Sitka Assembly approves hazard mapping project

SITKA — Sitka officials are moving ahead with plans to map out parts of the city that are vulnerable to landslides, after slides last summer left three people dead and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage.

The Sitka Assembly adopted a resolution Tuesday in support of community-wide hazard mapping. It also awarded a $68,000 contract to a Seattle-based firm Shannon & Wilson to assess the risk for future landslides in the coastal town, The Sitka Sentinel reported.

Some Assembly members had voiced concerns about the impact of the assessment, saying the city may have to tell residents to move from their homes in areas deemed high-risk. But Mayor Mim McConnell said “safety needs to come first before any other consideration.”

No funds have been committed for the hazard mapping project, but the city plans to work with agencies to find the money. Costs for an entire map of the town have been estimated around $150,000.

City staff said the Federal Emergency Management Agency is also considering a request from the state Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys to conduct a multi-hazard assessment. The study would include landslide mapping as well as avalanche and flooding hazards.

“You wait long enough, something is going to fall …. It’s one of the risks we face living here,” said Assembly member Matthew Hunter, who is also a member of the Sitka search and rescue team. “We face a lot of risks. It’s important we make informed decisions.”

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