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Updated Juneau maps add buildings to avalanche risk areas

July 21, 2021 GMT

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Updated maps add 200 homes and other buildings to hazard zones for landslides and avalanches in Alaska’s capital city, bringing to about 550 the total number of structures that would be considered at moderate to severe risk of being damaged or destroyed if disaster struck.

The new maps, finished this year, used technology to chart the risks and are meant to update hazard maps made in the 1970s, KTOO Public Media reported Tuesday. The area reviewed includes downtown Juneau.

“It’s a big change,” said Alexandra Pierce, Juneau’s planning manager. “The new maps are much, much easier for us to use and also much, much more accurate. It does mean some changes for people in the community and their properties.”

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Insurance costs and resale values for homes can change in known hazard areas. In such areas, local laws also restrict construction and subdivision. That can lead to push back from the public.

Pierce said the city did not have information on how insurance rates or values may change if the new maps are adopted.

Buying a home is the biggest investment many people make, and “dealing with issues outside of your control that affects your property can be scary and can be difficult to digest,” Pierce said. “And our goal in this project was to give the public the most accurate and up-to-date information on the landslide and avalanche hazard areas in downtown Juneau.”

The Juneau Planning Commission is expected to review the maps next month before they advance to the Assembly.

This isn’t the first attempt to update the maps: The city’s planning department tried to upgrade them in the 1990s, but the maps weren’t accepted by the Assembly.