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Alaska Risk Map Program


Bethel Risk MAP Study

The Risk MAP process began for the community of Bethel on May 27, 2015 when the State and FEMA conducted a Risk MAP Interview. During the interview, Bethel officials identified persistent flood problems and other hazard areas of concern, which were discussed in more detail during the Discovery Meeting.

Bethel Risk MAP Discovery Documents

Discovery is the first part of the Risk MAP process. During this initial phase, the State, FEMA and local entities work together to collect data regarding local flood and other hazard risks. FEMA has data on national and regional levels, however FEMA relies heavily on information and data provided by communities because local officials are able to provide a holistic view of their communities and their known risks. The State prioritizes a watershed for Discovery based on evaluations of risk, need, availability of elevation data, regional knowledge of issues, and local input. After this data is collected, the study is evaluated on an extensive list of criteria.

Bethel Reports and Studies
  • Coming Soon!

The Alaska State Risk MAP Coordinator, FEMA's Risk Analyst and the Alaska State Mitigation Planner traveled to Bethel on June 15, 2016 to conduct a Risk MAP Discovery Meeting with City of Bethel staff and community members. The State and FEMA discussed the purpose of the Risk MAP Program and how it could benefit the City of Bethel. Bethel’s Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (LHMP) was completed in 2008, so the plan has expired. The City was considering an update to the plan in the near future. FEMA and the State discussed how the Risk MAP process could inform the next update of the LHMP. The community identified flood, fire, permafrost thaw and erosion hazards on a map. This information has been developed into a Discovery Map, below.

Bethel Discovery Map

Bethel's Discovery Map identifies critical facilities, areas of concern including channel migration, erosion, and flooding, environmentally sensitive areas, and mitigation needs. Click on the map image to open a full-sized version of the Discovery Map.

Bethel Discovery Map

Tables 1 and 2 below outline Bethel's risk assessment needs, hazards and mitigation actions. The high priority mitigation projects Bethel identified as part of the Discovery process are as follows:

Bethel's High Priority Mitigation Projects


  • Updated Bethel Flood Insurance Rate Maps
  • Pursue obtaining a Community Rating System rating to lower flood insurance rates
  • Obtain flood insurance for all city structures, and continue compliance with NFIP regulations
  • Bethel cargo dock/replacement seawall
  • Repair and expand harbor
  • Continued repair of existing seawall

Severe Storm

  • Research and consider instituting the National Weather Service "Storm Ready" program
  • Conduct special awareness activities, such as Winter Weather Awareness Week, Flood Awareness Week, etc.
  • Expand public awareness about NOAA Weather Radio for continuous weather broadcasting and warning tone alert capability
  • Install a siren to warn people of a severe weather event


  • Promote Firewise building design, siting, and materials for construction
  • Continue to support the local fire department with adequate firefighting equipment and training
  • Continue to enforce the development of building codes and requirements for new construction
  • Enhance public awareness of potential risk to life and personal property. Encourage mitigation measures in the immediate vicinity of their property.


  • If funding is available, perform an engineering assessment of the earthquake vulnerability of identified critical infrastructure owned by the city.
  • Identify buildings and facilities that must be able to remain operable during and following an earthquake event.

The following risk assessment needs have been indentified for Bethel:

Table 1: COMMUNITY Risk Assessment Needs

Location Description Study Type
The city has training needs related to benefit-cost analysis. Benefit-Cost Analysis
Residents would like more information on permafrost thawing and future development throughout the city. This issue has caused problems for foundations and roads in the last 50 years. Permafrost Study
The city’s grants manager mentioned a local desire for severe winter storm analysis. Severe Winter Storm Assessment/Analysis
The city grants manager wants to add man-made hazards, public health, and oil and hazardous waste spills to the hazard mitigation plan. Plan Updating
There is local desire for State assistance in updating the local emergency operations plan. Local Planning
There is local desire for State assistance or a template for writing a local HAZMAT response plan. Local Planning
City officials are interested in a navigation study done from Bethel down to the Johnson River. Navigation Study

The following hazards and mitigation actions have been indentified for Bethel:

Table 2: Bethel Hazards and Mitigation Actions

Hazard Location Description Mitigation Action
Citywide Need for permafrost study/mitigation measures to prevent future issues Adopting an ordinance promoting permafrost sensitive construction practices
Kuskokwim River Need for an extension to the existing seawall and reinforcement of banks Using bioengineered bank stabilization, sloping or grading techniques, or riprap boulders
Proposed dock on the Kuskokwim River City officials would like to build a new dock on the river and are concerned about the sediment deposition around the structure based on channel migration. Planting sediment- trapping vegetation to buffer the dock against sediment collection

FEMA Region X Risk MAP Newsletters

Contact for More Information

Sally Russell Cox
State of Alaska Risk MAP Coordinator
Division of Community and Regional Affairs
Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development
550 West 7th Avenue, Suite 1640, Anchorage, AK 99501-3569
Phone (907) 269-4588 Fax (907)269-4539