Lack of government support in the wake of an environmental nightmare isn’t just a problem for Newtok. Three other villages facing immediate danger, and 31 more imminently threatened villages, struggle for access to mitigation and relief aid.
The Stafford Act states that the President must declare a disaster in order for a site to be eligible for federal aid. However, the criteria for a national disaster does not include the process of erosion.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
“FEMA distributes its mitigation grants, with the exception of grants to develop hazard mitigation plans, on the basis of the cost-effectiveness of the proposed project. With low populations and high construction costs in rural Alaska, village relocation projects have low benefit-to-cost ratios.” In addition, most villages do not have Approved Mitigation plans which are required to apply for a grant. Many grants also require Villages to share some cost or match the cost which can be a barrier.
Click here to see the Preliminary Damage Assessment Report Denial issued by FEMA in early 2017 regarding flooding, erosion, and permafrost degradation in Newtok.
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
“There is no single federal agency responsible for managing and funding flooding and erosion programs in Alaska. Instead, the US Army Corps of Engineers and National Resource Conservation Services administer key programs for constructing flooding and erosion control” In 2009, the Corps were stripped of their authority “to carry out, at full federal expense, structural and non-structural projects for storm damage prevention and reduction, coastal erosion, and ice and glacial damage in Alaska, including relocation of affected communities and construction of replacement facilities.” Now there is no central body to coordinate funds or efforts.
Click here for information about NEPA’s role in relocating Newtok.