oversight

Alaska Native Villages: Most Are Affected by Flooding and Erosion, but Few Qualify for Federal Assistance

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-12-12.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                United States General Accounting Office

GAO             Report to Congressional Committees




December 2003
                ALASKA NATIVE
                VILLAGES
                Most Are Affected by
                Flooding and Erosion,
                but Few Qualify for
                Federal Assistance




GAO-04-142
                a
                                                December 2003


                                                ALASKA NATIVE VILLAGES

                                                Most Are Affected by Flooding and
Highlights of GAO-04-142, a report to the       Erosion, but Few Qualify for Federal
Senate and House Committees on
Appropriations                                  Assistance



Approximately 6,600 miles of                    Flooding and erosion affects 184 out of 213, or 86 percent, of Alaska Native
Alaska’s coastline and many of the              villages to some extent. While many of the problems are long-standing,
low-lying areas along the state’s               various studies indicate that coastal villages are becoming more susceptible
rivers are subject to severe                    to flooding and erosion due in part to rising temperatures.
flooding and erosion. Most of
Alaska’s Native villages are located
on the coast or on riverbanks. In
                                                The Corps of Engineers and the Natural Resources Conservation Service
addition to the many federal and                administer key programs for constructing flooding and erosion control
Alaska state agencies that respond              projects. However, small and remote Alaska Native villages often fail to
to flooding and erosion, Congress               qualify for assistance under these programs—largely because of agency
established the Denali Commission               requirements that the expected costs of the project not exceed its benefits.
in 1998 to, among other things,                 Even villages that do meet the cost/benefit criteria may still not receive
provide economic development                    assistance if they cannot meet the cost-share requirement for the project.
services and to meet infrastructure
needs in rural Alaska communities.              Of the nine villages we were directed to review, four—Kivalina, Koyukuk,
                                                Newtok, and Shishmaref—are in imminent danger from flooding and erosion
Congress directed GAO to study                  and are planning to relocate, while the remaining five are in various stages of
Alaska Native villages affected by
flooding and erosion and to 1)
                                                responding to these problems. Costs for relocating are expected to be high.
determine the extent to which                   For example, the cost estimates for relocating Kivalina range from $100
these villages are affected, 2)                 million to over $400 million. Relocation is a daunting process that may take
identify federal and state flooding             several years to accomplish. During that process, federal agencies must
and erosion programs, 3)                        make wise investment decisions, yet GAO found instances where federal
determine the current status of                 agencies invested in infrastructure at the villages’ existing sites without
efforts to respond to flooding and              knowledge of their plans to relocate.
erosion in nine villages, and 4)
identify alternatives that Congress             GAO, federal and state officials, and village representatives identified some
may wish to consider when                       alternatives that could increase service delivery for Alaska Native villages,
providing assistance for flooding               although many important factors must first be considered:
and erosion.
                                                •   Expand the role of the Denali Commission.
                                                •   Direct federal agencies to consider social and environmental factors in
                                                    their cost/benefit analyses.
GAO presents to Congress a matter               •   Waive the federal cost-sharing requirement for these projects.
for consideration that directs                  •   Authorize the “bundling” of funds from various federal agencies.
federal agencies and the Denali                 Bluff Erosion at Shishmaref
Commission to assess the
feasibility of alternatives for
responding to flooding and erosion.
In addition, GAO recommends that
the Denali Commission adopt a
policy to guide future
infrastructure investments in
Alaska Native villages affected by
flooding and erosion.
www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-04-142.

To view the full product, including the scope
and methodology, click on the link above.
For more information, contact Anu Mittal at
(202) 512-3841 or mittala@gao.gov.
Contents



Letter                                                                                                          1
                              Results in Brief                                                                  2
                              Background                                                                        6
                              Most Alaska Native Villages Are Affected to Some Extent by
                                Flooding and Erosion                                                           13
                              Federal Flooding and Erosion Programs Provide Limited Assistance
                                to Alaska Native Villages; Some State Programs Are Also
                                Available                                                                      19
                              Four Villages in Imminent Danger Are Planning to Relocate, and the
                                Remaining Five Villages Are Taking Other Actions                               27
                              Alternatives for Addressing Barriers That Villages Face in Obtaining
                                Federal Services                                                               41
                              Conclusion                                                                       45
                              Recommendations for Executive Action                                             46
                              Matter for Congressional Consideration                                           46
                              Agency Comments and Our Evaluation                                               46


