Thursday, January 12, 2017

Alaskan Village, Citing Climate Change, Seeks Disaster Relief In Order To Relocate

The tiny village of Newtok near Alaska's western coast has been sliding into the Ninglick River for years. As temperatures increase — faster there than in the rest of the U.S. — the frozen permafrost underneath Newtok is thawing. About 70 feet of land a year erode away, putting the village's colorful buildings, some on stilts, ever closer to the water's edge.

Now, in an unprecedented test case, Newtok wants the federal government to declare these mounting impacts of climate change an official disaster. Villagers say it's their last shot at unlocking the tens of millions of dollars needed to relocate the entire community.

"We just need to get out of there," says Romy Cadiente, the village relocation coordinator. "For the safety of the 450 people there."
A new village has been chosen 9 miles away, and several houses are already built.

Cadiente says the problem is money: The Army Corps of Engineers has estimated it will cost $80 million to $130 million to relocate key infrastructure.
Many of Alaska's villages are dealing with erosion and thawing permafrost. But Newtok's needs may be the most immediate. It has already lost its barge landing, sewage lagoon and landfill. As river water seeps in and land sinks, it expects to lose its source of drinking water this year, and its school and airport by 2020.
Usually, the president, with input from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, declares a disaster after a specific catastrophic event. But Newtok is asking for the declaration based on mounting damage from erosion and thawing permafrost over the past decade....
Rachel Waldholz, Alaska Public Media
National Public Radio
January 10, 2017

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