Legislature(2011 - 2012)BARNES 124

03/13/2012 09:00 AM House COMMUNITY & REGIONAL AFFAIRS

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09:04:09 AM Start
09:04:27 AM HB362
09:57:22 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
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Heard & Held
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
    HOUSE COMMUNITY AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                   
                         March 13, 2012                                                                                         
                           9:04 a.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Representative Cathy Engstrom Munoz, Chair                                                                                      
Representative Neal Foster, Vice Chair                                                                                          
Representative Alan Austerman                                                                                                   
Representative Alan Dick                                                                                                        
Representative Dan Saddler                                                                                                      
Representative Sharon Cissna                                                                                                    
Representative Berta Gardner                                                                                                    
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
HOUSE BILL NO. 362                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to an Alaska Water and Sewer Task Force; and                                                                   
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
     - HEARD & HELD                                                                                                             
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
BILL: HB 362                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: WATER AND SEWER TASK FORCE                                                                                         
SPONSOR(s): COMMUNITY & REGIONAL AFFAIRS                                                                                        
03/02/12       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
03/02/12       (H)       CRA, FIN                                                                                               
03/13/12       (H)       CRA AT 9:00 AM BARNES 124                                                                              
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
PAUL LABOLLE, Staff                                                                                                             
Representative Foster                                                                                                           
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Presented HB 362 on behalf of the House                                                                  
Community and Regional Affairs Standing Committee, of which                                                                     
Representative Foster is the vice chair.                                                                                        
BILL GRIFFITH, Facilities Program Manager                                                                                       
Division of Water                                                                                                               
Department of Environmental Conservation                                                                                        
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION  STATEMENT:     During  hearing  of   HB  362,  answered                                                             
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
9:04:09 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  CATHY  ENGSTROM  MUNOZ  called  the  House  Community  and                                                             
Regional  Affairs Standing  Committee  meeting to  order at  9:04                                                               
a.m.     Representatives  Foster,  Austerman,   Saddler,  Cissna,                                                               
Gardner,  and   Munoz  were  present   at  the  call   to  order.                                                               
Representative Dick arrived as the meeting was in progress.                                                                     
               HB 362-WATER AND SEWER TASK FORCE                                                                            
9:04:27 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MUNOZ  announced that the  only order of business  would be                                                               
HOUSE  BILL NO.  362, "An  Act relating  to an  Alaska Water  and                                                               
Sewer Task Force; and providing for an effective date."                                                                         
9:04:37 AM                                                                                                                    
PAUL   LABOLLE,  Staff,   Representative  Foster,   Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature,  speaking  on  behalf  of the  House  Community  and                                                               
Regional  Affairs  Standing  Committee  of  which  Representative                                                               
Foster  is  the  vice  chair,  explained  that  HB  362  makes  a                                                               
declaration of legislative findings  and establishes a task force                                                               
to  address  those  findings.    Section  1  is  the  legislative                                                               
findings.   Section 2 has  three parts, including  subsection (b)                                                               
that details  the membership of  the task  force.  In  Section 2,                                                               
subsections (c)-(f) address the workings  of the task force while                                                               
subsection (g) delineates the tasks assigned to the task force.                                                                 
9:05:52 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. LABOLLE,  in response to Representative  Foster, reviewed the                                                               
membership of the nine-member task  force as follows:  one member                                                               
appointed by the  House Bush caucus, one member  appointed by the                                                               
Senate Bush caucus,  one member appointed by  the full membership                                                               
of the House, one member appointed  by the full membership of the                                                               
Senate,  a public  member who  is  a civil  engineer, one  member                                                               
appointed by  the Bush caucus  who represents a federal  agency -                                                               
ideally one that is involved with  the funding of water and sewer                                                               
projects, one member appointed by  the Bush caucus who represents                                                               
