Wrangell awarded $2 million federal funding for upper reservoir project

Federal help for Wrangell’s ailing water delivery system will soon be flowing down the pipeline.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski announced on Friday that the borough would be among the communities sharing in $230 million directed to Alaska projects in the $1.5 trillion federal budget bill sent to the president for signature into law.

Wrangell will be receiving $2.08 million to build a pipeline connection between the upper reservoir and water treatment plant.

“Currently, we can only draw water off the lower reservoir,” said Tom Wetor, public works director. “If we ever want to do maintenance on the lower reservoir or the dam or if we were ever cut off from that for any reason, we have no way of getting water from the upper reservoir.”

Water from the upper reservoir currently is siphoned into the lower reservoir by way of a ditch system, but isn’t directly connected to the water treatment plant, according to Capital Facilities Director Amber Al-Haddad. The borough has been working with Shannon and Wilson, a geotechnical engineering firm based in Anchorage. The design phase is about 95% complete, she said.

“This is one of the priorities we submitted to Sen. Murkowski and Congressman (Don) Young for the federal appropriations they were looking for input on,” Al-Haddad said. “They were looking at projects to the tune of $3 million and under.”

The $2.08 million grant will cover “about 75% to 80%” of the overall project costs, so the borough will need to commit the remainder, she said.

Finance Director Mason Villarma said the additional funding is already in place to finish the project.

“In addition to the appropriation from the legislature, we have $380,387 in grant funding remaining from our 2016 (Department of Environmental Conservation) reservoir bypass grant (initially $615,000),” Villarma said. “That puts us within spitting distance of our total projected project cost. Any gap in funding will likely be covered through reserves.”

In addition to funding projects nationwide, the federal spending bill covers agency operations and programs through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. The measure passed the Senate 68-31 last Thursday.

While Murkowski voted yes, Alaska’s other senator, Dan Sullivan, voted no, saying the process was rushed. Rep. Young voted yes when the 2,700-page measure passed the House a day before Senate action.

Other Southeast projects in the spending bill include:

• $8 million toward construction of a new hospital in Petersburg.

• $2 million to Southeast Conference to help establish a pilot program for electric ferries.

• $236,000 to Women in Safe Homes (WISH) to support final stages of construction of the WISH shelter in Ketchikan, which also serves Wrangell.

• $540,000 to provide the Metlakatla Indian Community with an emergency backup generator.

• Sealaska Heritage Institute: $500,000 to help support the Kootéeya Deiyi project, which will create a trail of totem poles and storyboards representing Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian clans along the Juneau waterfront. “The project is expected to help increase economic development while highlighting and preserving Native art and culture,” Murkowski’s office said.

• $780,000 to improve solid waste management, including using a shredder to reduce the volume of trash in Metlakatla.

• $10.2 million to expand capacity at Skagway's wastewater treatment plant, which has recently experienced capacity difficulties due to increased use.


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