The village of Napakiak received $449,000 in federal funding on Thursday that could help them respond to the “imminent threat” of climate change.
Napakiak’s shoreline is eroding at an alarming rate, even by Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta standards. The small village has lost 50 feet of its shoreline since May, mostly due to a single storm, according to Tribal Administrator David Andrew.
“Some of us actually went down there at the time,” Andrew said. “We walked down there and went to check it out.”
The storm destroyed Napakiak’s boat and hovercraft landing, which residents relied on for food and supply deliveries. Andrew says that the village has been getting its food flown in ever since, which is much more expensive. Erosion also threatens the community’s school and fuel depot, so Napakiak turned to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for help.
The federal funding will help the community design and build a new landing for hovercraft, barges and residents’ boats. Andrew says that the community is grateful for the funding, but adds that Napakiak will need more support over the next year. He says that the village will need to move. Again.
“When I was a little boy, Napakiak used to be way down there,” Andrew recalled. “There was a school, and it was torn down because of erosion. And now they’ve built another one over here, and it’s in danger from erosion. Our community moves any infrastructure that is in danger from the erosion, we just keep moving them back.”
Many of these moves have happened quietly, without much publicity or federal or state funding, Andrew says. Napakiak held a fiddle dance recently to raise enough money to a move a house, which was dangerously close to the river’s banks.