a state agency,  two public members appointed by  the Bush caucus                                                               
who live  in rural communities  that are  off the road  system or                                                               
the Alaska Marine Highway System.   He noted that the Bush caucus                                                               
is defined on page 3, lines 22-23, of HB 362.                                                                                   
9:07:39 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA asked if this  proposed task force is stage                                                               
one, step one.                                                                                                                  
MR.  LABOLLE stated  that  the  idea behind  this  concept is  to                                                               
proceed very fast.   In fact, the task force  will have less than                                                               
one year, essentially six months to  do its work.  The task force                                                               
is to report to the legislature  by January 2013 and will have to                                                               
have the report completed by  December 2012.  Mr. LaBolle related                                                               
that the task  force doesn't have to recreate the  wheel as there                                                               
is much information it can  utilize, such as previous legislative                                                               
audit  reports   and  information  from  the   Council  on  Rural                                                               
Sanitation under  Governor Tony  Knowles, DEC,  the Environmental                                                               
Protection  Agency (EPA),  and the  Alaska  Native Tribal  Health                                                               
Consortium (ANTHC).                                                                                                             
9:08:58 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   CISSNA   informed   the   committee   that   the                                                               
Legislative  Health  Caucus held  a  forum  entitled "Keeping  it                                                               
Clean", the information from which  she offered to make available                                                               
to the sponsor.   She indicated that Troy  Ritter's studies would                                                               
be helpful.   Representative Cissna emphasized  that although the                                                               
conditions  in   rural  Alaska   are  absolutely   shameful,  the                                                               
conditions   in   the   perimeters  of   communities,   including                                                               
Anchorage, are shameful as well.   She asked if any work has been                                                               
done  on the  perimeters  of communities  where  there is  unsafe                                                               
MR. LABOLLE  replied no, adding  that the primary focus  has been                                                               
to review  rural areas.  He  highlighted that the answers  to the                                                               
problems  in  rural  Alaska  versus  the  perimeters  of  [urban]                                                               
communities are  different.   For example,  the economy  of scale                                                               
issues aren't an issue for the  perimeter of Anchorage nor is the                                                               
issue of  access to an  infrastructure that works.   In Southwest                                                               
Alaska there is  permafrost ground in which pipe  can't be buried                                                               
nor  is there  infrastructure to  access.   Obtaining water  when                                                               
there isn't  a well  that's readily available  to drill  means it                                                               
has to be  obtained from the river, which has  its own sanitation                                                               
and particulate  issues that  have to be  addressed.   The issues                                                               
with obtaining water  from a river in a  rural environment aren't                                                               
really  the case  in an  urban environment.   Furthermore,  waste                                                               
disposal is a very different  animal for a rural situation versus                                                               
the availability of tying into an urban grid.                                                                                   
9:11:11 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA  referred to  the Commonwealth  North study                                                               
report  entitled "Energy  for a  Sustainable Alaska",  which ties                                                               
energy into  sewer and water.   Sanitation systems are  linked to                                                               
energy  because when  energy systems  fail so  do the  sanitation                                                               
systems, which  was evidenced  in her recent  trip to  the Yukon.                                                               
Representative Cissna stressed  the need for step two  to tie the                                                               
report of this proposed task force to a state energy plan.                                                                      
MR. LABOLLE directed  attention to the language on  page 3, lines                                                               
16-18,  which  directs  the  task   force  to  consult  with  the                                                               
appropriate  state and  federal agency  representatives regarding                                                               
how safe water  and sewer systems might be  more quickly provided                                                               
to  rural Alaska.    The expectation  is  that combining  [state]                                                               
water and sewer  projects with other state  and federal projects,                                                               
including   energy,  transportation,   and  school   construction                                                               
projects,  will afford  [the state]  the ability  to do  projects                                                               
faster, cheaper, and  better.  He noted that in  rural Alaska the                                                               
largest single  contract item is  almost always  mobilization and                                                               
demobilization.    Therefore,   combining  state  projects  would                                                               
achieve economies of scale on that large ticket item.                                                                           
9:13:17 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARDNER echoed  Representative Cissna's  comments                                                               
