In 2006, the Newtok Traditional 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 through two State of Alaska Administrative Orders (AO 231 and AO 239) “to act as the state coordinating agency to coordinate with other state and federal agencies to propose long-term solutions to the ongoing erosion issues in … affected coastal communities in this state.” DCRA is the agency within DCCED that fulfills this directive. To carry out the coordination for Newtok, the Newtok Planning Group (NPG) was formed in May of 2006.
The concept of the Newtok Planning Group was simple: bring together on a regular basis representatives of state and federal agencies and regional organizations that were 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 organized and facilitated the meetings, and the Newtok Traditional Council and Newtok Native Corporation were at the table with state and federal agency partners. Membership in the planning group was voluntary, but participation was strong because members recognized the value of the meetings to the work they were doing for Newtok.
Before long, progress began to happen, first with planning and design of the new village, then with actual construction of facilities and infrastructure at Mertarvik. Collaboration among Newtok and state and federal agencies has been behind the success of every project. The table below provides an overview.
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