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Newtok Planning Group

Newtok Village Relocation History

Part Four:  The Newtok Planning Group

In early 2006, the Newtok's Tribal Council requested the assistance of the Division of Community and Regional Affairs (DCRA) within the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development (DCCED) with Newtok's relocation effort. Newtok had scaled several significant hurdles by reaching consensus on the decision to relocate, evaluating and selecting a feasible relocation site, and acquiring site control of the new village site. Despite these accomplishments, the community was being met with substantial obstacles to carrying out the physical relocation. No state or federal agency was authorized to relocate a village. Government policy guidelines posed barriers to investing in new communities where no population was established. Several agency policies set population thresholds in order for investments to be made. Meanwhile, Newtok continued to lose land to the Ninglick River, the community was becoming increasingly vulnerable to coastal sea storm, storm surges and flooding, critical community infrastructure was deteriorating, and public health issues were increasing.

DCCED is directed by two Alaska Administrative Orders (AO 231 and AO 239) "to act as the state coordinating agency to coordinate with the other state and federal agencies to propose long-term solutions to the ongoing erosion issues in... affected coastal communities..." Consistent with this directive, DCRA organized the Newtok Planning Group (NPG) to coordinate assistance to Newtok on the relocation effort.

The concept of the Newtok Planning Group is simple:  bring together on a regular basis representatives of state and federal agencies and regional organizations that are currently working with Newtok within their respective agency authorities in order to pool multi-disciplinary expertise, leverage resources, and brainstorm a strategy to make Newtok’s relocation to Mertarvik a reality.  DCRA has organized and facilitated the meetings, and the Newtok Village Council and Newtok Native Corporation are at the table with state and federal agency partners.  Membership in the planning group is voluntary, but participation is strong because members recognize the value of the meetings to the work they  doing for Newtok. 

The NPG has convened regularly since its formation, working with Newtok and across agencies to leverage resources, secure funding, and to establish a framework and strategy for moving the relocation process forward. Download a list of the participants in the NPG.

Through the unique partnership of the NPG, a range of initiatives, studies, and pioneer infrastructure projects has been completed or is currently underway at Mertarvik. Collaboration among Newtok and state and federal agencies has been behind the success of every project. The timeline below highlights many of the relocation activities coordinated through the NPG over the past decade. Most of these activities involved the collaboration of multiple agencies.  (Click timeline to open full-sized version.)

The photo below shows the pioneer infrastructure developed at Mertarvik through the coordination of the NPG. (Click photo to open full-sized version.)

The table below provides examples of agency collaboration in some of the earliest projects at Newtok. 