Appendixes
               Appendix I:    Objectives, Scope and Methodology                                                49
               Appendix II:   ANCSA For-Profit Regional Corporations and Nonprofit
                              Arms                                                                             51
              Appendix III:   List of 184 Affected Alaska Native Villages by ANCSA
                              Region                                                                           52
              Appendix IV:    Comments from the Department of the Army                                         58
                              GAO’s Comments                                                                   68
               Appendix V:    Comments from the Department of the Interior                                     69
              Appendix VI:    Comments from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
                              Development                                                                      71
             Appendix VII:    Comments from the Denali Commission                                              72
                              GAO’s Comments                                                                   74
             Appendix VIII:   Comments from the State of Alaska                                                75
                              GAO’s Comments                                                                   81
              Appendix IX:    GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments                                           82
                              GAO Contacts                                                                     82
                              Acknowledgments                                                                  82




                              Page i                     GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
          Contents




Tables    Table 1: Number of ANCSA-Eligible Villages Affected by Flooding
                   and Erosion, by Region                                                  15
          Table 2: Authorities that Address Flooding and Erosion under the
                   Corps’ Continuing Authorities Program                                   19
          Table 3: NRCS Programs That Respond to Flooding and Erosion                      20
          Table 4: Other Key Federal Programs That Can Address Problems
                   Caused by Flooding and Erosion                                          21
          Table 5: Nine Alaska Native Villages’ Efforts to Address Flooding
                   and Erosion                                                             29
          Table 6: List of ANCSA For-Profit Regional Corporations and
                   Nonprofit Arms                                                          51


Figures   Figure 1: Map of Alaska Showing Major Rivers, Oceans, and
                     Mountain Ranges                                                        7
          Figure 2: Sea Erosion at Shishmaref (June 2003)                                   8
          Figure 3: Subsistence Harvesting of a Seal in Kivalina (June
                     2003)                                                                 10
          Figure 4: Locations of 184 Native Villages Affected by Flooding and
                     Erosion                                                               14
          Figure 5: Aerial View of Flooding in Aniak (c. 2002)                             16
          Figure 6: NRCS Seawall Erosion Protection Project at Unalakleet
                     (c. 2000)                                                             25
          Figure 7: Map of Alaska with Nine Villages Highlighted                           28
          Figure 8: Aerial view of Kivalina (c. 1999)                                      31
          Figure 9: Bluff Erosion and Permafrost Melting in Shishmaref
                     (c. 2002)                                                             33
          Figure 10: Aerial View of Ice Jam and Flooding at Koyukuk, Near the
                     Confluence of the Yukon and Koyukuk Rivers
                     (c. 2001)                                                             36
          Figure 11: Airport Runway at the Native Village of Point Hope
                     (c. 2001)                                                             38




          Page ii                    GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Contents




Abbreviations

ANCSA   Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act
FAA     Federal Aviation Administration
FEMA    Federal Emergency Management Agency
FHWA    Federal Highway Administration
GAO     General Accounting Office
NAHASDA Native American Housing Assistance Self-Determination
        Act of 1996
NRCS    Natural Resources Conservation Service
WRDA    Water Resources Development Act



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Page iii                        GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Contents




Page iv    GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
A
United States General Accounting Office
Washington, D.C. 20548



                                    December 12, 2003                                                                   Leter




                                    The Honorable Ted Stevens
                                    Chairman
                                    The Honorable Robert C. Byrd
                                    Ranking Minority Member
                                    Committee on Appropriations
                                    United States Senate

                                    The Honorable C.W. Bill Young
                                    Chairman
                                    The Honorable David R. Obey
                                    Ranking Minority Member
                                    Committee on Appropriations
                                    House of Representatives

                                    Alaska’s shoreline is subject to periodic, yet severe, erosion. During these
                                    episodes, over 100 feet of land can be lost in a single storm. The state also
                                    has thousands of miles of riverbanks that are prone to annual flooding
                                    during the spring thaw. These shorelines and riverbanks serve as home to
                                    over 200 Native villages whose inhabitants hunt and fish for subsistence.
                                    Coastal and river flooding and erosion cause millions of dollars of property
                                    damage in Alaska Native villages, damaging or destroying homes, public
                                    buildings, and airport runways. Because Alaska Native villages are often in
                                    remote areas not accessible by roads, village airport runways are lifelines
                                    for many villages, and any threat to the runways either from flooding or
                                    erosion may be a threat to the villages’ survival. Flooding and erosion can
                                    also destroy meat drying racks and damage food cellars, threatening the
                                    winter food supply and the traditional subsistence lifestyle of Alaska
                                    Natives.

