Kodiak’s Mayor testifies before Senate committee

Pat Branson testifying before the Senate committee. (Screenshot from Senate hearing by Mitch Borden/KMXT)

Mitch Borden/KMXT

The U.S. Senate committee on energy and natural resources held a hearing on natural disasters earlier this week (1/30). The city of Kodiak’s mayor Pat Branson was a part of a six-person panel and testified on the city’s recent tsunami scare.

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski chaired the meeting and started it by talking about the 7.9 magnitude earthquake in the Gulf of Alaska that triggered a tsunami warning.

“We do understand that the earthquake caused some damage, including in Kodiak. But the tsunami associated with it was quite small and that means that basically we just got lucky.”

Mayor Branson shared how Kodiak came together to respond to the potential disaster and what the city learned from the event. One of her main focuses was the community’s need for updates to its emergency framework.

“While Kodiak has been diligent in utilizing its limited resources and personnel to maintain our emergency response capability we have some glaring shortfalls in communications equipment and public safety infrastructure. The cost of eliminating these shortfalls is in excess of $15 million dollars.”

The number one priority for Kodiak, according to Branson, is building a new fire station. The current one is old and located in the city’s tsunami inundation zone. She doesn’t think testifying will bring about funding for it directly. But it’s given her the opportunity to speak with Senator Murkowski, Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan, and Alaska Representative Don Young face to face about the community’s situation.

“We need to relocate that fire station. Have it equipped and ready to go for not just these disasters but just emergencies with ambulances and that kinda thing for our residents.”

Kodiak was the only Alaska coastal community represented at the hearing and it was Branson’s first time speaking before a Senate committee. She says she wasn’t nervous, instead, Branson was honored to represent Kodiak and talk about its situation. She believes it’s important for federal officials to understand what it’s like to live in a place vulnerable to natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis.

“I think it really it’s an education for people to understand the vulnerability not just of Kodiak Island, but of the coastal communities.”

The Kodiak city council is in the planning stage of replacing its current firehouse. It’s placed it at the top of its state and federal capital projects list and is currently looking at locations for it, all of which are above Kodiak’s inundation zone.

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