- Associated Press - Monday, December 3, 2018

Here is a sampling of Alaska editorials:

Dec. 3, 2018

Ketchikan Daily News: Unfathomable

Alaska is unfathomable.

When an earthquake struck the Anchorage area Friday morning, cell phone messages to Alaskans started flowing in - from the Lower 48 and other places where Alaskans’ family and friends live.

Such was the case in Ketchikan. “Are you alright?” the messages from afar read after viewing reports of the earthquake and the tsunami warning that followed. We sent the same message to Anchorage.

National news outlets told viewers the tsunami warning was for southern coastal communities. What it meant was coasts hundreds of miles away. Anchorage is 775 miles north of Ketchikan. The distance between Ketchikan and Kodiak, where Alaskans were briefly warned of a tsunami reaction to the quake, is 808 miles.

By comparison it’s 818 miles between Washington, D.C., and St. Louis, Missouri; and it’s 2,800 miles from the West Coast to the East Coast in the Lower 48.

In this case, Ketchikan is far from the earthquake.

The scenario goes to show how the size of Alaska remains unfathomable to those who haven’t been here, and, perhaps, to even some of those who have but never ventured beyond Ketchikan or Southeast.

As the latest Alaska earthquake makes headlines throughout the country and around the world, this earthquake isn’t only a geology story. It’s about geography.

The world will learn that this wasn’t the big one (the 1964 earthquake tops it), but it was big enough. But Alaska is still bigger.


Nov. 28, 2018

Alaska Journal of Commerce: Legislature writes another check in LIO fiasco

Four years and a $4 billion deficit ago, the Legislature had a $44.5 million problem.

After moving into new glass-encased digs in Downtown Anchorage on the site of its old Legislative Information Office, the new 10-year lease at $3.3 million per year was the subject of a lawsuit challenging its legality at the same time oil prices were plunging toward $26 per barrel.

Amid more flush times, former Anchorage Rep. Mike Hawker had wiggled his way through the state procurement code to classify the new lease as a renewal not subject to competitive pricing rules and the Legislature had agreed to put $7.5 million toward the cost of the $44.5 million project that essentially rebuilt the structure at 716 West Fourth Ave.

In March 2016 a Superior Court judge ruled the lease invalid, leaving legislators stuck with the choice to simply abscond and leave its owners holding the bag with a $28 million loan and $9 million of their own cash tied up in a custom-made project with no tenant, or to negotiate a purchase of the building outright that would relieve them of the embarrassingly expensive annual rent.

A $32.5 million price was agreed to by the Legislative Council in a 13-1 vote a month later, but Gov. Bill Walker stuck his nose into the matter and declared he’d veto the purchase based on the state’s ongoing budget woes without regard to the fact that he would be essentially evicting one branch of government from its Anchorage offices with the demand it relocate into the executive branch home in the Atwood Building.

But by then we already knew Walker was unconcerned with making moves that hurt the state’s credibility with the business community after vetoing $200 million in tax credit payments approved by the Legislature in 2015 and proposing oil tax increases despite his campaign promise to respect the vote of the people in 2014 to keep the current structure known as SB 21.

Around this time an enterprising real estate agent got it into the news that Wells Fargo was looking to sell its building on Benson Avenue in Midtown. That led legislators - many of whom had decried Walker’s veto of the tax credit payments - to jump on the $11.85 million purchase and screw over the owners of the Downtown office who were then forced into foreclosure by their lender EverBank of Jacksonville, Fla.

(In a funny-but-not-haha-funny twist, Wells Fargo ended up getting paid on both sides of this transaction as one of the construction lenders on the Downtown office that was paid off by EverBank’s loan consolidation and as the recipient of the appropriation that bought its Midtown office.)

Of course, the building was not set up to house the Legislature as the Downtown office was, and another $3.7 million was appropriated for renovations.

Now the Legislative Council has voted unanimously to spend another $8 million on further remodeling, bringing the tab just at the Midtown office to nearly $25 million.

Add up the $7.5 million it kicked in at 716 West Fourth, plus the $5 million give or take it spent on rent over less than two years there and the Legislature has spent at least $37.2 million in five years on Anchorage office space.

Meanwhile, EverBank ended up selling the building for a cutrate price of just $14 million - or about half of the outstanding loan balance - to the Anchorage Community Development Authority as a new home for the police department.

But rest assured, we’re told, there will be no automatic garbage cans in the new building.

A more flippant summation of this fiasco is hard to fathom after such an inane amenity - a common household item for those of even modest means - became the focus of this situation rather than the devastating consequences on private business owners who were forced to shoulder the entirety of the Legislature’s mistakes and Walker’s meddling.

Any contractor who ends up getting a bid to renovate the Benson building better insist on getting paid up front.


Dec. 3, 2018

Anchorage Daily News: Earthquake a reminder to be prepared, help others

It was a wake-up call - in some cases, literally.

At 8:29 a.m. Friday, Anchorage was hit by an earthquake described by residents as the most severe since the Good Friday earthquake of 1964. That quake, the most devastating in Alaska history and the second-strongest ever recorded worldwide, still lives on in the memories of Alaskans who experienced it. On Friday, we got a reminder.

