On October 1, 2019, the citizens of Ketchikan will be asked to approve a Revenue Bond Measure, Proposition 3, to pay for the much needed replacement of Ketchikan’s important water supply lines which are located in the Schoenbar Road/Bear Valley area.
The main transmission/supply and distribution water lines have not been replaced for nearly 30 years and have started to fail. An example of a failure was the water main break and resulting sinkhole that occurred in July of this year along Schoenbar Road. It is vitally important that these lines be replaced so that Ketchikan’s drinking water supply is not interrupted and our roads and sidewalks are safe for vehicle and pedestrian traffic These lines are the primary water supply transmission system for the entire City of Ketchikan. The proposed work would be done on both main supply (transmission) lines as well as distribution lines in that area.
Why does there need to be a Water Revenue Bond Vote?
KPU Water is owned by the City of Ketchikan. The City Charter requires voter approval before a revenue bond can be issued. This means that, unlike private businesses that can take all the loans they need, municipally owned utilities must get all debt loans pre-approved by voters before applying.
How much will the community water line replacement project cost?
The maximum bond amount for this water main project will be $5 million.
How will the Water Revenue Bond be paid?
The payment of the Revenue Bond will come from KPU Water fees. Funding to repay the bond will NOT be from taxes. There is a possibility that water fees will increase with the projects but any proposed fee increase would be partially offset by lower maintenance costs. The fee increase would not be all at once; any increase would only come when a particular replacement project was begun.
The maximum amount that a resident would see their bill increase by would be 8.8% or $5.10 per month.
What If the Water Lines are not replaced?
If the lines are not replaced in the immediate future and one fails or breaks, the community will be faced with an expensive emergency repair job. As we have recently seen, the loss of a drinking water main can result in washed out and damaged roads, as high pressure water is released. Breaks lead to an extended loss of water to area businesses, homes, and schools.
The loss of a water supply/transmission line could jeopardize the ability to supply clean drinking water, and could require the issuance of a “Boil Water Notice” to the entire community. Water users would then need to boil the water before drinking it. This would continue until the pipe was repaired, the entire distribution system was adequately disinfected and flushed, and a set of satisfactory total coliform (bacteria) sampling results were reviewed and approved by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC).
What does “failure” mean?
The very old water pipes are deteriorating, developing holes, and leaking water. The leaking high pressure water can then cause severe damage to the road and surrounding area. These leaks must then be quickly fixed with an expensive emergency excavation. Combining the deterioration with the high pressure water inside means that continued breaks in the water lines is inevitable, if not replaced. The voters are being asked to choose between financing the cost of replacing the failed water lines with low interest loans, currently at 1.5%, or continuing to incur the cost of expensive emergency repairs. Fixing the last leak by emergency repair in July 2019 cost in excess of $125,000.
The plan is to replace the portion of the water supply/transmission line that has been failing, which serves the entire community, as well as the water distribution mains serving the Bear Valley area, including Schoenbar, TSAS, the Charter School, the Rec and Aquatic Center, and the many homes in the area.