Senator says federal authorities, state must join on village erosion threat

16 villages said to be threatened over the next 20 years

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2001

ANCHORAGE - The cost of relocating Northwest Alaska villages threatened by coastal erosion will require federal, state and local cooperation, Alaska U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens said Thursday.

Several villages on Alaska's west, northwest and Arctic coast have been battered over the years by storms that erode the earth beneath homes, roads and schools.

But the cost of moving a village can be enormous.

A study released this month by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that moving Kivalina, about 220 miles north of Nome, to the mainland would cost about $102 million - roughly $250,000 for each of the village's 400 residents.

"Now you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out, if we have 16 villages that are threatened over the next 20 years - that's a cost we cannot meet," Stevens said. "There's just not that kind of money available."

Stevens said he and his staff plan to work with villagers and resource managers to find some method or funding that would move facilities gradually, without incurring such extreme costs all at once.

"We've got to devise a program to figure out how we do this," he added. "I think the state's going to have to become involved. I do think the regions that have some basic income will have to become involved. It's a difficult thing to deal with. There's no national program for moving villages - we've never had to do it before."

Stevens, who made his remarks while meeting with reporters Thursday at his Anchorage office, said climate changes are impacting villages.

"You've got to realize that Alaska is harder hit by global climate change than anywhere in the world," Stevens said. "We have now, without any question, a proven situation where our forests are growing farther north, our permafrost is decreasing in stability and our seawater is intruding upon villages from Shishmaref all the way around to Barrow."

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