regarding  the  scandalous  situation  that  exists  in  many  of                                                               
Alaska's  rural communities,  which she  opined is  unacceptable.                                                               
Although she said that she's generally  not a fan of task forces,                                                               
in this case she said she  was comforted by the list of resources                                                               
the proposed task force will use  as well as the tight timelines.                                                               
She expressed concern that many  members of the Bush caucus don't                                                               
represent the Bush,  but since the proposed task  force is short-                                                               
lived she said she wouldn't make it an issue.                                                                                   
9:14:38 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  DICK   related  that  he  had   legislation  that                                                               
referred  to the  Bush caucus,  which  was of  concern for  some.                                                               
Although he couldn't  imagine a body better  equipped to identify                                                               
who would be  an important member of the proposed  task force, he                                                               
questioned whether  there was  any problem  with the  Bush caucus                                                               
making appointments.                                                                                                            
MR. LABOLLE  told the  committee that he  spoke with  the primary                                                               
sponsor of  the companion legislation  in the Senate.   There was                                                               
discussion regarding  whether there would  be a problem  with the                                                               
Bush caucus  appointing members to  the task force.   The [House]                                                               
is deferring to the Senate to  take the lead on this legislation.                                                               
However, one problem  that might be encountered  with a directive                                                               
of  a  body  is  that  a  single  individual  isn't  accountable.                                                               
Therefore,  he  suggested that  perhaps  the  chair of  the  Bush                                                               
caucus should  be responsible, and  thus beholden to  the members                                                               
to obtain  a consensus.   He  said he is  still working  with the                                                               
Senate sponsor on the aforementioned.                                                                                           
9:16:03 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  DICK  acknowledged  that  there  is  a  need  for                                                               
prioritization as there isn't enough money  to meet the need.  In                                                               
the past, there have been  some major boondoggles when facilities                                                               
were constructed  out of proportion  to the need.   Therefore, he                                                               
opined that this  proposed task force could help  the state spend                                                               
its  funds more  wisely, prioritize,  and realize  that one  size                                                               
doesn't fit all.  He opined  that only those really in touch with                                                               
the situation could establish the  criteria.  Representative Dick                                                               
said that he liked [HB 362].                                                                                                    
9:17:20 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  FOSTER requested  that  Mr.  LaBolle discuss  the                                                               
funding  issues, in  terms of  the ever  growing need  versus the                                                               
expenditures and the available funding.                                                                                         
MR.  LABOLLE  stated  that  the funding  issue  has  created  the                                                               
existing  situation  rather than  what's  addressed  by the  task                                                               
force.  Essentially  there is a stated need of  $650 million, but                                                               
state funding ranges  from $8-$20 million over the  last 15 years                                                               
and  total funds  $25-$70  million.   He noted  that  there is  a                                                               
funding breakdown for 1997-2011.                                                                                                
9:18:56 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER   inquired  as  to  the   source  of  the                                                               
information  in the  findings section  that estimates  that 6,028                                                               
families  in  Alaska  don't  have  safe  potable  water  or  safe                                                               
sanitation systems in their homes.                                                                                              
MR.  LABOLLE answered  that the  estimate was  from Village  Safe                                                               
Water within  the Department of Environmental  Conservation (DEC)                                                               
and was provided by Bill Griffith via email.                                                                                    
9:19:38 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER  directed attention  to page 1,  lines 11-                                                               
12, which read:  "it is  the responsibility of the legislature to                                                               
ensure  that safe  and sustainable  water and  sewer systems  are                                                               
provided  for  all  state  residents."     He  characterized  the                                                               
aforementioned as  a broad finding,  and therefore  he questioned                                                               
whether  the  state  would  bear  100  percent  of  the  cost  of                                                               
providing safe water  and sewer systems if  federal funding isn't                                                               
MR. LABOLLE referred  to Article VII, subsection 5  of the Alaska                                                               
Constitution,  which read:   "The  legislature shall  provide for                                                               
public welfare".   Since water and sewer would  fall within that,                                                               
