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Newtok Planning Group

Mertarvik Evacuation Center (MEC)

Since its formation in May 2006, the Newtok Planning Group, including Newtok Village, has recommended and sought funding for the development of emergency, pioneer-level infrastructure at Mertarvik. Pioneer-level infrastructure, including an evacuation shelter, would provide a safe place at which the Newtok community could seek refuge in the event of severe flooding following a serious storm. An evacuation center could support construction activities while the new village is being developed. In addition to serving the village's emergency and construction support needs during the relocation process, the evacuation shelter could later serve as a community center in the fully developed community.

2018 Construction Activity

The exterior of the MEC was completed in November 2018 by Wolverine Supply, Inc. Designs for the MEC interior are currently underway, with construction of the interior beginning Fall 2019.

MEC Exterior
Exterior of the Mertarvik Evacuation Center; Photo: Newtok Village Council

Click on a thumbnail, below, to see a full-sized photo of the MEC construction.
Photos courtesy of Romy Cadiente, Newtok Relocation Coordinator

MEC Shell MEC Shell2 MEC Shell4
MEC Shell7 MEC Shell6 MEC Shell6
2017-2018 Mertarvik Evacuation Center Design Documents - LCG Lantech, Inc. 2016 Mertarvik Evacuation Center Assessment Documents - CCHRC 2012 Mertarvik Evacuation Center Documents - Earthcore SIPs/George Watt Architecture 2011 Mertarvik Evacuation Center Documents - ADOT/PF 2009 Mertarvik Evacuation Center Documents - CCHRC 2008 Mertarvik Evacuation Center Documents - USACE

Evolution of the MEC Design over the Years

May 2008

In early 2008, the U.S. Army Engineer District, Alaska conducted a Value Engineer and Design Criteria Study for an evacuation center at Mertarvik. Members of Newtok's tribal leadership served on the value engineering team. An evacuation center at Mertarvik was recommended by the report “Section 117 Storm Damage Reduction Project-Newtok, Alaska ”. The proposed shelter would consist of a building, generator, water supply, sewage lagoon, and road from the proposed barge landing and staging area at the shore of the Ninglick River. It was recommended that the shelter would be sized to provide temporary housing for 100 people with movable dividers in one large space, with support areas including kitchen, latrine/shower rooms, storage area, first aid room, and communications and office areas. There would be a storage area for food, water, cots, blankets, and miscellaneous items needed for an evacuation center (see drawing below and drop-down "2008 Mertarvik Evacuation Center Documents - USACE" above). The estimated cost for the building was $20,000,000.

MEC Drawings
MEC Drawings (U.S. Army Engineer District, Alaska)


In late 2008, Newtok received a Community Planning Grant through the Alaska Climate Change Impact Mitigation Program for the conceptual design of the MEC. The Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC) was hired to prepare the conceptual design, which was completed in July 2009. The conceptual design incorporated innovative approaches to make the evacuation center more affordable, sustainable, energy efficient, and to reflect community and cultural values (see drawing below and drop-down "2009 Mertarvik Evacuation Center Documents - CCHRC" above).

Drawing of MEC
Conceptual Drawing of MEC (Cold Climate Housing Research Center)


In fiscal year 2011, Newtok was awarded a $4 million grant by the Alaska Legislature for the design and construction of the MEC, which would be based on the conceptual design prepared by CCHRC. The NTC entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (ADOT/PF) to manage the design and construction of the building. ADOT/PF hired the architectural firm Bezek Durst Seiser to design the MEC. The CCHRC was hired as an adviser to the design process and Newtok's tribal council continued to work closely with the design team.

Final Design Drawing of MEC
Final Design Drawing of MEC (Bezek Durst Seiser)


The MEC design was completed in February 2011 (see drawing above and drop-down "2011 Mertarvik Evacuation Center Documents - ADOT/PF" above). Work on the foundation of the MEC was completed in the summer of 2011, with construction activities being carried out by Cornerstone General Contractors, Inc., hired by the ADOT/PF, and the military Innovative Readiness Training Program (see photo below).
Completed MEC foundation.
Completed MEC foundation. Photo: Agnew::Beck


In late 2011, Newtok's former tribal council, the Newtok Traditional Council (NTC) decided to take over the MEC project, creating a new community development corporation, the Mertarvik Community Development Corporation (now defunct). The NTC hired Earthcore SIPs from Colorado to re-design the MEC to be constructed with Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs). A concept design was developed by Colorado architect George Watt in 2012 ( see drawing below and drop-down " 2012 Mertarvik Evacuation Center Documents - Earthcore SIPs/George Watt Architecture" above ), however a final design was never developed.
Drawing of re-designed MEC for SIP panels (George Watt Architecture)


In 2015, Newtok's current tribal council, the Newtok Village Council, hired CCHRC to prepare a retrofit feasibility study of the MEC (see drop-down "2016 Mertarvik Evacuation Center Assessment Documents - CCHRC" above). The purpose of the study was to assess the MEC foundation and SIPs that had been delivered to Mertarvik by Earthcore SIPs, document equipment and materials present at Mertarvik, and make recommendations on next steps to design and construct the MEC.

In 2016, the Newtok Village Council hired a contractor, LGC Lantech, Inc., to prepare a final design of the MEC (see drawing, below, and drop-down, "2017-2018 Mertarvik Evacuation Center Design Documents - LCG Lantech, Inc." above). In 2018, the outer shell of the MEC was constructed by Wolverine Supply.

2018 MEC
Drawing of 2018 MEC design (LGC Lantech, Inc.)

Contact for More Information

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
Phone: (907) 269-4588
FAX: (907) 269-4563

Revised 02/22/2023