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.
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