Chugach Electric says repairs will help with Cooper Landing outages

Oct 19, 2021

The Sunrise Inn in had to close several times this summer due to power outages.
Credit Sabine Poux/KDLL

Residents say there have been more power outages in Cooper Landing and Moose Pass this year. The local utility, Chugach Electric, says it’s working on the problem as part of a regular capital improvement project.

Arden Rankins hopes those repairs help. She owns Sunrise Inn on the Sterling Highway and said she had to close several times when the power went out this summer.

“We need power," she said. "We’re not asking for any more than we’re paying for.”

There are several reasons for the uptick in outages in Cooper Landing.

One is aging equipment, said Julie Hasquet, senior manager of corporate communications for Chugach.

“We recognize that some of the equipment down there is old and, as we say, nearing the end of its useful life," Hasquet said. "So we have plans to come down and reconstruct some things that will, in the end, improve reliability for that area.”

Hasquet said the timing of the project worked out, since the utility was gearing up for an equipment upgrade this year anyway.

But there are other reasons for the more frequent outages, too, like falling spruce trees — collateral damage from the ongoing spruce bark beetle outbreak in Southcentral Alaska. Last November, trees fell on Chugach and TelAlaska lines and triggered days-long outages in phone and internet service. Chugach has a program to remove trees from easements to preempt outages and fire risk.

Rankins said she understands there are a lot of factors at play. Still, she said it’s frustrating to close her business during blackouts when she’s paying a $2,500 electricity bill each month. 

“It’s a catch-22," she said. "We know we live in the mountains. I know there’s so many dead spruce trees. But I kind of get frustrated and almost wish I could take what it costs me off my Chugach Electric bill every month.”

Chugach Electric used to have crews in Cooper Landing, which could respond to outages within an hour. Now, the utility sends crews from its headquarters in Anchorage.

For this year’s upgrades, it's working with crews from Alaska Line Builders to reconstruct four miles of a transmission line.

While doing repairs in the mountains in the winter adds some challenges, Hasquet said Chugach tries to avoid interfering with the area’s tourist season.

“For this particular project, construction is scheduled to be complete by the end of the year," she said.

Hasquet said Chugach will try to keep the line energized throughout repairs. She said there will be occasional planned outages, including one in Cooper Landing today (Oct. 19), from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Rankins said she’s optimistic about the construction. She has crewmembers from Alaska Line Builders staying at her home while they’re working.

“I think with the line crew there, that has to make a difference," she said. "But we used to have two linemen that did live in Cooper Landing. And I don’t think it’s going to ever get as good as it was then until we get actual people down there that live there that can go right out there and fix the problem.”

In the meantime, she said she’s contemplating buying another generator for her business so she can host locals if the power fails again this winter.

Chugach Electric is holding a meeting for its members in Cooper Landing and Moose Pass on Nov. 4 at 6 p.m. at the Cooper Landing Community Club. Masks and social distancing will be encouraged, and there will be an option for people to call in, as well.

  • Teleconference: (907) 762-4185 or (844) 252-4224
  • Participant code: 030-1807