the sponsor views it as a constitutional mandate.                                                                               
9:20:35 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER,  referring to  the quick timeline  of the                                                               
task force,  asked if the task  force might be aiming  toward any                                                               
particular conclusions.                                                                                                         
MR. LABOLLE responded that essentially  the discussions have been                                                               
that if there were answers, they  would be implemented.  The hope                                                               
is that the task force will reach some answers.                                                                                 
9:21:03 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER asked  if  there is  something the  state                                                               
government,  Village Safe  Water, isn't  doing now  or lacks  the                                                               
resources to do that the proposed  task force could guide them to                                                               
9:21:12 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER highlighted that  safe water and sewer has                                                               
been an issue for decades.   Therefore, he questioned whether the                                                               
task  force might  decide that  permanent entity  regarding rural                                                               
sanitation is  necessary in  addition to  the Village  Safe Water                                                               
MR. LABOLLE  said that if  that's the wisdom of  the legislature,                                                               
he didn't view it as a problem.                                                                                                 
9:21:53 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER asked if  there is something the [Division                                                               
of  Water] hasn't  had  the  resources or  direction  to do  that                                                               
necessitates the appointment of a  separate task force to address                                                               
this issue.   He further  asked what the  task force can  do that                                                               
the division cannot.                                                                                                            
9:22:10 AM                                                                                                                    
BILL  GRIFFITH, Facilities  Program Manager,  Division of  Water,                                                               
Department of Environmental  Conservation, reminded the committee                                                               
that funding for rural water  and sewer improvements has declined                                                               
by  over 64  percent in  the last  seven years,  which has  had a                                                               
dramatic impact on the division's  ability to provide services to                                                               
rural  communities.   He noted  that although  the Indian  Health                                                               
Service provides funding for rural  water and sewer improvements,                                                               
it hasn't  increased either.   While  funding has  decreased, the                                                               
cost of addressing critical  health-related rural sanitation such                                                               
as homes without running water  and flush toilets or inadequately                                                               
treated drinking  water has  increased by  over 60  percent since                                                               
2006.   He  attributed that  increase  to a  variety of  factors,                                                               
including aging  facilities and more stringent  regulations.  The                                                               
situation is a combination of  declining funds, aging facilities,                                                               
increasing  costs of  construction,  and increasing  regulations.                                                               
Therefore, the gap, over $650  million, between available funding                                                               
and the cost to address  these health-related sanitation needs is                                                               
growing  exponentially.   In fact,  that gap  has almost  doubled                                                               
since state  fiscal year 2006.   The challenge is that  the needs                                                               
are so  great compared  to the available  funding that  it's very                                                               
difficult to accomplish  the necessary work.   Mr. Griffith said,                                                               
"We're actually losing ground."                                                                                                 
9:24:35 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER  inquired as  to the  time when  the state                                                               
put forth its best effort [for water and sewer improvements].                                                                   
MR. GRIFFITH  recalled that  the peak  funding occurred  in 2004,                                                               
and  therefore he  opined that  the best  funding years  were the                                                               
years leading up to 2004  and the approximately five years after.                                                               
Whether the  funding ever reaches  that point again  is primarily                                                               
dependent upon  federal funding as  80-85 percent of  all funding                                                               
for  rural  sanitation improvements  has  been  from the  federal                                                               
government over  the last 20  years, unless the state  decides to                                                               
contribute much more.                                                                                                           
9:25:36 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA  informed the committee that  in about 2008                                                               
Legislative Research  performed a  study on  safe water  for her.                                                               
The study went  into some of the political aspects  of the issue,                                                               
which is one of  the tragedies of it.  She  opined that it's easy                                                               
to  forget what  one  can't see.   She  then  offered to  provide                                                               
members with  a copy  of the study,  which she  indicated remains                                                               
