PUBLISHED: 5:16 PM on Wednesday, May 7, 2008
The avalanche is an opportunity
The avalanche that has taken cheap power from the people of Juneau for many may seem to be a cataclysm. With the power costs skyrocketing by 500 percent, it may very well bring many residents to their financial knees.

But, maybe we should look at this as an opportunity. Unless something like this happens, it's difficult to effect change. Status quo is something that has its own inertia and can be very hard to dislodge.

AEL&P's power lines coming from the Snettisham have always been ripe for avalanche damage. Just because we have lucked out up to now does not mean that the risk was not there.

The fact that they did not insure themselves by setting aside enough funding to meet a disaster of this magnitude shows a certain level of managerial arrogance on their part. As with all large companies I'm sure they felt they could somehow dodge their responsibility by getting funds from the public that they serve and/or possibly the state or federal government. From what I have read in the news that is exactly what they are planning.

When discussions with AEL&P experts concerning other alternative power generation options are made, such as wind or tidal power generation, the quick answer is "we have thought about it but its too expensive" or "this area doesn't meet the optimal minimum standards."

With diesel prices as they are, I'd say that we need to reevaluate those options. We won't be able to change the situation right now but maybe the next time our power is cut off we will have something a bit cheaper as a backup.

Southeast Alaska was built on the successes of great engineers. The Treadwell mine, the original Douglas Bridge, the Skagway train, etc., are examples. The list goes on and on. It's time for our engineers to step up and deliver again.

Those power lines should not be put back up on towers. Either put them under ground or in the sea. Also, we need a back up power generation that won't bankrupt the users every time it's brought into use.

Finally, we, the people of Juneau, need to consider whether or not we should be so dependent on a utility company.

We should look into personal power generation and sell what we don't use back to the utility company. When a new house is being built, maybe some sort of built in power generation should be standard.

Before we purchase another appliance, we should ask ourselves whether we really need the additional power load.

If the public begins to move in that direction the manufactures will do so also. A good example is the construction industry. How many ads have you seen that point out some new tool runs on a long-lasting battery? Why not small household appliances? Think about it.

Maybe its time for the public to demand real changes in the way we receive and use electrical power.

Jack Marshall supervises distribution of the CCW and has lived in Alaska for more than 30 years.