Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, speaks in favor of HB 143 during a House session on Monday. Rep. Muñoz's bill allows the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority to issue $120 million in low-interest loans to the backers of the Sweetheart Lake Hydroelectric Project. The bill passed 36-0.

Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, speaks in favor of HB 143 during a House session on Monday. Rep. Muñoz's bill allows the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority to issue $120 million in low-interest loans to the backers of the Sweetheart Lake Hydroelectric Project. The bill passed 36-0.

House votes for Sweetheart Lake funding

The Alaska House has voted 36-0 to allow the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority to issue $120 million in low-interest loans to the backers of the Sweetheart Lake Hydroelectric Project. Four members were absent.

House Bill 143, brought forward by Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, now goes to the Senate, where it will receive a hearing in the Senate Special Committee on Energy at 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

The Sweetheart Lake Hydroelectric Project envisions an 111-foot-tall concrete dam generating 19.8 megawatts of electricity at a lake southeast of Juneau.

Overland and undersea cables would connect the powerhouse to existing transmission lines that link Juneau and the Snettisham Hydroelectric Project.

Electricity from the project would power Kensington gold mine and a new “district heating” system for downtown Juneau.

The bill does not formally allocate money; it instead gives the AIDEA board of directors permission to loan dam builders $120 million if the board approves.

“Affordable energy is a keystone of a healthy and sustainable economy,” Muñoz said in a statement. “This bill would create jobs, provide clean, effective and affordable energy, and diversify our economy by helping to offset the high energy costs to industries such as mining and tourism.”

The bill was in the sole item on the House agenda Monday. In the Senate, lawmakers voted 17-0 to approve House Bill 175, naming Nov. 1 “Military Family Day” in Alaska. Three members were absent.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, passed the House on Jan. 25.

A Senate resolution calling for any Legislative special session to be held in the Railbelt (if a special session is needed this year) is expected to face a vote Wednesday, when the House and Senate hold their next floor sessions.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com.

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