Quinhagak was awarded a $50,000 State Fiscal Year 2011 Hazard Impact Assessment grant to identify and define the climate change-related hazards in the Quinhagak, establish current and predicted
impacts, and provide recommendations on alternatives to mitigate the hazard impacts.
Quinhagak is home to approximately 600 people, primarily Yup'ik. Quinhagak is on the Kanektok River on the east shore of Kuskokwim Bay, less than a mile from the Bering Sea coast. It lies 71 miles southwest of Bethel. Quinhagak is located in a marine climate, Precipitation averages 22 inches, with 43 inches of snowfall annually. Summer temperatures average 41 to 57°F, winter temperatures average 6 to 24°F. Extremes have been measured from 82 to -34°F.
The community of Quinhagak is experiencing negative impacts from erosion most notably along the banks of the Kanektok river. The airport had to be decommissioned in 2004 due to the rate and magnitude of the erosion. The old village has also lost a cemetery and had to move houses. The area near the fish drying rack has lost about 30 feet of land over the last 20 years. The erosion is worse during the spring when the river water levels rise. The community has tried to reduce erosion by lining the banks of the river with sand bags, however, many of the sand bags are now totally submerged.
The erosion is threatening the city dock and harbor area, as well as the school and village. The community notes that the peninsula of land between the harbor and the bay has experienced such dramatic erosion that it may fail soon. If this occurs, the city dock will lose erosion protection and the harbor may become non-navigable and silted up. As this is the only functioning dock for the community, this is a major concern.
Along with the erosion, Quinhagak has also experienced major land settlement as the permafrost thaws. This is threatening the washteria and several houses. The community states that this is also likely to get worse if climate predictions are realized. The community notes that “ As a result of our changing climate, the thawing of the ground will disrupt the quality of life for the residents of Quinhagak and many other remote villages in rural Alaska. It will pose safety and health hazards, and reduce the effectiveness of the community’s infrastructure. Many buildings and roads are likely to be destabilized, requiring substantial rebuilding or relocating, maintenance and investment. And ultimately, if left unattended, there is the potential for the entire village to have to relocate their home(s).”
Erosion of Kanektok River at end of the Old Village Point. Photo: Christy Miller, Tetra Tech, Inc.
City of Quinhagak
Division of Community and Regional Affairs
Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development