Relocation Project NPG Partners
Mertarvik Community Layout Plan
  • Denali Commission: Provided funding to DCCED for Mini-Grant Program
  • Newtok Traditional Council (NTC): Applied for Mini-Grant for Community Layout Plan
  • DCCED/DCRA:  Provided technical assistance to NTC to apply for Mini-Grant; awarded and administered $30,000 Mini-Grant
  • DEC Village Safe Water (VSW) Program: Developed conceptual layout for water/sewer on which to base Community Layout Plan
  • DCCED/DCRA, DEC/VSW and US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE): Served on NTC’s proposal evaluation team to select consultant to prepare community layout.
  • DCCED/DCRA:  Provided $30,000 grant through Alaska Climate Change Impact Mitigation Program for Community Layout Plan Revision
  • NPG:  Provided input on Community Layout Plan for housing, community facilities, roads, bulk fuel and alternative energy, water, sewer, and airport.
Mertarvik Homes
  • Newtok Native Corporation (NNC): Provided site control for construction of homes to NTC.
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA): Provided Housing Improvement Program grants to NTC for 3 housing packages
  • Newtok Community: Constructed new homes at Mertavik in 2006-2007
  • Association of Village Council Presidents Regional Housing Authority (AVCP) and BIA: Provided grants for Structural-Insulated Panel (SIP) Homes at Mertarvik
  • Newtok Community: Constructed 3 new SIP Homes at Mertavik in 2012
Water Well and Geotechnical Studies
  • NNC: Provided site control for drilling to NTC.
  • USACE and VSW: Collaborated on contracting of a drilling company to carry out geotechnical and test well drilling at Mertarvik.   Bore samples were taken of the proposed sites for the barge landing staging area, barge landing road and evacuation center.
  • DOT/PF: Contracted with same drilling company to take tideland samples at new proposed barge landing.
  • DOT/PF: Used same drilling contractor for geotechnical investigations of proposed runway sites and Mertarvik quarry.
Mertarvik Barge Landing Facility
  • NNC: Provided site control for construction of barge landing facility to NTC.
  • DCCED/DCRA:  Applied for and was awarded $800,000 grant through US Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration (EDA) in co-application with NTC.  Managed EDA grant for the project.  Co-managed project with DOT/PF.
  • USACE: Assisted with grant application by providing environmental narrative.
  • EDA: Provided $800,000 award for first facility construction project at Mertarvik.
  • DOT/PF: Assisted with grant application by providing conceptual drawings of barge landing facility.  Provided $200,000 State match for EDA grant.  Contributed additional $1.8 million in State legislative funds to construct secondary barge landing.  Managed design and construction of the barge landing facility. Co-managed project with DCCED/DCRA.
Innovative Readiness Training Program (IRT) Mertarvik
  • DCCED, Alaska Governor's representative to  State Co-Chair of the Denali Commission, DOT/PF, NTC:  Negotiated with IRT for 5-year commitment at Mertarvik.
  • IRT: Provided labor for construction of access road from Mertarvik Barge Landing Facility to Mertarvik Evacuation Shelter (MEC); contracted blasting to open quarry, developed bivouac area for base camp; excavated support systems and will assist with vertical construction of MEC.
Mertarvik Evacuation Center (MEC)
  • NNC: Provided site control for construction of MEC to NTC.
  • USACE: Used Section 117 funding to conduct Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) to meet NEPA requirements for MEC.
  • DCCED/DCRA: Awarded NTC $120,000 grant through ACCIMP and provided technical assistance to NTC for conceptual design of the MEC.  The Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC) was hired to prepare the design.
  • DCCED and USACE co-chairs of Alaska Governor’s Climate Change Subcabinet Immediate Action Workgroup (IAW):  Recommended that funding be provided for the final design and construction of the MEC in State Fiscal Year 2008-2010 Capital Budgets for the MEC and access road.
  • DOT/PF: managed contract for final design of MEC (Bezek Durst Seiser) in coordination with NTC and CCHRC. Managed contract for construction of MEC foundation (Cornerstone Construction).  
  • DCCED, in collaboration with Denali Commission:  Applied to IRT on behalf of NRC to provide labor for construction of the MEC.
Mertarvik Access Road
  • NNC: Provided site control for construction of access road to NTC.
  • USACE: Used Section 117 funding to initiate conceptual design of evacuation road and center, and conducted EA and FONSI to meet NEPA requirements for access road.
  • DCCED and USACE co-chairs of Alaska Governor’s Climate Change Subcabinet Immediate Action Workgroup (IAW): Recommended that funding be provided for the final design and construction of the MEC in State Fiscal Year 2008 - 2010 Capital Budgets for the MEC and access road.
  • DCCED, in collaboration with Denali Commission: Applied to IRT on behalf of NRC to provide labor for construction of the access road.
  • DOT/PF provided state funds for USACE to design the access road; provided management for construction of access road.
  • IRT provided labor to construct access road
  • BIA provided Indian Reservation Roads (IRR) Program funding to match state funds to construct access road
Mertarvik Strategic Management Plan (SMP)
  • DCCED/DCRA: Applied for grant through US Department of Interior Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP) to SMP; served as project manager for SMP.
  • VSW: Provided technical asistance to DCCED/DCRA to develop scope of work for CIAP grant application.
  • NTC, VSW, USACE, DOT/PF: Served on evaluation team to select contractor for SMP.
  • NTC and VSW: Served as project advisors for SMP.
  • NPG: Worked collectively and individually with contractor to develop SMP.
Mertarvik Quarry
  • NNC: Provided site control for development of quarry to NTC.
  • DOT/PF:  Prepared quarry development plan and applied for permitting to develop quarry.
  • USACE: Incorporated quarry development into EA and FONSI for Mertarvik site.
  • IRT: Contracted for blasting of quarry site.

Next - Part Five: Mertarvik Getting Water from the Spring

Part One The Qaluyaarmiut: People of the Dip Net
Part Two Early Efforts to Address Erosion
Part Three Progressive Erosion Brings New Problems
Part Four The Newtok Planning Group
Part Five Mertarvik: Getting Water from the Spring
Part Six References

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 1640
Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 269-4588 FAX: (907) 269-4066