Elected officials in Petersburg and Wrangell are deciding this winter what to do with a joint seven-person commission that used to oversee the day-to-day operations of a hydro-electric power plant in central Southeast.

The Thomas Bay Power Commission until last year was in charge of the Tyee Lake plant that provides electricity to Wrangell, Petersburg and Ketchikan. In August, the operations of that facility were transferred to the plant’s owner, the Ketchikan based Southeast Alaska Power Agency (SEAPA). As a result, Wrangell and Petersburg are considering ordinances to change that Thomas Bay commission to an advisory committee.

At a meeting of the Petersburg assembly Monday, vice mayor Cindi Lagoudakis read from an ordinance that would create a seven-person advisory committee. “As you may remember the Thomas Bay Power Authority went away when SEAPA took over the operation and maintenance of Tyee,” she said. “However we want to retain an advisory committee.”

The appointed committee could be activated by the two borough assemblies when needed. It would be advisory only, and would make recommendations on improvements to the Tyee Lake project, or new energy projects in the area. Meetings would alternate between the two communities.

The Tyee Lake hydro electric plant's penstock runs into the mountainside on the mainland at Bradfield Canal near Wrangell. (Photo from seapahydro.org)

The Tyee Lake hydro electric plant’s penstock runs into the mountainside on the mainland at Bradfield Canal near Wrangell. (Photo from seapahydro.org)

The old Thomas Bay Power Commission held monthly meetings and was tasked with complete supervision of the hydro plant at Tyee Lake. That meant approving a budget and hiring staff for an office in Wrangell. The Thomas Bay Power Authority also had the power to purchase land for power projects and taking on debt for improvements.

Petersburg’s assembly in 2013 voted not to pay its share of the Thomas Bay administration budget, forcing the issue of whether that organization should continue. Since then, the two communities agreed to the operations transfer. The move was designed to eliminate a layer of local government oversight, streamline some of the decision making process and eliminate some redundancy. Some of the same people who have served on the Thomas Bay commission also serve on the board of directors for the Southeast Alaska Power Agency.

The Petersburg assembly will be voting on the committee status change later this winter. It will also require an amendment to borough’s charter along with a public vote.