In erosion-threatened Akiak, emergency management officials assess aid options

Erosion in Akiak swallowed 75 to 100 feet of riverbank along the village on May 20, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Ivan Ivan / City of Akiak)

Last week, state emergency management officials visited Akiak to see how they can help with the erosion confronting the village. An erosion event last spring left several homes less than 100 feet away from the river. 

Akiak already received federal funding to move the six homes closest to the riverbank last month. But Jeremy Zidek, public information officer at the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, says that there is a problem with moving one of the structures.

“One home that’s about 100 years [old], that’s a cabin, it can’t be moved like some of the other homes that are close to the river,” Zidek said.

Zidek says that’s one project the state is considering. The emergency management division could also help move the fuel farm or power lines that are also close to the river. The funding would come from the state’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which Akiak has already applied for. The money arrived as part of the federal response to the earthquake in Southcentral Alaska last year. 

“Whenever we have a federally declared disaster in the state of Alaska, about 15 percent of the total cost of that disaster will go to fund the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program,” Zidek said.

The state’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program Manager, Rick Dembroski, already has an estimate for how much money is available this year for communities like Akiak.

“The current calculation is at least $11.8 million, and we expect that number to go up as damages continue to be evaluated from the Nov. 30 earthquake,” Dembroski said. “The key component is that it’s statewide competitive only.

Dembroski says that the deadline for applying is Jan. 31, 2020. He says that it won’t be enough time to get a proper application together for larger projects, but he still encourages communities to try. 

“Alaska is, we have a tremendous amount of natural disasters that have money coming in continuously. So if you learn the process now, you set yourself up for future success,” Dembroski said.

Dembroski says that so far, the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program has 22 applicants in addition to Akiak. To learn more about the program, call 907-428-7000.