Legislature(2015 - 2016)BARNES 124

03/17/2016 08:00 AM House COMMUNITY & REGIONAL AFFAIRS

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08:05:09 AM Start
08:05:59 AM HB209
08:32:40 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
<Bill Hearing Canceled>
-- Public Testimony --
           HB 209-WATER AND SEWER ADVISORY COMMITTEE                                                                        
8:05:59 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR TILTON announced  that the only order of  business would be                                                               
HOUSE BILL NO. 209 "An Act  relating to an Alaska Water and Sewer                                                               
Advisory Committee; and providing for an effective date."                                                                       
8:06:42 AM                                                                                                                    
PAUL  LABOLLE, Staff,  Representative Neal  Foster, Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature, explained that HB 209  would establish a water/sewer                                                               
advisory  committee  with the  primary  intent  of reviewing  and                                                               
recommending how  to best apply  the available state  and federal                                                               
funds  to  the  needs  of  rural  communities.    Currently,  the                                                               
available,  combined   state  and   federal  funding   stands  at                                                               
approximately  $51.5  million;  however,  the  outstanding  need,                                                               
estimated as  of 2011,  is $410  million.   The sponsor  does not                                                               
expect that further funding will  be made available and, as such,                                                               
proposes that a task force  be convened to make determinations on                                                               
how to  cost effectively approach the  rural sanitation problems.                                                               
It is  proposed that the  committee be seated with  nine members,                                                               
which   would  include:     two   members  from   the  House   of                                                               
Representatives, two members from the  Senate, one federal agency                                                               
member, one state  agency member, one public  civil engineer, and                                                               
two  public members  residing  in rural  Alaska.   The  committee                                                               
members would  be serving  on a volunteer  basis and,  he pointed                                                               
out, receive no  reimbursements for per diem  or travel expenses;                                                               
the   use  of   electronic   communications   methods  would   be                                                               
encouraged.   He said the  committee would generate a  report for                                                               
presentation to  the legislature.   He  directed attention  to HB
209 as introduced  in 2015, to indicate the  timeline which would                                                               
need to  be revisited in the  final bill draft, which  are:  page                                                               
3, line  2, report due date  of 12/31/16; page 3,  line 4, report                                                               
availability on  the first  day of  the 2017  regular legislative                                                               
session;  and page  4,  line 5,  the repeal  date  would need  to                                                               
conform with all other date adjustments.                                                                                        
8:10:01 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE REINBOLD  asked for clarity regarding  the funding                                                               
level and the outstanding need estimate.                                                                                        
MR. LABOLLE explained that an  annual amount of approximately $51                                                               
million has  been available via  a state match of  federal funds.                                                               
Each year  the state has  made a  minimal payment to  receive the                                                               
federal dollars.  To a follow-up  question he said that the funds                                                               
are  for statewide  use, as  provided through  the Department  of                                                               
Environmental  Conservation (DEC),  and the  projects are  run by                                                               
Village  Safe Water  (VSW) and  the Alaska  Native Tribal  Health                                                               
Consortium.   The $410 million  represents an outdated  total for                                                               
outstanding needs, and he deferred  to the department for further                                                               
8:11:45 AM                                                                                                                    
BILL  GRIFFITH, Manager,  Facility Programs,  Division of  Water,                                                               
Department   of  Environmental   Conservation  (DEC),   said  the                                                               
department collaborates  with the  consortium to maintain  a list                                                               
of all water  and sewer needs in rural communities.   The list is                                                               
updated each  year, and the 2016  total is in the  midst of being                                                               
finalized.   The  numbers are  available for  2015, he  said, and                                                               
reported that the current figure  for what is considered critical                                                               
human health related projects stands at $850 million.                                                                           
8:12:40 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  REINBOLD  expressed   shock  at  the  substantial                                                               
MR.  GRIFFITH indicated  that the  figure  has been  on a  steady                                                               
increase  each  year.   The  annual  funding shortfalls  leave  a                                                               
continually  expanding   gap,  as  well  as   needs  that  remain                                                               
8:13:09 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  referred  to the  sponsor  statement  and                                                               
paraphrased from  paragraph 6, which reads  [original punctuation                                                               
     There are  emerging systems  and new  technologies that                                                                    
     will  need  to be  part  of  the  answer.   We  need  a                                                                    
     comprehensive  look at  which  solutions are  available                                                                    