                                    Since 1977, the state, and in some cases the federal government, has
                                    responded to more than 190 disaster emergencies in Alaska, many in
                                    response to these problems. Several federal and state agencies are directly
                                    or indirectly involved in providing assistance for flooding and erosion in
                                    Alaska. In addition, the Denali Commission, created by Congress in 1998,
                                    while not directly responsible for responding to flooding and erosion, is
                                    charged with addressing crucial needs of rural Alaska communities,




                                    Page 1                      GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
                   particularly isolated Alaska Native villages.1 The commission is composed
                   of a federal and a state cochair and representatives from local agencies, as
                   well as Alaska Native, public, and private entities. For fiscal year 2003, the
                   commission was provided with almost $99 million in federal funds to carry
                   out its mission. The purpose of the commission is to (1) deliver the services
                   of the federal government in the most cost-effective manner practicable;
                   (2) provide job training and other economic development services in rural
                   communities; and (3) promote rural development and provide
                   infrastructure such as water, sewer, and communication systems.

                   The fiscal year 2003 Conference Report for the military construction
                   appropriation bill directed GAO to study Alaska Native villages affected by
                   flooding and erosion.2 In response to this direction and subsequent
                   discussions with your staff, we (1) determined the extent to which Alaska
                   Native villages are affected by flooding and erosion; (2) identified federal
                   and Alaska state programs that provide assistance for flooding and erosion
                   and assessed the extent to which federal assistance has been provided to
                   Alaska Native villages; (3) determined the status of efforts, including cost
                   estimates, to respond to flooding and erosion in select villages seriously
                   affected by flooding and erosion; and (4) identified alternatives that
                   Congress may wish to consider when providing assistance for flooding and
                   erosion of Alaska Native villages.

                   To address the objectives for this report, we reviewed federal and state
                   flooding and erosion studies and project documents and interviewed
                   federal and state agency officials and representatives from each of the nine
                   villages. We also visited four of the nine villages. While the committee
                   directed us to include at least six villages in our study—Barrow, Bethel,
                   Kaktovik, Kivalina, Point Hope, and Unalakleet—we added three more—
                   Koyukuk, Newtok, and Shishmaref—based on discussions with
                   congressional staff and with federal and Alaska state officials familiar with
                   flooding and erosion problems. Appendix I provides further details about
                   the scope and methodology of our review.



Results in Brief   According to federal and state officials in Alaska, 184 out of 213, or 86.4
                   percent of Alaska Native villages experience some level of flooding and


                   1
                    Pub. L. No. 105-277, tit. III, 112 Stat. 2681 (1998).
                   2
                    H. R. Conf. Rep. No. 107-731, at 15 (2002).




                   Page 2                              GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
erosion, but it is difficult to assess the severity of the problem because
quantifiable data are not available for remote locations. Native villages on
the coast or along rivers are subject to both annual and episodic flooding
and erosion. Various studies and reports indicate that coastal villages in
Alaska are becoming more susceptible to flooding and erosion in part
because rising temperatures cause protective shore ice to form later in the
year, leaving the villages vulnerable to fall storms. For example, the barrier
island village of Shishmaref, which is less than 1,320 feet wide, lost 125 feet
of beach to erosion during an October 1997 storm. In addition, villages in
low-lying areas along riverbanks or in river deltas are susceptible to
flooding and erosion caused by ice jams, snow and glacial melts, rising sea
levels, and heavy rainfall. For many villages, ice jams that form in the
Kuskokwim and Yukon Rivers during the spring ice breakup cause the most
frequent and severe floods by creating a buildup of water behind the jam.
The resulting accumulation of water can flood entire villages. While
flooding and erosion affect most Alaska Native villages, federal and state
officials noted that Alaska has significant data gaps because of a lack of
monitoring equipment in remote locations. This lack of baseline data
makes it difficult to assess the severity of the problem.

The Continuing Authorities Program, administered by the U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers, and the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program,
administered by the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources
Conservation Service, are the principal federal programs that provide
assistance for the prevention or control of flooding and erosion. However,
small and remote Alaska Native villages often fail to qualify for assistance
under these programs because they do not meet program criteria. For
example, according to the Corps’ guidelines for evaluating water resource
projects, the Corps generally cannot undertake a project when the
economic costs exceed the expected benefits. With few exceptions, Alaska
Native villages’ requests for assistance under this program are denied
because the project costs usually outweigh expected benefits. Even
villages that meet the Corps’ cost/benefit criteria may still fail to qualify if
they cannot meet cost-share requirements for the project. The Department
of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Watershed
Protection and Flood Prevention Program also requires a cost/benefit
analysis similar to that of the Corps. As a result, few Alaska Native villages
qualify for assistance under this program. However, the Natural Resources
Conservation Service has other programs that have provided limited
assistance to these villages—in part because these programs consider
additional social and environmental factors in developing their cost/benefit
analysis. Besides programs administered by the Corps of Engineers and the



Page 3                       GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Natural Resources Conservation Service, there are several other federal
and state programs that offer limited assistance to Alaska Native villages in
responding to flooding and erosion. For example, the Federal Aviation
Administration can assist with rebuilding or repairing airstrips that are
affected by flooding and erosion, and the Alaska Department of
Community and Economic Development provides coordination and
technical assistance to communities to help reduce losses and damage
from flooding and erosion. However, these programs are generally not
prevention programs, but are available to assist communities in preparing
for or responding to the consequences of flooding and erosion.

