mile 5.5 to mile 10 and Section 4 runs from mile 10 into Hope.
Chugach is partnering with the US Forest Service for the removal of what is known as “danger trees.” Chugach will provide the qualified tree removal personnel to cut down these trees and the USFS will provide assistance to remove downed timber and will burn the debris in the fall. This 2007 project will be located near mile 11 and will be approximately a 1/3 of a mile. Chugach expects to cut 80 danger trees in this area alone. This will be an ongoing project along most of the powerline route and require several years to complete.
Permanent-ready generator sites will be built in Hope and in Sunrise. In Hope, Chugach is requesting the Kenai Borough to release a very small piece of land to use or to buy, which would allow access to the generator site. Chugach expects this request will appear before Hope’s APC board sometime in the near future and Chugach is requesting that Hope residents support this request for land because currently they have to trespass on private land to reach the Hope generator site.
The site in Hope provides the best location for emergency power to the community. Once both sites are finished, it will be much easier to slide a generator onto the pad for emergency power, and it will be safer for employees and a faster set up once the generator has been brought into Hope. Chugach will remove the two temporary generators this spring at an estimated cost of $195,000.
Many residents of Hope and Sunrise are asking what they can do to help with the situation. Letters to representatives and to Governor Palin requesting their support is one avenue. In addition, several State and private grant applications have been submitted for help with these needed funds.
In closing, Phil Steyer, expressed his appreciation for the Hope residents’ positive support shown to the Chugach employees as they worked in the community. It helped to make a tough job a bit easier when they knew they were appreciated for their work, he told the audience.
Hope Inc. will meet Saturday April 21 7 p.m. at the Hope Social Hall. Old business will include location for Hope’s voting poll location, the purchase of Social Hall land and other lots, and the use of the grant money.
New businesses will include the Kenai Borough’s land disposal and planning of a spring community potluck. Other items can be added to the agenda posted at the Hope Post Office and other locations. There will be refreshments. Please plan to attend, as a quorum is needed to vote on several issues.
Hope Library’s annual board meeting will be held Saturday April 28 at 11 a.m. at the library. Election of new officers will be conducted. The library is looking for volunteers for both the library and the library gift shop. A list of new books and other media material is posted in several locations in Hope. In addition, there is a sign-up sheet for books to be purchased. Plans for the summer will be an important topic and bring your ideas for fundraisers for the library. All are welcome to attend.
Recently, Valerie DeFrance asked for a “thank you” be expressed to the Hope and Sunrise residents, “because of the town’s kind and generous support.” Valerie said she was overwhelmed by and very grateful for, allowing her to afford a nice grave-marker, which she plans to place in the Hope cemetery when she buries her husband, Ray’s ashes in the spring.
Beginning the week of April 9, the Hope School students in grades 4 through 8 are traveling to Kenai once a week for five weeks to attend the “Star Base” program at the Challenger Space Center. The program is focusing on rockets and comets. It is a great learning opportunity and covers many of their science curriculums. The Kenai School District is providing the transportation for the Hope students. The month of May will be a busy one for the school. Look for more information in the next issue.
Wednesday morning at the Hope Christian Church, a free breakfast will be provided to anyone in the community who would like to attend. Doors of the church will open every Wed. morning at 8:30 a.m. for coffee, with breakfast served from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
The Food Bank pantry provides basic food provisions to those members of our community that may have a need. The food bank is open after breakfast to 11 a.m. For information contact either of the Burgins at 782-1002.