Chichagof residents divided over geothermal prospect
June 17, 2011
Robert Woolsey, KCAW-Radio:SITKA, ALASKA (2011-06-16) As communities brace to see which of this year’s state capital projects survive the governor’s veto pen, a proposed energy development on Chichagof Island is already generating controversy. Pegmatite Mountain is a geothermal site on the island. While it’s not yet known how much hot water there is, and how much electricity it could produce, proponents believe Pegmatite is ideally situated to serve three villages with this new, renewable, and relatively inexpensive form of power. The trouble is, Pegmatite – though green – is still development, and Chichagof Island residents are divided over whether the benefits are worth the risks to their remote lifestyle.
Electricty in Hoonah is diesel-generated, and currently goes for $.56 per kilowatt hour, about six times more than it costs Sitka, Juneau, or anyplace else in Southeast served by a hydro power. Although Hoonah’s residential electric customers see a discount due to the state’s power-cost equalization formula, businesses don’t.
Lifetime Hoonah resident and mayor Windy Skaflestad is unhappy about the changes he’s seen in Southeast villages.
“We’re fighting to keep the people here. Take a look at Angoon, Kake – people have left the town and gone to Juneau or elsewhere.”
Skaflestad has long advocated building a road across northern Chichagof Island to connect Hoonah with Pelican, whose small hydro plant has enough surplus energy to help Hoonah. Thirty-five land miles separate the two towns, about half the distance of the water route. Winter gales in Cross Sound also can sometimes isolate Pelican, and it may be three weeks between ferries. Hoonah’s ferry service is far more reliable, on inside waters all the way to the capital. Read more