Of the nine villages we were directed to review, four—Kivalina, Koyukuk,
Newtok, and Shishmaref—are in imminent danger from flooding and
erosion and are making plans to relocate; the remaining villages are taking
other actions. Kivalina, Newtok, and Shishmaref are working with relevant
federal agencies to determine the suitability of possible relocation sites,
while Koyukuk is in the early stages of planning for relocation. Because of
the high cost of materials and transportation in remote parts of Alaska, the
cost of relocation for these villages is expected to be high. For example, the
Corps estimates that the cost to relocate Kivalina, which has a population
of about 385, could range from $100 million for design and construction of
infrastructure, including a gravel pad, at one site and up to $400 million for
just the cost of building a gravel pad at another site. Cost estimates for
relocating the other three villages are not yet available. The five villages not
planning to relocate—Barrow, Bethel, Kaktovik, Point Hope, and
Unalakleet—are in various stages of responding to their flooding and
erosion problems. For example, two of these villages, Kaktovik and Point
Hope, are studying ways to prevent flooding of specific infrastructure, such
as the airport runway. In addition, Bethel, a regional hub in southwest
Alaska with a population of about 5,471, has a project under way to stop
erosion of its riverbank. The project involves repairing an existing seawall
and extending it 1,200 feet to protect the entrance to the village’s small boat
harbor, at an initial cost estimate of more than $4.7 million and average
annual costs of $374,000.

During our review of the nine villages, we found instances where federal
agencies invested in infrastructure projects without knowledge of the
villages’ plans to relocate. For example, the Denali Commission and the
Department of Housing and Urban Development were unaware of
Newtok’s relocation plans when they decided to jointly fund a new health
clinic in the village for $1.1 million (using fiscal year 2002 and 2003 funds).
While we recognize that development and maintenance of critical



Page 4                       GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
infrastructure, such as health clinics and runways, are necessary as villages
find ways to respond to flooding and erosion, we question whether limited
federal funds for these projects are being expended in the most effective
and efficient manner. Had the agencies known of the village’s relocation
plans they could have explored other, potentially less costly, options for
meeting the village’s needs, until it is able to relocate. The Denali
Commission has recognized this issue as a concern and is working on a
policy to ensure that investments are made in a conscientious and
sustainable manner for villages threatened by flooding and erosion.
Successful implementation of such a policy will depend in part on its
adoption by individual federal agencies that also fund infrastructure
development in Alaska Native villages. We are recommending that the
Denali Commission adopt a policy that will guide future infrastructure
investments and project designs in villages affected by flooding and
erosion.

The unique circumstances of Alaska Native villages and their inability to
qualify for assistance under a variety of federal flooding and erosion
programs may require special measures to ensure that they receive certain
needed services. Federal and Alaska state officials and Alaska Native
village representatives that we spoke with identified several alternatives
that could help mitigate the barriers that villages face in obtaining federal
services. The alternatives discussed below may be considered individually
or in combination. However, adopting some of these alternatives will
require consideration of a number of important factors including the
potential to set a precedent for other communities and programs as well as
resulting budgetary implications.

• Expand the role of the Denali Commission to include responsibility for
  managing a flooding and erosion assistance program, which it currently
  does not have.

• Direct the Corps and the Natural Resources Conservation Service to
  consider social and environmental factors in their cost benefit analyses
  for projects requested by Alaska Native villages.

• Waive the federal cost-sharing requirement for flooding and erosion
  programs for Alaska Native villages.

In addition, as a fourth alternative, GAO identified the bundling of funds
from various agencies to address flooding and erosion problems in Alaska
Native villages. While we did not determine the cost or the national policy



Page 5                      GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
             implications associated with any of these alternatives, these costs and
             implications are important considerations in determining the appropriate
             level of federal services that should be available to respond to flooding and
             erosion in Alaska Native villages. Consequently, we are providing Congress
             with a matter for consideration that it direct relevant executive agencies
             and the Denali Commission to assess the feasibility of each of the
             alternatives, as appropriate. In addition, the Denali Commission may want
             to comment on the implications of expanding its role.



