Regulation standards seen as factor in Alaska quake damage

Assessments following Alaska’s enormous 2018 earthquake showed building damage was worse outside Anchorage’s safety area because of reduced regulation, municipal officials said.

There was less structural damage in the Anchorage Building Safety Service Area than in the Chugiak-Eagle River area during the 7.1 magnitude earthquake in November 2018, the Anchorage Daily News reported Sunday.

The safety area covers the Anchorage Bowl south of Eagle River and north of Girdwood.

Officials issued 52 notifications indicating severe building damage that prevented occupation in Chugiak-Eagle River, while only 17 were issued in the Anchorage safety service area. A year after the quake, city inspectors have gone through 3,800 buildings in the municipality, officials said.

Builders outside the safety area can hire private inspectors and do not need to have plans reviewed, officials said.

“The reason they had all the damage in Eagle River is nobody was looking,” said Don Hickel, lead structural inspector for the municipality of Anchorage. “And that’s pretty self-evident.”


Proponents of the independent inspection process said the model is equally effective as the system in the safety area and less expensive for home buyers.

Some builders also argued the quake struck harder in Eagle River and Chugiak.

“The ground movement was drastically different in different parts of Anchorage and Eagle River,” said Chuck Homan of home remodeler Homan Inc. “I just think it was the way the earthquake hit certain areas.”

A report written by seismologists for the Alaska Earthquake Center and published by the University of Alaska Fairbanks found “higher rates of building damage outside of the Anchorage Bowl do not appear to correlate with higher ground motions.”

Troy Bloxom, a private inspector, believes the municipality is using the situation to expand its safety service area.

“I honestly think the municipality would love to incorporate Eagle River into the service area, because they need the funds,” he said. “Whether or not their numbers are accurate, that’s up for debate.”