State of Alaska announces partnership with Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to respond to coastal erosion threats

Published: Dec. 11, 2020 at 5:34 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - This week, Alaska’s Division of Community and Regional Affairs along with the Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys announced a new partnership with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium in response to the threat of erosion in many of Alaska’s coastal communities.

Through a $1.36 million grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Coastal Resilience Fund, these groups will begin flood and erosion assessments in 44 Alaska Native communities where critical needs have been identified.

According to a press release from the Department of Natural Resources, the response plan will cover the data collection for flood modeling in 20 communities The funds will also assist 33 communities that are developing coastal storm inundation records, risk assessment maps, reports, and an online tool to inform community plans and mitigation solutions.

Two communities will undergo storm surge and sea-level change modeling, and another 14 communities will work to acquire funding for near-term projects.

Jacquelyn Overbeck is a geologist for the State of Alaska and currently serves as the coastal hazards program manager for the Department of Natural Resources. According to Overbeck, her program has been working on compiling baseline data on coastal erosion for nearly a decade.

“That’s why we’re in a good position now to take it to the next step and finish out some of those reports for a group of communities and provide those to the communities for planning,” she said.

The data also helps with providing a scale by which researchers can determine exactly how much of a risk each community faces. Overbeck points to Newtok as the most extreme example in Alaska, but says there are several other villages that are close behind.

“Unfortunately, there are other communities that may have to face relocation in the future, but at least we will have data by which to communicate the full extent of the hazards,” she said.

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