relevant today.   She related  hearing from residents  of Western                                                               
Alaska  who were  part  of a  group put  together  by the  Alaska                                                               
Native Tribal  Health Consortium;  this group consisted  of areas                                                               
that were somewhat  geographically close.  The group  was able to                                                               
decrease the  costs because  they were  sharing water  and sewage                                                               
infrastructure costs.   The group she spoke with  was planning on                                                               
leaving the bigger  group as were a couple  of other communities,                                                               
which  jeopardized the  entire  group.   She  then  asked if  the                                                               
department tracks the aforementioned.                                                                                           
MR. LABOLLE surmised that Representative  Cissna may be referring                                                               
to  the  Alaska Rural  Utilities  Cooperative  (ARUC).   He  then                                                               
suggested  that it  could be  the split  responsibilities of  the                                                               
ANTHC  and Village  Safe Water  in terms  of the  construction of                                                               
systems.    He   noted  that  ARUC  has  more  to   do  with  the                                                               
administration of the systems, rather  than construction, and aid                                                               
with Rural Utility Business Advisor  Program (RUBA) reporting and                                                               
MR.  GRIFFITH  related  that   Representative  Cissna  is  likely                                                               
referring  to  ARUC, which  is  a  collaborative effort  that  is                                                               
sponsored  by  and continues  to  be  run  by  ANTHC.   The  ARUC                                                               
includes  about  20-25  communities in  Southwest  and  Northwest                                                               
Alaska.   Much is  known about those  communities and  how things                                                               
are  going.   The  division  also  tracks information  about  how                                                               
things  are  going in  other  communities.    In fact,  when  the                                                               
division funds  projects and throughout  the construction  of any                                                               
projects, it closely reviews how  well the community is operating                                                               
and  maintaining  its  existing   facilities  and  what  type  of                                                               
assistance they may  need with the aforementioned.   The division                                                               
wants  to  ensure  that  communities  are  able  to  operate  and                                                               
maintain the facilities  they have as well  as what's constructed                                                               
for  it.   The  division  also  tries  to provide  the  technical                                                               
assistance to  communities to build  their capacity.   In further                                                               
response  to Representative  Cissna, Mr.  Griffith said  that the                                                               
division  has  provided assistance  to  a  number of  communities                                                               
through  its remote  worker maintenance  program.   The  division                                                               
also  works  closely with  ARUC  to  provide assistance  to  ARUC                                                               
communities as  well as  communities throughout  the state.   The                                                               
division doesn't have a website  with this information, but could                                                               
pull together  information regarding  the communities  that faced                                                               
weather-related challenges this winter.                                                                                         
9:32:40 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  DICK, pointing  out the  desperate need  for this                                                               
proposed task  force, informed the  committee that  for thousands                                                               
of  years the  residents of  Lime  Village drank  water from  the                                                               
river, until  about 14 years  ago when the  government determined                                                               
that the  Native peoples shouldn't do  so.  At that  point, a $25                                                               
million  water  building  was  constructed  down  by  the  river.                                                               
However,  since  the water  didn't  taste  good, residents  still                                                               
drank from  the river  and used the  washing machines  until they                                                               
broke  down.   Every  so  often, residents  would  move into  the                                                               
building  as it  was well  insulated.   Eventually,  there was  a                                                               
significant high  water event during  the breakup and  ice bumped                                                               
the  building.    The  aforementioned  resulted  in  the  Federal                                                               
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)  labeling [the water building]                                                               
as a  contaminated well and  flew in steamed, distilled  water to                                                               
Lime  Village.   Still, the  residents continued  to drink  river                                                               
water and used  the steamed, distilled water to  wash things such                                                               
as dishes  and houses.  In  the meantime, a washateria  was being                                                               
built in  Lime Village for $1.7  million.  However, it  was built                                                               
on  a  well  that  pumps  only five  gallons  a  minute  and  was                                                               
completed one year prior to the  school closing.  There were only                                                               
17 people  in Lime Village.   He questioned how much  it costs to                                                               
fly fuel oil into Lime Village  to heat the washateria.  However,                                                               
he  stressed that  the big  problem was  that the  washateria had                                                               
