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Alaska Climate Change Impact Mitigation Program

Community Planning Grants: Shaktoolik

Shaktoolik focused its Community Planning Grant on the development of a conceptual design and implementation strategy for a community emergency shelter.

Shaktoolik Community Emergency Shelter Documents

Shak Emergency Shelter

Concept drawing of the Shaktoolik Community Emergency Center (USKH and CCHRC)

Shaktoolik photo


Shaktoolik (shock-TOO-lick), population 214, is a coastal community located on the eastern shore of Norton Sound, 125 miles east of Nome and 33 miles north of Unalakleet. The City of Shaktoolik, a 2nd class city, is located in the unorganized borough. The village is located on a gravel sand spit bounded by the Tagoomenik River and the coast of Norton Sound. The Tagoomenik and Shaktoolik Rivers converge at Shaktoolik Bay and empty into Norton Sound about 2 miles northwest of the community. The proximity of the community to the ocean and the river provides easy access to both salt and fresh water for hunting and fishing; the beaches allow easy access to boats; and the river provides a sheltered harbor.

Shaktoolik was the first and southernmost Malemiut settlement on Norton Sound, occupied as early as 1839. Twelve miles northeast, on Cape Denbigh, is "Iyatayet," a site that is 6,000 to 8,000 years old. Reindeer herds were managed in the Shaktoolik area around 1905. The village was originally located six miles up the Shaktoolik River and moved to the mouth of the river in 1933. This site was prone to severe storms and winds, however, and the village relocated to its present, more sheltered location in 1967. The city was incorporated in 1969. Shaktoolik is a Malemiut Eskimo village with a fishing and subsistence lifestyle.

The community’s location near both fresh and salt water leaves it vulnerable to erosion when fall storms hit the sand and gravel spit where the village is located. There is no breakwater to protect the village from destructive waves from Norton Sound when storms come from the south. Historically, Shaktoolik’s coastal area has been susceptible to damage and erosion from storms, tidal surges, and sea ice. Several areas along the coastline used by the people in Shaktoolik are vulnerable to erosion and flooding during the storm season. Considerable coastline erosion in the community occurred during recent storms in 2003, 2004, and 2005. Most of the Shaktoolik community and surrounding area lie within the 100-year floodplain. Erosion during flooding damaged the airstrip so extensively it was replaced.

The spit of land once used as the airport in the “old site” is now just a few hundred feet from the Tagoomenik River due to advancing erosion. The natural barriers that served as buffers, protecting the village from coastal storms, have eroded considerably during the storms in 2003, 2004, and 2005. The community is now extremely vulnerable to erosion damage from future storms. The next large storm could erode away the narrow spit of land that connects Shaktoolik to the mainland, effectively cutting the community off from their source of freshwater. The 2005 Fall Sea Storm left much driftwood just a few feet from the bulk fuel storage facilities. A storm greater than the 2005 storm, could damage the bulk fuel storage.

The Shaktoolik community has considered a number of strategies for addressing the natural hazard threatening the village. One strategy the community has considered is the eventual relocation of the village to higher ground located in the foothills. However, understanding the high cost and complicated logistics and availability of funding for village relocations, Shaktoolik has decided to focus on shorter term and less costly solutions, such as building a community emergency shelter that is easily accessible to community residents. Currently, no community facilities offering safe shelter or high ground are large enough to accommodate the entire population of Shaktoolik should an emergency occur. The proposed Shaktoolik Community Emergency Shelter will fill this need. In 2009, the Shaktoolik IRA Council hired USKH in association with the Cold Climate Housing Research center and Agnew::Beck to prepare the conceptual design and implementation strategy for the Shaktoolik Community Emergency Shelter.


Logs line the beach at Shaktoolik during the 2005 Fall Sea. Storm: Steve Ivanoff

Shaktoolik main point of contact for ACCIMP Community Planning Grant

Michael Sookiayak, Sr.
Grant Writer
Native Village of Shaktoolik IRA Council
Phone: 907-955-3701

For more information contact

Sally Russell Cox
Division of Community and Regional Affairs
Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development
550 West 7th Avenue, Suite 1650,
Anchorage, AK 99501-3569
Phone (907) 269-4588
Fax (907)269-4066