Borough will apply for state loan toward new water treatment plant

The borough assembly has approved applying for a $3.8 million loan from the state to fund construction of a new water treatment plant, estimated to cost nearly $15.4 million.

The borough has nearly $11.1 million in funding from two federal grants and one federal loan, leaving a shortfall of $4.3 million, according to information presented to the assembly for its April 26 meeting.

The assembly approved seeking a loan from the Alaska Drinking Water Fund, to be paid back over 20 years. It would cover construction of a new building to house what’s called a DAF (dissolved air floatation) system to filter the water supply, as well as reusing the existing buildings to serve and support the new system. “It’s a mixture of both,” Capital Facilities Director Amber Al-Haddad said of the plant construction Monday.

The project also includes adding a generator at the site and “a lot of pipework” will need to be done, she said last Thursday.

The low-interest loan program is administered by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

In addition to the loan, Al-Haddad said her department is planning to go after a grant from the Denali Commission, a federal agency based in Anchorage that provides infrastructure and utilities funding to communities statewide.

The commission has $10 million available for new infrastructure projects, she said. Wrangell would be eligible to apply for up to $2 million for its project.

Al-Haddad said the borough also plans to apply for additional federal funding from the Economic Development Agency and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“We’re hopeful for the Denali (Commission) option. It’s a grant, not a loan, and it could serve as match to any additional grant,” she said.

The $15.4 million water treatment plant price tag includes $1.1 million for the design by DOWL, an Anchorage-based engineering consultant.

Al-Haddad last Thursday said the design phase will be about one-third completed by the end of this month, two-thirds done by the end of summer, and 95% complete in January 2023.

“You start chipping away at things, and start getting more and more refined,” she said. “There are still some fairly significant components that we are trying to make decisions on that will dictate or inform the rest of the design process.”

For example, she said, what to do with the backwash — the waste that is left over from the filtration process — and how best to get it to the wastewater treatment plant.

Capital Facilities has done some site work with geotechnical engineers surveying “exactly where we’re going to put the (new) building. How much rock excavation will be needed. We have a conceptual design, and now it’s getting more and more specific.”

Another logistical issue, Al-Haddad said, is the chemical treatment process. “How shipping those materials and storing is going to go. How it’s going to make a difference. Trying to figure out bigger picture details here now, that way we can have a more refined design as we move forward.”


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