three dryers and the community  that generally drew 3-5 kilowatts                                                               
now had  to run a 25-35  kilowatt generator just in  case someone                                                               
might want to  run all three dryers  at the same time.   Since it                                                               
costs  $4  a   load  to  run  the  dryers,  no   one  uses  them.                                                               
Representative Dick  emphasized that this proposed  task force is                                                               
desperately needed  so that those  who are  on the ground  and in                                                               
touch with what's happening are involved.                                                                                       
9:36:26 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER  expressed interest in  comments regarding                                                               
the  concern  that  water  and   sewer  planning  doesn't  happen                                                               
concurrently with school districts,  and thus there are overlaps,                                                               
gaps, and duplicate spending.                                                                                                   
MR. LABOLLE reiterated that the  language on page 3, lines 16-18,                                                               
addresses  the aforementioned.   He  also reiterated  the concern                                                               
that  mobilization and  demobilization costs  the most,  but [the                                                               
state] doesn't seem to package  projects to share those costs and                                                               
obtain economies of scale for projects.                                                                                         
9:37:52 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  FOSTER related  that a  year  and a  half ago  he                                                               
visited  the  local  Native  corporation  in  Hooper  Bay.    The                                                               
building was a typical office  building, save the bathrooms where                                                               
there were  honey buckets lined  with trash  bags.  In  that same                                                               
timeframe, he also visited Kotlik  where he was surprised to find                                                               
raw sewage  disposal bins  on the docks.   He  expressed concerns                                                               
with regard  to people  coming into contact  with raw  sewage and                                                               
the associated  diseases, not to  mention that when  people don't                                                               
have piped  water, they tend  to conserve  it and not  wash their                                                               
hands as  much and that results  in increased illness.   He noted                                                               
that he  grew up  with a  honey bucket  until he  was age  six or                                                               
MR.  LABOLLE  informed  the  committee   that  Hooper  Bay  is  a                                                               
community with a population of about 1,200.                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  FOSTER interjected  that Hooper  Bay is  actually                                                               
the second largest community in his district.                                                                                   
9:40:40 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MUNOZ  inquired as  to the  current process  for evaluating                                                               
projects and how the department  works with various organizations                                                               
to make funding recommendations.                                                                                                
MR.  GRIFFITH  explained  that  currently  funding  is  available                                                               
through two allocation processes.   One is a federal process that                                                               
is  a  national  allocation  system administered  by  the  Indian                                                               
Health Service.   The other  process is used to  allocate funding                                                               
in Alaska  through the Village Safe  Water program.  A  number of                                                               
years  ago there  was an  effort  to bring  these two  allocation                                                               
systems into  alignment in order  that communities  wouldn't have                                                               
to  submit  requests  through  both   systems.    Therefore,  the                                                               
requests have  occurred concurrently every summer.   The division                                                               
compiles a list  of water and sewer needs in  every community and                                                               
that  database  is  updated  annually.     Communities  have  the                                                               
opportunity to  identify those projects  that are a  priority for                                                               
them  and for  which they  want to  request state  funding.   All                                                               
projects  in  the  database   are  automatically  considered  for                                                               
funding  by the  Indian  Health  Service.   The  only thing  that                                                               
communities  have to  do with  regard to  the Village  Safe Water                                                               
program is let the division know  for which projects they want to                                                               
request  funding.    The  list  of projects  is  scored  using  a                                                               
prioritization system.   The two sets of criteria  for the Indian                                                               
Health  Service  and the  Village  Safe  Water program  are  very                                                               
similar.   The division  primarily reviews  the health  impact of                                                               
the project,  which ensures the  prioritization of  projects that                                                               
will provide  running water  and sewer  for the  first time  in a                                                               
village over  a project  to provide  additional water  storage or                                                               
upgrade  the  filtration  system.   Still,  projects  to  provide                                                               
additional  water   storage  or   bring  systems   to  regulatory                                                               
compliance  would  be  funded  over other  projects,  such  as  a                                                               
