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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Mertarvik Relocation Plan defines the long-term vision and goals for relocating Newtok. The Plan delineates four phases:
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Division of Community and Regional Affairs
Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development