Mertarvik is the site of the new village, about 9 miles across the Ninglick River from Newtok. The plot of land was secured in 2003 through a land exchange with the National Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Newtok Traditional Council obtained both surface and subsurface rights to the land, a very important aspect of the agreement, as the bluffs of northern Nelson Island hide huge deposits of gravel. This gravel will lay the foundation of buildings, roads, and an airstrip, and suggests hope for a sustainable economy in the future.
What does it look like to move an entire village? Nobody knows for sure, but the residents of Newtok are starting to figure it out. In October 2019, roughly one-third of the village residents moved across the river to Mertarvik. They brought dogs, suitcases full of belongings, subsistence gear, furniture, and household appliances.
An emergency evacuation building is being repurposed as a school. Roads are being built and a rough runway is in place. The Newtok Village Council is continuing to advocate for funding for housing and infrastructure so that the remaining residents can relocate safely.
Where are they in the grand scheme?
2019 ~ The first families move to Mertarvik in October. The Newtok Village Council continues to advocate for funding to move the remaining residents.
2017 ~ Mertarvik has its official ribbon cutting in August with regional partners and many community members present.
2016 ~ Construction for the Mertarvik Housing Master Plan began.
2012 ~ The access road was completed, and three SIP houses were erected by Newtok residents.
2011 ~ Work began on the Mertarvik Evacuation Center and the gravel quarry opened.
2009 ~ The Mertarvik barge landing was completed.
2007 ~ The first water well was drilled at Mertarvik.
2006 ~ Newtok residents built three homes with funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
For more information on the relocation history and progress visit the Newtok Planning Group Website.