Chelan County is ramping up its efforts to assist the residents of Stehekin with several critical needs for the years ahead.

The rural town of little more than 100 residents, which is located about 45 miles northwest of Chelan and only accessible by lengthy hike or boat, is facing numerous infrastructural challenges as it heads further into the 21st century.

Chelan County Commissioner Tiffany Gering says one of those challenges is related to electrical service.

"The last time we (commissioners) were up there we toured the (Chelan County) PUD's facilities and, quite honestly, they're very old. So I think that new equipment needs to be taken up there but we also need to look at some potential alternative solutions, such as looking at if we need to implement some solar power up there."

Gering describes the current power grid that serves Stehekin as being "stressed" and adds that as more and more tourists visit the town each year, the demand for electricity is greatly outweighing the current system's capabilities.

Another issue that's facing the small community is its shrinking footprint on the landscape.

Since the town is located within a national park (North Cascades), much of the land surrounding it is federally owned. Gering says that means that on rare occasions when privately-held parcels do go up for sale, the government has an unfair financial advantage in purchasing them.

"Often times, whenever land becomes available, the (U.S. National) Park Service will buy it and the people of Stehekin aren't able to compete with the prices that the Park Service can pay. So the land then goes into public ownership and continues to decrease the amount of private land in Stehekin."

Gering says there's only about 400 acres of privately-owned land remaining in Stehekin.

Another continuing problem for the town is its lack of accessibility by road, which was greatly impacted when Upper Stehekin Valley Road was completely washed out twenty years ago.

In the two decades since, a bitter debate has been waged by opponents of rebuilding the road who say it would have a negative impact on the environment, and proponents of the restoration who believe reconnecting the community by terrestrial means is too important to ignore.

The County is in the process of trying to form a committee made up of both permanent residents and seasonal business owners in the town to work with a consultant on solving some of its looming issues.

A community meeting is being held in Stehekin to start a preliminary dialogue between its townspeople and the County next Tuesday, Sept. 26 from 3 - 5 p.m. at the Stehekin Town Hall.

The County will also host another meeting the following day (Sept. 27) from 9 - 10 a.m. at the Stehekin Pastry Company.

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