project  to make  a system  more efficient,  because they  have a                                                               
greater health impact.   The division also  reviews a community's                                                               
ability to operate  and maintain their current system.   He noted                                                               
that the  division reviews  a few other  things, such  as whether                                                               
there  are other  ongoing  projects as  it's  very expensive  and                                                               
inefficient to start and stop a project.                                                                                        
9:44:06 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MUNOZ asked  if the earlier mentioned $18  million in state                                                               
and federal  funding is an  annual amount and whether  that's all                                                               
that's expected to meet the $650 million in unmet need.                                                                         
MR.  GRIFFITH clarified  that the  current gap  between available                                                               
funding and  need is about $667  million while the total  need is                                                               
about $700 million.  This  year, through the state the department                                                               
will  allocate  $35 million  in  state  and  federal funds.    As                                                               
mentioned  earlier,   there  is  approximately   another  $20-$25                                                               
million that  will be  made available  through the  Indian Health                                                               
9:45:11 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN  asked if the problem  in some locations                                                               
is that  the technology  isn't available  to construct  water and                                                               
sewer projects.                                                                                                                 
MR. GRIFFITH said that the  division has approached the challenge                                                               
of rural  water and  sewer services for  many years  by reviewing                                                               
the most appropriate technology for  each community.  The optimal                                                               
system  is  an  individual  well and  septic  system.    However,                                                               
individual  well and  septic systems  aren't always  possible and                                                               
thus  the primary  system used  otherwise is  a centralized  pipe                                                               
system with a centralized water  plant that pipes water to homes,                                                               
collects  [waste] with  pipes, and  disposes  of it  in a  sewage                                                               
lagoon.   The division  is discovering  that such  approaches are                                                               
increasingly expensive to  implement and the lack  of funding may                                                               
result in the  inability to provide service to  everyone and keep                                                               
it running.   Currently,  the division is  trying to  implement a                                                               
major initiative  to develop other approaches  that address water                                                               
and  sewer  needs.    The   division  is  considering  innovative                                                               
technological  approaches  throughout  the state,  and  thus  the                                                               
governor's current budget includes a  $1 million request to start                                                               
that  effort.   Mr. Griffith  informed the  committee that  there                                                               
have been  discussions with the  university and the  Cold Climate                                                               
Research  Center in  Fairbanks  regarding how  to collaborate  to                                                               
review new technological approaches.   Although there won't be an                                                               
end  to providing  centralized services,  the  division wants  to                                                               
review innovative  decentralized approaches in  communities where                                                               
it would be very expensive to provide a centralized system.                                                                     
9:48:05 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  CISSNA   expressed  concern  with  the   lack  of                                                               
interdepartmental  work,  which   results  in  students  learning                                                               
things that don't have to do  with their local energy, water, and                                                               
sanitation systems  and how  to operate and  maintain them.   She                                                               
then emphasized that prices will  always continue to increase and                                                               
the [state]  doesn't work  toward sustainability.   She  asked if                                                               
the  division has  discussed systems  that can  be maintained  by                                                               
residents  in the  area that  have  been there  for thousands  of                                                               
years and  didn't pollute the  area.   One aspect of  this issue,                                                               
she opined,  is with  regard to  how to  [educate] locals  in the                                                               
skill   sets   necessary  to   operate   these   systems.     The                                                               
aforementioned would keep costs down while creating jobs.                                                                       
MR.  GRIFFITH confirmed  that the  division frequently  discusses                                                               
the  need  to  maintain  these systems  affordably  and  for  the                                                               
residents to  be able to do  so.  He informed  the committee that                                                               
currently there  is no  subsidy funding  available for  water and                                                               
sewer  systems in  Alaska.   Therefore, communities  are left  to                                                               
raise  the funds  to maintain  these systems  through local  user                                                               
fees.  He  further informed the committee that  almost always its                                                               
people  from the  community  that run  the  systems, provide  the                                                               
