Legislature(1997 - 1998)
04/23/1998 08:20 AM House FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL NO. 408 "An Act establishing the Alaska Seismic Hazards Safety Commission." REPRESENTATIVE JOHN DAVIES noted that Alaska needs to establish a Seismic Hazards Safety Commission to address a need it provide a consistent policy framework and a means for ongoing coordination of programs and public safety practices related to seismic hazards. Currently, the need is not being addressed by any State organization. The Seismic Hazards Safety Commission would encourage long-term progress toward mitigating the effects of earthquakes. Representative J. Davies continued, Alaska is on the edge of the Pacific Plate, which acts like a relentless conveyor belt, moving about six centimeters a year. It is inevitable that there will be large earthquakes. The only question is when will it occur, not if it will. Although, the State has made great improvements in disaster preparedness, there has been little corresponding improvement in measures to reduce dependence on disaster relief. Creating a seismic commission patterned after those in California, Oregon, Washington and other states on major fault lines will help address the issue. Representative J. Davies pointed out that the scientific community is working hard on earthquake predication, but is not yet a reality, except in the most general sense. Alaska needs to mitigate possible effects of earthquakes by encouraging appropriate land use and building design which can reduce loss of life and property, as well as the costs of recovery when earthquakes occur. He stressed that it costs a lot of money to rebuild after a large earthquake and, of course, there is no way to replace lost lives. It is clearly worth spending some time and money before an earthquake occurs. The Commission would help the State be better prepared. Representative J. Davies distributed a map showing the top ten quakes in the world between 1904 and 1992. [Copy on File]. Of the ten largest earthquakes, three of them have occurred in Alaska. He stressed that this is earthquake country. Most other states have seismic safety commissions except Alaska. [Copy on File]. Representative Kelly asked how this information would be gathered. Representative J. Davies replied that the group would try to assemble and assess information that is relevant to earthquake regions. Representative Martin questioned what more information is available besides the expertise already existing. Representative J. Davies explained that the question is, do cost-effective measures exist which could reduce the effects of quakes on the population. At this time, Alaska does not know what research is available and should be considered. The proposed commission could facilitate that information and transfer it to municipal building codes and land use plans. He summarized that there needs to be a bridging between the research realms and the building community. Co-Chair Therriault voiced concern with the proposed size of the commission. He MOVED an amendment to reduce the size from "11" to "9" members, 4 of which would be from the general public and with 6 members constituting a quorum. The rotation of seats would also need to be shifted, so that 3 seats would be two years, 3 seats would be four years, and the others would fall into the normal three-year pattern shift. There being NO OBJECTION, the change was adopted. Representative G. Davis asked how often the group would meet. Representative J. Davies replied they would meet 4 times a year as specified in the fiscal note. Representative G. Davis noted that he had a philosophical problem with forming another commission and believed that a group meeting that many times a year was excessive. Co- Chair Therriault pointed out that there was a sunset and that the commission would need to make progress on establishing these codes and measures. Representative J. Davies advised that two of the scheduled meetings would be by teleconferencing. Representative Kelly agreed that this was an important matter and he supported the concern. Co-Chair Therriault advised that the fiscal note would need to be recalculated in order to reflect the two less members on the commission. Representative J. Davies stated that there should only be one fiscal note originating from the Office of the Governor. Representative Mulder MOVED to report CS HB 408 (FIN) out of Committee with individual recommendations and with the revised fiscal note. There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered. CS HB 408 (FIN) was reported out of Committee with a "do pass" recommendation and with a fiscal note by the Office of the Governor. (Tape Change HFC 98- 121, Side 2).