Agreement Forged To Work On Issues Facing Town Of Stehekin
Chelan County is looking to address the needs of Stehekin, which is a remote town at the north end of Lake Chelan that can only be accessed by boat.
The town is facing numerous issues, including flooding, loss of private property, fires and the possible loss of power.
County Commissioner Tiffany Gering says a trip last week to the town provided a breakthrough after residents were initially concerned over talk of economic development.
"They were really nervous that we were coming up there to tell them, 'We have a plan for your future and these are your options, choose one.'" said Gering. "They were really concerned."
Gering said the meeting with Stehekin residents turned much more positive when it was explained that they would play a major role in coming up with a plan for the town.
She brought together the meeting of the county’s Natural Resources Department, Sheriff’s Office and Economic Services Director with Chelan PUD and the National Park Service to tour several facilities and locations in Stehekin.
Gering says there's an agreement between the county, the PUD and Parks Service they'll need to work together to help Stehekin prosper.
"When you have the Parks Service and the PUD, they're both committed," Gering said. "The board here has been committed for a long time to making some changes in Stehekin. It's so critical to have everyone moving in the same direction."
Stehekin is located inside the North Cascades National Park.
The community's 100 or so residents didn't have telephone service until 2007, and it won’t be getting cell service as it is also inside the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, where cell towers are federally prohibited.
Other concerns in the Stehekin community are the upper Stehekin Valley Road, forest health, garbage collection, emergency response and housing for seasonal employees.
County spokesperson Jill FitzSimmons was part of the group taking the trip to the town last Thursday and Friday, and said it was likely the best community meeting that she’s been part of in eight years working for the county.
Thirty-two of the 80 or so adults who live in Stehekin attended the meeting, and after agreeing on the terms “prosperity” and “strategic plan” to describe what’s needed, agreed they want to move forward on a plan for the town.
Next steps include the county leading an effort to hire a consultant who will help in a community-led process of determining what Stehekin needs to prosper in the future.
FitzSimmons said between five and seven community members would be involved in selecting the consultant.
Meanwhile, there are several reasons why Stehekin could run out of power in 2024. The power is supplied by a 1960's era 180 kW Hydroelectric Power Plant.
According to reporting by NewsData, some part-time residents have started using Airbnb and similar platforms to rent out their properties. Others have jumped on the shift to remote work and become full-time residents as satellite dishes have enabled internet service in the area.
There also has been a small uptick in commercial activity in the town.
NewsData reports any solution to the power shortage will likely cost more than it would on the rest the PUD's grid because of the town's remote location and the fact that it sits on federally protected land
The PUD has also been working with the National Park Service to keep Stehekin's lights on after 2024.