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Newtok Planning Group

Mertarvik Strategic Management Plan

Mertarvik Logo Since its formation in May 2006, the Newtok Planning Group (NPG) has recommended and sought funding for the development of a strategic management plan to guide the community of Newtok's relocation efforts and ensure that any potential environmental impacts are minimized. In 2010, the Division of community and Regional Affairs (DCRA) successfully secured funding from the federal Coastal Impact Assistance Program for the creation of the Mertarvik Strategic Management Plan (SMP).

In January 2011, DCRA hired Agnew::Beck Consulting in partnership with PDC Engineers and USKH Inc. to assist the NPG and the Newtok community in the development of the SMP. The project's scope of work spanned two stages:

  • Stage 1 focused on the identification of issues, review of baseline data, and the production of the Preliminary Planning/Relocation Report.
  • Stage 2 focused on the development of the guiding principles and overall framework for relocation and the production of a Strategic Management Plan.
Mertarvik Strategic Management Plan Documents


The purpose of the Mertarvik Strategic Management Plan is to set a common vision for relocating the village of Newtok through a plan that provides guidance to all activities at Mertarvik, with a focus on priority actions during the next three years. The reasons for producing a strategic management plan are many:

  • To Develop a Collective Vision

    With growing concerns and urgency to relocate before Newtok is destroyed by erosion, it is important to focus the resources of the community and supporting partnerships behind a common vision and common set of priorities.
  • To Establish a Framework for Other Plans

    The strategic management plan acts like an “umbrella document” for relocation activities. All other plans, policies and strategies will support the strategic management plan and take direction from it.
  • To Communicate the Strategic Plan

    Strategic planning establishes and communicates the community vision, guiding principles and strategic actions in a positive and practical way to everyone in the community, government agencies, and other organizations.
  • To Enter Into Effective Partnerships

    A strategic management plan provides the basis for strengthening existing and building new partnerships with different levels of government, as well as other partners and funders. These partnerships are essential to achieving the strategic actions of the plan.

Vision: Relocation Plan to Mertarvik

The Mertarvik Relocation Plan defines the long-term vision and goals for relocating Newtok. The Plan delineates four phases:

  1. Phase 1: Uplluteng (Getting Ready) Population 0

    During this phase, the groundwork is laid for future phases. Activities include quarry development, water well drilling, completing a Community Layout Plan and a Strategic Management Plan, conducting a harbor feasibility study, creating a topographic map to facilitate surveying, and building a barge landing, initial houses, pioneer roads, airport planning, and the foundation of the Mertarvik Evacuation Center (MEC).
  2. Phase 2: Upagluteng (Pioneering) Population ~25 to 100 People

    This is the phase in which community members first establish residence at Mertarvik. Self-haul water, honey buckets, wood stoves, and individual house generators, correspondence and home schooling, and VHF radio are some of the likely characteristics defining early life in Mertarvik. New technologies for waste water treatment and alternative energies might be piloted during this phase. For safety, residents will likely move back to Newtok during the spring and fall when movement back and forth to Mertarvik via water would be challenging and potentially dangerous because of annual thaw and freeze cycles.
  3. Phase 3: Nass’paluteng (Transition) Population ~100 People or More

    During the transition phase, more and more community members will make the move to Mertarvik. Early in this phase, a health aide and teacher(s) might be in place to provide health care and education. The Mertarvik Evacuation Center will be completed and serve as a multi-functional community facility. A pioneer runway may be completed and larger-scale demonstration projects might test promising technologies as agencies explore sustainable solutions for basic services. As the population grows, reaching 200 or more, community systems that can later be scaled to meet the entire community’s needs should be agreed upon and established for water, wastewater, energy, and communications. An airport, a landfill, a small school, a store, and community greenhouse might be set in place during this phase as well.
  4. Phase 4: Piciurlluni (Final Move) Population 350 People or More

    This stage represents the final move of all Newtok residents to the new town site. The systems developed during the transition phase are scaled to accommodate more people and more houses. Additional community facility projects, such a large school, a clinic, and a tribal court, are completed.

These phases are driven by population levels at Mertarvik. The Relocation Plan also organizes work into nine strategic focus areas – site preparation; transportation; housing; drinking water, sewer, and solid waste; health and safety; communications; education; energy; and community resources – and sets clear goals by phase for each area.

Maligtaquyarat (Guiding Principles for Mertarvik)

On June 9, 2011, the Newtok Traditional Council unanimously passed and approved a set of guiding principles for the community's relocation to Mertarvik (click here for full resolution). It is the hope and intent that all community residents and partners working toward the relocation will respect and promote these guiding principles.

The relocation of Newtok will be defined by our Yup'ik way of life.
Our Guiding Principles are:

  • To remain a distinct, unique community – our own community
  • To stay focused on our vision by taking small steps forward each day
  • To make decisions openly and as a community and look to elders for guidance
  • To build a healthy future for our youth
  • Our voice comes first – we have first and final say in making decisions and defining priorities
  • To share with and learn from our partners
  • No matter how long it takes, we will work together to provide support to our people in both Mertarvik and Newtok
  • Development should:
    • Reflect our cultural traditions
    • Nurture our spiritual and physical well-being
    • Respect and enhance the environment
    • Be designed with local input from start to finish
    • Be affordable for our people
    • Hire community members first
    • Use what we have first and use available funds wisely
  • To look for projects that build on our talents and strengthen our economy

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