Background   Alaska encompasses an area of about 365 million acres, more than the
             combined area of the next three largest states—Texas, California, and
             Montana. The state is bound on three sides by water, and its coastline,
             which stretches about 6,600 miles (excluding island shorelines, bays and
             fjords) and accounts for more than half of the entire U.S. coastline, varies
             from rocky shores, sandy beaches, and high cliffs to river deltas, mud flats,
             and barrier islands. The coastline constantly changes due to wave action,
             ocean currents, storms, and river deposits and is subject to periodic, yet
             severe, erosion. Alaska also has more than 12,000 rivers, including three of
             the ten largest in the country—the Yukon, Kuskokwim, and Copper Rivers.3
             (See fig. 1.) While these and other rivers provide food, transportation, and
             recreation for people, as well as habitat for fish and wildlife, their waters
             also shape the landscape. In particular, ice jams on rivers and flooding of
             riverbanks during spring breakup change the contour of valleys, wetlands,
             and human settlements.




             3
              The size is determined by the average rate of flow (discharge at the mouth).




             Page 6                           GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Figure 1: Map of Alaska Showing Major Rivers, Oceans, and Mountain Ranges




                                        Permafrost (permanently frozen subsoil) is found over approximately 80
                                        percent of Alaska. It is deepest and most extensive on the Arctic Coastal
                                        Plain and decreases in depth, eventually becoming discontinuous further
                                        south. In northern Alaska, where the permafrost is virtually everywhere,
                                        most buildings are elevated to minimize the amount of heat transferred to
                                        the ground to avoid melting the permafrost. In northern barrier island
                                        communities, the permafrost literally helps hold the island together.
                                        However, rising temperatures in recent years have led to widespread
                                        thawing of the permafrost, causing serious damage. As permafrost melts,
                                        buildings and runways sink, bulk fuel tank areas are threatened, and
                                        slumping and erosion of land ensue. (See fig. 2.)




                                        Page 7                      GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Figure 2: Sea Erosion at Shishmaref (June 2003)




Source: GAO.




Rising temperatures have also affected the thickness, extent, and duration
of sea ice that forms along the western and northern coasts. The loss of sea
ice leaves coasts more vulnerable to waves, storm surges, and erosion.
When combined with the thawing of permafrost along the coast, this loss of
sea ice poses a serious threat to coastal Alaska Native villages.
Furthermore, loss of sea ice alters the habitat and accessibility of many of
the marine mammals that Alaska Natives depend upon for subsistence. As
the ice melts or moves away early, walruses, seals, and polar bears move
with it, taking them too far away to be hunted.




Page 8                       GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Although Alaska is by far the largest state, it is one of the least populated,
with about 630,000 people—of which 19 percent, or about 120,000, are
Alaska Natives.4 Over half of the state’s population is concentrated in the
Kenai Peninsula, Anchorage, and the Matanuska-Susitna area in south
central Alaska. Many Alaska Natives, however, live in places long inhabited
by their ancestors in rural areas in western, northern, and interior Alaska.
Alaskan Natives are generally divided into six major groupings: Unangan
(Aleuts), Alutiiq (Pacific Eskimos), Iñupiat (Northern Eskimos), Yup’ik
(Bering Sea Eskimos), Athabascan (Interior Indians), and Tlingit and Haida
(Southeast Coastal Indians).5 For generations, these Alaska Natives have
used the surrounding waters and land to hunt, fish, and gather wild plants
for food. (See fig. 3.) These subsistence activities are intricately woven
into the fabric of their lives. Subsistence activities require a complex
network of social relationships within the Native community. For example,
there is a division of labor among those who harvest, those who prepare,
and those who distribute the food. These activities establish and promote
the basic values of Alaska Native culture—generosity, respect for the
knowledge and guidance of elders, self-esteem for the successful hunter(s),
and community cooperation—and they form the foundation for continuity
between generations. As their environment changes along with the climate,
however, Alaska Natives have few adaptive strategies, and their traditional
way of life is becoming increasingly vulnerable.




4
 The U.S. Census Bureau defines this category as American Indian and Alaska Native.
5
 Other Alaska Native groups include Siberian Yupik of St. Lawrence Island and Tsimshian of
southeast Alaska.




Page 9                          GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Figure 3: Subsistence Harvesting of a Seal in Kivalina (June 2003)




Source: GAO.




