Letter to the Editor: Saluting Hydropower

I want to congratulate the City and Borough of Sitka on successfully finishing the Blue Lake Dam expansion project. I wish I could be there this week to celebrate with you, but I trust you will have a wonderful dedication ceremony.                                                     

I toured the Blue Lake site many years ago and saw its potential to provide clean, stable, and affordable energy for Sitka residents. Like many, I had high hopes for this development to one day deliver lower energy prices – something that has long been an obstacle to growth.

Expanding the Blue Lake project was no small undertaking. I commend Sitka’s leaders for taking such progressive steps and seeing the project through to the end. The walls of the Blue Lake Dam were originally set to be raised a total of 23 feet to increase the capacity of the reservoir, but in true Alaska fashion you pushed the envelope to a height of 83 feet. Raising the walls and installing three new turbines increases the generating capacity of the Blue Lake Dam more than 27 percent.

Years of planning, hard work, and determination made this project a reality. Just this last fall, I had the opportunity to get a bird’s eye view (literally) of the project under construction with Mayor Mim McConnell, Sitka utility manager Chris Brewton, and others as it inched closer to completion. As I dangled in a basket, held only by a cable attached to the largest crane ever to arrive in Alaska, suspended over the project more than 650 feet high, I was in awe of the breathtaking panoramic view. I’m grateful for the amazing opportunity to see your vision, a construction feat, and environmental gem come to life just like it was described to me years ago.

Blue Lake serves as an important example of why Alaskans should continue to advocate for building environmentally responsible hydroelectric projects. It is fish-friendly, clean, and renewable power. Between the Blue Lake and Green Lake projects, the majority of Sitka’s electrical energy is now supplied from renewable sources. That’s an impressive feat. Southeast Alaska has long been a true leader in hydropower generation and Sitka is certainly leading that charge. 

Hydropower provides a renewable, reliable, and inexpensive energy source that reduces greenhouse gases. In order to meet Alaska’s goal of obtaining 50 percent of our electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025, we will all need to strive to do more to follow Sitka’s example.