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Eroding Alaska village to seek disaster declaration

The AP

A western Alaska village is eroding due to climate change and officials plan to ask President Barack Obama for a disaster declaration so that federal funds can be pursued to relocate residents.

Engineers predict as many as six Newtok homes will be lost by fall followed by the village school in 2018, reported Alaska’s Energy Desk.

The Denali Commission works to coordinate the relocation of Alaska villages.

“I’ve worked all across rural Alaska for 31 years, been to over 100 communities. I’ve never seen anything like this,” said commission co-chair Joel Neimeyer.

The village has about 350 residents. A new village site is located upriver.

Newtok Village Council attorney Mike Walleri said slower federal funding options would come through after the village needs it.

“We just simply don’t have time,” Walleri said, noting that message is what he stressed during a trip to Washington, D.C.

“Most people had not been aware that Newtok could not take advantage of what they call the catalog of federal assistance, simply because the village will be destroyed before the normal federal assistance can be applied for and implemented into the field,” he said.

He said the tribe plans to request the disaster declaration this month.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is designed to address disasters like hurricanes rather than the slow-moving danger of erosion.

Obama would need to decide whether to grant the declaration before Congress can consider appropriating funds.

Walleri said costs are estimated at $80 million.