A typical coastal or river Native village has a population of a couple of
hundred people and generally contains only basic infrastructure—homes, a
school, a village store, a health clinic, a washateria, a church, city or tribal
offices, and a post office. The school is usually the largest building in the
community. Since many villages do not have running water, the washateria
plays an important role; it not only contains laundry facilities, but also
shower and toilet facilities—which residents must pay a fee to use. Many
village homes do not have sanitation facilities and rely on honey buckets—
5-gallon buckets that serve as a toilet—or a flush and haul system.6 Most of
the villages that are not accessible by roads contain an airport runway that
provides the only year-round access to the community. The runways are
generally adjacent to the village or a short distance away. Other
infrastructure in a village may consist of a bulk fuel tank farm, a power
plant, a water treatment facility, a water tank, meat drying racks, a village

6
  A flush and haul system generally consists of individual storage tanks that provide water to
flush toilets, and the sewage is then stored in a separate tank whose contents are
transported to a sewage lagoon.




Page 10                           GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
                            sewage lagoon or dump site, and, for some villages, commercial structures
                            such as tanneries. Most river villages also have a barge landing area where
                            goods are delivered to the community during the ice-free period.



Multiple Entities Make Up   The government structure of Native villages may contain several distinct
the Alaska Native Village   entities that perform administrative tasks, including making decisions
                            about how to address flooding and erosion. Alaska’s constitution and state
Governing Structure
                            laws allow for several types of regional and local government units, such as
                            boroughs—units of government that are similar to the counties found in
                            many other states. About a third of Alaska is made up of 16 organized
                            boroughs. The remaining two-thirds of the state is sparsely populated land
                            that is considered a single “unorganized borough.” At the village level, a
                            federally recognized tribal government may coexist with a city government,
                            which may also be under a borough government. Alaska has more than 200
                            federally recognized tribal governments.

                            In addition to these various government entities, federal agencies that
                            provide assistance for flooding and erosion also work with local and
                            regional Native corporations. Federal law directed the establishment of
                            these corporations under the laws of the state of Alaska, and the
                            corporations are organized as for-profit entities that also have nonprofit
                            arms. In December 1971, Congress enacted the Alaska Native Claims
                            Settlement Act (ANCSA), which directed the establishment of 12 for-profit
                            regional corporations—one for each geographic region comprised of
                            Natives having a common heritage and sharing common interests—and
                            over 200 village corporations.7 These corporations would become the
                            vehicle for distributing land and monetary benefits to Alaska Natives to
                            provide a fair and just settlement of aboriginal land claims in Alaska. The
                            act permitted the conveyance of about 44 million acres of land to Alaska
                            Native corporations, along with cash payments of almost $1 billion.8 (See
                            appendix II for a list of the regional corporations and the corresponding
                            nonprofit arms that provide social services to the villages and also help
                            them address problems, including flooding and erosion.)



                            7
                             Pub. L. No. 92-203, 85 Stat. 688 (1971). In addition, a thirteenth corporation was established
                            later for nonresident Alaska Natives.
                            8
                              A thirteenth regional corporation was later established for nonresident Alaska Natives. This
                            corporation participated only in ANCSA’s cash settlement and did not receive any ANCSA
                            lands or other ANCSA benefits.




                            Page 11                           GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Several Federal and State    Federal, state, and local government agencies share responsibility for
Agencies Are Responsible     controlling and responding to flooding and erosion. The U.S. Army Corps of
                             Engineers has responsibility for planning and constructing streambank and
for Responding to Flooding   shoreline erosion protection and flood control structures under a specific
and Erosion                  set of requirements.9 The Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources
                             Conservation Service (NRCS) is responsible for protecting small
                             watersheds. A number of other federal agencies, such as the Departments
                             of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, also have
                             responsibility for protecting certain infrastructure from flooding and
                             erosion. On the state side, the Division of Emergency Services responds to
                             state disaster declarations dealing with flooding and erosion when local
                             communities request assistance. The Alaska Department of Community
                             and Economic Development helps communities reduce losses and damage
                             from flooding and erosion. The Alaska Department of Transportation and
                             Public Facilities funds work to protect runways from erosion. Local
                             governments such as the North Slope Borough have also funded erosion
                             control and flood protection projects.

                             In addition to government agencies, the Denali Commission, created by
                             Congress in 1998, while not directly responsible for responding to flooding
                             and erosion, is charged with addressing crucial needs of rural Alaska
                             communities, particularly isolated Alaska Native villages. The membership
                             of the commission consists of federal and state cochairs and a five-member
                             panel from statewide organization presidents. The mission of the
                             commission is to partner with tribal, federal, state, and local governments
                             to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of government services; to
                             build and ensure the operation and maintenance of Alaska’s basic
                             infrastructure; and to develop a well-trained labor force. The commission
                             funds infrastructure projects throughout the state, ranging from health
                             clinics to bulk fuel tanks. The commission has also funded the construction
                             of new infrastructure when flooding and erosion threatened the existing
                             structures.




