April 5, 2012 | Vol. 42, No. 14

Borough drops ‘disaster’ for slump

The Haines Borough Assembly last week rescinded a February disaster declaration for sloughing of the Mount Ripinsky hillside at Lutak Road.

Borough manager Mark Earnest provided the assembly with an e-mail from Kerry Seifert, an emergency management specialist with Alaska’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, before the 5-0 vote. Member Joanne Waterman was absent.

Seifert wrote “the slope has stopped or slowed movement over the past several weeks; therefore, an emergency no longer exists.”

“Because there are only a few homes with damage, and some of these may have homeowners insurance, the current situation in the Haines Borough may not meet the definition of a disaster – that being ‘the occurrence of imminent threat of widespread or severe damage, injury, loss of life or property, or shortage of food, water or fuel,’” Seifert wrote, referring to Alaska Statute.

Assemblyman Norm Smith said if the borough tried to fit the sloughing into that definition, “We wouldn’t go very far.”

“Please note that the absence of a State disaster declaration does not infer a lack of concern to the challenges faced by your situation,” Seifert wrote. “On the contrary, we here at the State Emergency Operations Center will continue to work with the Haines Borough and any state, federal, and/or non-profit agencies to explore alternative funding options.”

Borough manager Mark Earnest recommended the assembly request support directly from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a federal agency.

“They have expressed a willingness to provide assistance – technical, engineering and/or construction and repairs – and I think that’s what we should be focusing on, is seeking assistance through NRCS,” Earnest said.