     and which  ones fit  our conditions.   We also  need to                                                                    
     ensure that  we are not building  ourselves a financial                                                                    
     burden that cannot be sustained.                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON asked for  examples of the emerging systems                                                               
and technologies referred to, and if  any are currently in use in                                                               
Alaskan communities.                                                                                                            
MR. LABOLLE  responded that only  a few  exist.  The  North Slope                                                               
uses AWWS [Advanced WasteWater  Specialists, LLC] with frequency,                                                               
he reported.   Whether  a system  such as  AWWS is  advisable for                                                               
application in situations larger that  man-camps, he said, is the                                                               
sort of thing that the committee would review.                                                                                  
8:14:20 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  NAGEAK  ascertained   that  the  current  capital                                                               
budget contains  $51.5 million available  for use, and  asked for                                                               
the estimated cost of the least expensive project.                                                                              
MR. LABOLLE deferred.                                                                                                           
8:15:16 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. GRIFFITH answered that the  current database contains between                                                               
700-800 projects.  The high  end projects are specific to provide                                                               
first time  running water and  sewer to communities and  the cost                                                               
range  is  $20-$40  million.   The  lower  end  projects  involve                                                               
activities such as improvements to  bring a water treatment plant                                                               
into  full regulatory  compliance  or improving  a damaged  water                                                               
source, which range upwards from about $100,000.                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  NAGEAK  reported  that [District  40]  suffers  a                                                               
range of disparity from outdated  water/sewer projects, which are                                                               
reflective  of   Third  World   conditions;  conditions   he  has                                                               
witnessed throughout  the state.   He  conjectured that  there is                                                               
funding  for  the  road  system communities  but  not  for  rural                                                               
Alaska, and pressed  for a means to identify how  to approach and                                                               
adjust for this problem.                                                                                                        
8:18:53 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  ORTIZ asked  whether the  annual $51  million has                                                               
been  utilized  each year  without  the  benefit of  an  advisory                                                               
MR.  LABOLLE responded,  "Yes," and  added that  VSW runs  a very                                                               
competent  program.    He elaborated  that  the  committee  would                                                               
review the system,  and identify ways and means  to best approach                                                               
each project, thus maximizing the  use of the available resources                                                               
and minimizing the short fall on completed projects.                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE  ORTIZ  requested an  estimate  of  the number  of                                                               
communities,  including  populations,  which are  listed  at  the                                                               
project entry stage; lacking running  water or established sewage                                                               
MR. LABOLLE indicated  that the figure he has does  not break out                                                               
the entry  stage population from  communities which  are awaiting                                                               
upgrades and deferred further comment.                                                                                          
8:20:55 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  GRIFFITH   stated  that  an   annual  report   is  routinely                                                               
completed,  which indicates  that about  3,600 homes  are lacking                                                               
water/sewer service,  representing a population  of approximately                                                               
11,000, and  situated in 30 communities.   Some of the  homes are                                                               
located  in  communities with  water/sewer  service  but are  not                                                               
hooked-up,  while the  remainder  are found  in  areas lacking  a                                                               
community system.                                                                                                               
8:21:45 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  TILTON  inquired  as  to the  availability  of  a  written                                                               
MR. GRIFFITH  noted that a  number of handouts are  available and                                                               
offered to provide the committee with copies.                                                                                   
CHAIR  TILTON  asked  whether   information  describing  the  800                                                               
projects is documented and transferable.                                                                                        
MR. GRIFFITH  offered to send  a summary  of each project  to the                                                               
committee, based on the available database.                                                                                     
8:23:14 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  TILTON  directed attention  to  the  bill packet  and  the                                                               
handout dated  3/15/2016, with the header  line reading, "Article                                                               
7 - Health,  Education and Welfare," to ask how  the bill relates                                                               
to the Alaska Constitution.                                                                                                     
MR.  LABOLLE turned  to the  proposed bill  page 1,  line 9,  and                                                               