                             9
                              The Corps may study and construct erosion protection and flood control structures,
                             provided it receives authority and appropriations from Congress to do so. In addition to
                             building structures, the Corps may also consider and implement non-structural and
                             relocation alternatives.




                             Page 12                          GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Most Alaska Native          According to federal and Alaska state officials that we consulted, most of
                            the 213 Alaska Native villages are subject to flooding and erosion. However,
Villages Are Affected to    it is difficult to assess the severity of the problem because quantifiable data
Some Extent by              on flooding and erosion are not available for remote locations. Villages
                            located on the coast or along rivers are subject to both annual and episodic
Flooding and Erosion        flooding and erosion. In addition, river villages are also susceptible to
                            flooding and erosion caused by ice jams, snow and glacial melts, rising sea
                            levels, and heavy rainfall.



Coastal or River Flooding   Flooding and erosion affects 184 out of 213, or 86.4 percent, of Alaska
and Erosion Affects 86      Native villages to some extent, according to studies and information
                            provided to us by federal and Alaska state officials. The 184 affected
Percent of Alaska Native
                            villages consist of coastal and river villages throughout the state. Figure 4
Villages                    shows the location of these villages, and table 1 shows the number of
                            affected villages by ANCSA region. All 184 Native villages affected by
                            flooding and erosion are listed in appendix III.




                            Page 13                     GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Figure 4: Locations of 184 Native Villages Affected by Flooding and Erosion




                                          Page 14                       GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Table 1: Number of ANCSA-Eligible Villages Affected by Flooding and Erosion, by
Region

                                                                           Alaska Native villages
                                                     Alaska Native           affected by flooding
Region                                                    villages                   and erosion
Ahtna                                                               8                                  4
Aleut                                                             13                              13
Arctic Slope                                                        8                                  6
Bering Straits                                                    20                              18
Bristol Bay                                                       29                              27
Calista                                                           56                              49
Chugach                                                             5                                  4
Cook Inlet Region                                                   7                                  3
Doyon                                                             37                              33
Koniag                                                             9a                                  6
NANA                                                              11                              11
Sealaska                                                          10                              10
Total                                                            213                             184
Source: GAO.
a
 There are seven additional ANCSA-eligible villages in the Koniag region, but they do not have
corresponding Alaska Native entities recognized by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian
Affairs.


Villages on the coast are affected by flooding and erosion from the sea. For
example, when these villages are not protected by sea ice, they are at risk
of flooding and erosion from storm surges. Lack of sea ice also increases
the distance over water, which can generate increased waves and storm
surges. In the case of Kivalina, the community has experienced erosion
from sea storms, particularly in late summer or fall. These storms can
result in a sea level rise of 10 feet or more, and when combined with high
tide, the storm surge becomes even greater and can be accompanied by
waves that contain ice. In addition to coastal villages, communities in low-
lying areas along riverbanks or in river deltas are susceptible to flooding
and erosion caused by ice jams, snow and glacial melts, rising sea levels
and heavy rainfall. For example, the village of Aniak, on the Kuskokwim
River in southwestern Alaska, experiences flooding every 3 or 4 years. Ice
jams that form on the river during the spring breakup cause the most
frequent and severe floods in Aniak, sometimes accompanied by
streambank erosion from the ice flow. (See fig. 5.)




Page 15                             GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Figure 5: Aerial View of Flooding in Aniak (c. 2002)




Source: Alaska Division of Emergency Services.




                                                 Flooding and erosion are long-standing problems in Alaska. For example,
                                                 these problems have been well documented in Bethel, Unalakleet, and
                                                 Shishmaref dating back to the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, respectively. The
                                                 state has made several efforts to identify communities affected by flooding
                                                 and erosion over the past 30 years. In 1982, a state contractor developed a
                                                 list of Alaska communities affected by flooding and erosion.10 This list
                                                 identified 169 of the 213 Alaska Native villages, virtually the same villages
                                                 identified by federal and state officials that we consulted in 2003. In
                                                 addition, the state appointed an Erosion Control Task Force in 1983 to


                                                 10
                                                  This report was prepared for the Alaska Department of Community and Regional Affairs,
                                                 the predecessor of the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development.




                                                 Page 16                        GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
                                investigate and inventory potential erosion problems and to prioritize
                                erosion sites by severity and need. In its January 1984 final report, the task
                                force identified a total of 30 priority communities with erosion problems.
                                Of these 30 communities, 28 are Alaska Native villages. Federal and state
                                officials that we spoke with in 2003 also identified almost all of the Native
                                communities in the 1984 report as villages needing assistance.

