State launches effort to aid eroding villages

Posted: Monday, February 25, 2008

ANCHORAGE - Gov. Sarah Palin's administration has developed a plan for tackling several erosion problems in a half dozen Alaska villages because of global warming.

Recommendations about which erosion projects should get priority are due to reach Palin's climate change subcabinet by April 1.

Funding agencies want a consensus built about what to do first, said Mike Black, deputy commissioner of the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development.

One effort includes new committees created to look at energy conservation and at working with industry to reduce emissions at North Slope oil fields.

Alaska is an "observer" with the Western Climate Initiative, in which other states have united to take action to reduce gases.

Congress is considering legislation that would cap carbon emissions and allow companies to buy and sell pollution credits, and Alaska may have a role to play that would benefit the state's economy as well as the atmosphere, Black said. For example, he said, carbon credits would add economic value to the state's supplies of relatively clean natural gas.

Money from the initial auctioning of carbon credits might be made available to deal with impacts in Alaska or relocation of villagers, speakers said last week at the Alaska Forum on the Environment.

Funding to help with community planning is included in a $1.1 million appropriation now before the Legislature. That's just a fraction compared to an estimated $355 million to move the three most endangered communities - Newtok, Shishmaref and Kivalina - according to a 2006 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study. No such money is yet available, according to federal officials.

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