paraphrased  the  language,  which   read  as  follows  [original                                                               
punctuation provided]:                                                                                                          
     In an effort  to protect the public  health and welfare                                                                    
     of   the   state's   citizens   and   promote   healthy                                                                    
     communities,  the  legislature  finds that  it  is  the                                                                    
     responsibility of  the legislature to ensure  that safe                                                                    
     and sustainable  water and  sewer systems  are provided                                                                    
     for all communities of the state.                                                                                          
MR. LABOLLE said  public safety and welfare  is established under                                                               
Article 7 of the Alaska Constitution, to wit:                                                                                   
     Section  4.   Public  Health:  The   legislature  shall                                                                    
     provide  for the  promotion  and  protection of  public                                                                    
     Section  5.    Public Welfare:  The  legislature  shall                                                                    
     provide for public welfare.                                                                                                
8:24:37 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON referred to the  proposed bill page 1, line                                                               
[11], and paraphrased the language, which read as follows:                                                                      
     ...  ensure  safe  and   sustainable  water  and  sewer                                                                    
     systems are provided for all state residents.                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON expressed  an  interest  in amending  this                                                               
language to read  "all communities," to alleviate  the state from                                                               
the responsibility  of providing safe water/sewer  to someone who                                                               
chooses to live  privately off the grid.  He  maintained that the                                                               
state's responsibility is  to the public, as the  public, and not                                                               
to private citizens.                                                                                                            
MR. LABOLLE assured  that such an amendment would  be welcomed by                                                               
the sponsor.                                                                                                                    
8:25:51 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  HUGHES  offered  personal  appreciation  for  the                                                               
sponsor's intent for  the bill, and recounted the  five years she                                                               
lived  off  the  grid  in  Seward,  including  handwashing  cloth                                                               
diapers,  and later  in Bethel  where she  experienced life  with                                                               
honey buckets.   These conveniences are  greatly appreciated when                                                               
you   have   gone   without,  she   opined,   but   agreed   with                                                               
Representative Seaton  that some  people choose  to live  off the                                                               
grid removed from state responsibility.                                                                                         
8:27:27 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR TILTON  asked about  recommendations for  the make-up  of a                                                               
Bush caucus, to be seated on the committee.                                                                                     
MR.  LABOLLE said  the  bill was  originally  drafted by  Senator                                                               
Kookesh,  with language  indicating that  the committee  members,                                                               
"shall be made  by the Bush caucus."  The  Bush caucus is defined                                                               
in HB 209 but lacks a  concise definition.  He suggested that the                                                               
committee consider  clarifying the  language, and added  that the                                                               
appointments  could be  made  by  a single  entity,  such as  the                                                               
Senate President, Speaker of House, or a commissioner.                                                                          
8:28:39 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   NAGEAK  returned   to  Representative   Seaton's                                                               
comments, and stated his belief  that it's necessary to look into                                                               
providing services in areas where  people don't have the means to                                                               
do  anything.     Getting  safe   water  to  every   village  and                                                               
eradicating the use  of honey buckets, would  reduce sickness, he                                                               
opined, and stressed the need  to make in-roads for improving the                                                               
lives of rural Alaskans.                                                                                                        
8:31:33 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  TILTON directed  attention to  the proposed  bill page  3,                                                               
line 30, which reads as follows [original punctuation provided]:                                                                
      (i) In this section, "bush caucus" means a group of                                                                       
     legislators that represents rural areas of the state.                                                                      
CHAIR TILTON said her office would assist in drafting language                                                                  
to clarify this section of the bill.                                                                                            
[HB 209 was held over.]                                                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB 240 Supporting Documents-ANVCA Fact Sheet.pdf HCRA 3/17/2016 8:00:00 AM
HB 240
HB 240 Sponsor Statement.pdf HCRA 3/17/2016 8:00:00 AM
HB 240
HB 209 Supporting Documents AK constitution.pdf HCRA 3/17/2016 8:00:00 AM
HB 209
HB 209 Supporting Documents Unserved_Communities_Feb2015.pdf HCRA 3/17/2016 8:00:00 AM
HB 209
HB 209 VSW Petroleum Revenue and PFD payouts.pdf HCRA 3/17/2016 8:00:00 AM
HB 209
HB 209 Supporting Documents Water_Sewer_Systems_Feb2015.pdf HCRA 3/17/2016 8:00:00 AM
HB 209
HB 209 Sponsor Statement.pdf HCRA 3/17/2016 8:00:00 AM
HB 209
HB 209 VSW Supporting Documents DEC funding.pdf HCRA 3/17/2016 8:00:00 AM
HB 209