utility management,  and operations.   He noted that there  are a                                                               
number  of technical  assistants  providing  programs around  the                                                               
state   and  through   the  ANTHC   that   train  operators   and                                                               
administrators and  provide technical  assistance.   Mr. Griffith                                                               
agreed that it's  a critical piece of planning of  any system and                                                               
something  the  division  tries  to   spend  a  lot  of  time  on                                                               
throughout the course of the project.                                                                                           
9:51:19 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER referred  to a  November 2011  email from                                                               
Mr. Griffith  to Dorothy Shockley  that says regarding  the total                                                               
number of unserved homes:   "This number also includes homes that                                                               
are considered "unserviceable" because  of their remote location,                                                               
or  excessively high  capital/operational  costs associated  with                                                               
service".  He  asked if there are some locations  that will never                                                               
be able to receive decent sanitation and water services.                                                                        
MR. GRIFFITH  answered that  there are  homes located  a distance                                                               
away from  the community  center and it's  not economical  to run                                                               
pipes that far for  a few homes.  To try  to serve every isolated                                                               
home  in a  community  becomes an  operational  burden, he  said.                                                               
Furthermore, there  are also very  small communities for  which a                                                               
central water plant  with circulated heated water to  a few homes                                                               
costs a  lot to build  and maintain.   The division,  he related,                                                               
has  worked with  a lot  of  communities that  have reviewed  the                                                               
projected costs of  such a system in terms of  the cost per home.                                                               
The  conclusion   has  been  that   it's  not   something  [small                                                               
communities] can afford  to operate.  Given the  current slate of                                                               
typical  technologies,  there  are   homes  for  which  it's  not                                                               
affordable  to try  to  serve.   The  aforementioned, he  opined,                                                               
speaks to  the need to  try to  develop new approaches  and bring                                                               
technologies  together  that may  be  available  but hasn't  been                                                               
considered in combinations that may be workable in rural Alaska.                                                                
9:53:33 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER  commented that while HB  362 does include                                                               
provisions [on  page 3,  lines 12-13] that  the task  force study                                                               
ways  to  build,  install, and  maintain  [water  and  sanitation                                                               
systems  in rural  Alaska].  He  expressed the  need  to place  a                                                               
sharper  focus   on  maintenance  to  ensure   that  research  is                                                               
identified as  well as  to ensure  that whatever  investments are                                                               
identified  for this  need  are  protected such  that  it can  be                                                               
maintained in order to avoid  another wholesale investment in the                                                               
future.   He  expressed  the need  to place  a  sharper focus  on                                                               
9:54:33 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  DICK  told  the  committee  that  this  wasn't  a                                                               
problem  in  the  past  because people  weren't  in  the  village                                                               
consistently due  to the need to  leave to hunt, trap,  and such.                                                               
He  said that  the real  reason for  spring camp  was to  let the                                                               
village  dry out  because during  the  time when  there were  dog                                                               
teams the sanitation issues were  worse than now.  When residents                                                               
returned from  spring camp to the  village, the land was  dry and                                                               
residents racked  and burned their  yard.  The problem,  he said,                                                               
is  a direct  result of  mandatory  school in  the villages  that                                                               
resulted in residents staying in the village consistently.                                                                      
9:56:30 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER nominated Representative  Dick to serve on                                                               
the proposed task force.                                                                                                        
9:57:08 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MUNOZ announced that HB 362 would be held over.                                                                           
9:57:22 AM                                                                                                                    
There being no  further business before the  committee, the House                                                               
Community  and Regional  Affairs Standing  Committee meeting  was                                                               
adjourned at 9:57 a.m.                                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB362 State Funding Rural Water Sewer Projects.pdf HCRA 3/13/2012 9:00:00 AM
HB 362
HB 362 VSW and MMG Funding History.pdf HCRA 3/13/2012 9:00:00 AM
HB 362
HB362 Petroleum Revenue 1977-09.pdf HCRA 3/13/2012 9:00:00 AM
HB 362
HB362 Teller response to Sen Kookesh Feb 2012.msg HCRA 3/13/2012 9:00:00 AM
HB 362
HB362 Mtn Village to DEC-River Pump.msg HCRA 3/13/2012 9:00:00 AM
HB 362
HB362 DEC State Fed Funding Info.msg HCRA 3/13/2012 9:00:00 AM
HB 362
HB362 Sen Kookesh letter Nov 2011.docx HCRA 3/13/2012 9:00:00 AM
HB 362