We were lucky. The earthquake, epicentered directly across Cook Inlet from downtown Anchorage, struck closer than any quake of similar magnitude since the city was established. Hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors were frightened but for the most part unharmed. There was extensive property damage, but nothing like the carnage of 1964, when Fourth Avenue swallowed cars and buildings as the ground below the city liquefied.

In the days, weeks and months to come, life in Southcentral Alaska will return to normal, as we pick up what’s broken and fix pieces of infrastructure compromised by the earthquake. Some of that cleanup will be done by the city and state, but much will be done in our homes, as we sweep up broken glass, repair cracked drywall and attempt to locate pets that ran away during the quake. Your neighbors may well need your help; if you’re in a position to offer it, please do so. Be thorough and take care as you pick up what’s broken - most injuries resulting from earthquakes take place after the fact, when people cut themselves on broken glass, strain to pick up heavy fallen items or trip and fall on debris. Shards of glass or ceramic too small to be seen easily can cut you or your pets if you step on them. Be careful.

And though the effects of the earthquake were serious, there is much to be thankful for that they were not worse. The quake should serve as a reminder to be prepared as best we can for natural disasters of all kinds. On a municipal and state level, that means making sure our roads, buildings and utilities can withstand the stresses of events like this. On a personal level, it means preparing for interruptions in services and supply lines. Keep several days’ worth of clean water on hand, as well as a good supply of food that can withstand relatively long periods without refrigeration. If you need electricity for heat or other essential services, a backup generator is a good investment.

Most of all, the earthquake was a reminder of how much we depend on one another, and how much easier it is to deal with hardships when we face them together. Check on your friends and neighbors to make sure they’re all right, and offer whatever help you can manage. Alaska made it through the Good Friday earthquake, and it will recover from this one stronger than ever. All it will take is our work to make sure it happens.


Dec. 1, 2018

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Alaska has always been earthquake prone: New measure in U.S. House could improve our understanding

Friday morning’s earthquake just north of Anchorage was felt widely in the state, including in the Fairbanks area, and is a reminder once again that Alaska is a land of shaking and shimmying.

Tens of thousands of earthquakes strike our state each year, most of them small and barely noticeable, if at all. Even the big ones, say magnitude 5.0 and larger, aren’t uncommon.

It’s just a part of life here, however unsettling and unpredictable.

As Anchorage and nearby communities deal with the aftermath, Interior residents may be thinking back to the Denali fault earthquake of Nov. 3, 2002. That quake registered a magnitude 7.9 and, according to Science magazine, “was associated with 340 kilometers of surface rupture and was the largest strike-slip earthquake in North America in almost 150 years.” Two weeks prior to that quake, the magnitude 6.7 Nenana Mountain quake struck west of the eventual Nov. 3 quake, rupturing about 25 miles of the Denali fault.

We, too, can get the big ones.

The 2018 Alaska Department of Natural Resources report “Active Faulting and Seismic Hazards in Alaska” opens with a statement about Alaska’s place among the globe’s seismic hot spots.

“Alaska experiences more earthquakes than any other state in the nation and is one of the most seismically active regions of the world (fig. 1A). Since the advent of instrumental monitoring of global seismicity, 11 percent of the world’s earthquakes have occurred in Alaska. During the last century, two of the 10 largest earthquakes in the world and nine of the 10 largest earthquakes in the United States were in Alaska.”

That highly technical and lengthy report describes the seismicity of the state by region. The layman may simply be satisfied with this small bit about the Interior:

“Three main types of tectonic structures contribute to generating seismicity in this region: right-lateral strike-slip faults (Denali, Tintina, Kaltag), north-northeast-trending seismic zones (Minto, Fairbanks, Salcha, Dall City, Rampart), and thrust faults in the northern foothills of the Alaska Range. Deep earthquakes beneath the Interior source region are associated with the northern part of the shallowly dipping Aleutian subduction zone.”

In short, we’re subject to a lot of seismic activity. Interior communities are therefore subject to heavy quake damage like most any other part of the state.

And because of that, it never hurts to be prepared.

Scientists and engineers do what they can to monitor seismic activity and to improve the ability of buildings to withstand a strong quake. But they can’t help you in the aftermath of a big one that knocks out power and damages plumbing.

The Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management offers all sorts of information about how you can be prepared for when an earthquake strikes. You can find the information here: bit.ly/2KKIfBU.

On Tuesday, the U.S. House passed the Senate’s bipartisan National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Reauthorization Act, sponsored by Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and co-sponsored by many others.

The bill does several things, according to an announcement from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee:

. Emphasizes continued development of earthquake early warning systems through the Advanced National Seismic System.

. Requires the production of maps showing active faults and folds, liquefaction susceptibility and other hazards that can be induced by an earthquake, such as landslides.

. Improves data sharing among federal agencies and improves coordination among federal agencies and with state agencies.

. Requires a comprehensive assessment of the nation’s earthquake risk reduction progress, as well as areas that require more funding, and evaluation of resulting hazards such as tsunamis or landslides.

Understanding earthquakes seems to be a never-ending process. We will likely never be able to predict them with certainty. That makes preparing for them, especially in a fault-riven state such as ours, all the more important.

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