                                While flooding and erosion is a long-standing problem that has been
                                documented in Alaska for decades, various studies and reports indicate
                                that coastal villages in Alaska are becoming more susceptible. This
                                increasing susceptibility is due in part to rising temperatures that cause
                                protective shore ice to form later in the year, leaving the villages vulnerable
                                to storms. According to the Alaska Climate Research Center, mean annual
                                temperatures have risen for the period from 1971 to 2000, although changes
                                varied from one climate zone to another and were dependent on the
                                temperature station selected. For example, Barrow experienced an average
                                temperature increase of 4.16 degrees Fahrenheit for the 30-year period
                                from 1971 to 2000, while Bethel experienced an increase of 3.08 degrees
                                Fahrenheit for the same time period.

                                Other studies have reported extensive melting of glaciers, thawing of
                                permafrost, and reduction of sea ice that may also be contributing to the
                                flooding and erosion problems of coastal villages in recent years.
                                According to a 1999 report for the U.S. Global Change Research Program,
                                glaciers in the arctic and subarctic regions have generally receded, with
                                decreases in ice thickness of approximately 33 feet over the last 40 years.
                                In addition, according to a 1997 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on
                                Climate Change, much of the arctic permafrost is close to thawing, making
                                it an area that is sensitive to small changes in temperature. The 1999 report
                                for the U.S. Global Change Research Program also states that both the
                                extent and thickness of sea ice in the arctic have decreased substantially in
                                recent decades, with thickness decreasing by more than 4 feet (from 10-
                                feet to 6-feet thick). The report also notes that loss of sea ice along Alaska’s
                                coast has increased both coastal erosion and vulnerability to storm surges.
                                With less ice, storm surges have become more severe because larger open
                                water areas can generate bigger waves.



Quantifiable Data Are Not       While most Alaska Native villages are affected to some extent by flooding
Available to Fully Assess the   and erosion, quantifiable data are not available to fully assess the severity
                                of the problem. Federal and Alaska state agency officials could agree on
Severity of the Problem         which three or four villages experience the most flooding and erosion, but



                                Page 17                      GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
they could not rank flooding and erosion in the remaining villages by high,
medium, or low severity. These agency officials said that determining the
extent to which villages have been affected by flooding and erosion is
difficult because Alaska has significant data gaps. These gaps occur
because remote locations lack monitoring equipment. The officials noted
that about 400 to 500 gauging stations would have to be added in Alaska to
attain the same level of gauging as in the Pacific Northwest.

In addition, the amount and accuracy of floodplain information in Alaska
varies widely from place to place.11 Detailed floodplain studies have been
completed for many of the larger communities and for the more populated
areas along some rivers. For example, the Federal Emergency Management
Agency (FEMA) has published Flood Insurance Rate Maps that show
floodplain boundaries and flood elevations for communities that
participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. However, because
only a handful of Alaska Native villages participate in the program, many of
the villages have not had their 100-year floodplain identified by FEMA. In
addition, little or no documented floodplain information exists for most of
the smaller communities. Moreover, no consolidated record has been
maintained of significant floods in Alaska Native villages. The Corps’ Flood
Plain Management Services has an ongoing program to identify the 100-
year flood elevation, or the flood of record of flood-prone communities
through data research and field investigations.

State of Alaska officials also noted that there is a lack of standards and
terms for measuring erosion. Erosion zone guidance and federal (or state)
standards by which to judge erosion risks are needed. They noted that
while national standards for designing, developing and siting for the “100-
year flood” event exists and are quantifiable and measurable, a similar
standard for erosion, such as a distance measurement needs to be
established.




11
  Floodplain refers to the lowlands adjoining the channel of a river, stream, or watercourse,
or ocean, lake, or other body of standing water, which have been or may be inundated by
floodwater. The channel of a stream or watercourse is part of the floodplain.




Page 18                          GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Federal Flooding and       The key programs that construct projects to prevent and control flooding
                           and erosion are administered by the Corps and NRCS. However, Alaska
Erosion Programs           Native villages have difficulty qualifying for assistance under some of these
Provide Limited            programs—largely because of program requirements that the economic
                           costs of the project not exceed its economic benefits. In addition to the
Assistance to Alaska       Corps and NRCS, several other federal and state agencies have programs to
Native Villages; Some      provide assistance for specific consequences of flooding and erosion, such
State Programs Are         as programs to replace homes or to rebuild or repair roads and airstrips.
Also Available

Federal Programs Are       The Continuing Authorities Program, administered by the Corps, and the
Available to Respond to    Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program, administered by
                           NRCS, are the principal programs available to prevent flooding and control
Problems Associated with
                           erosion. Table 2 below lists and describes the five authorities under the
Flooding and Erosion       Corps’ Continuing Authorities Program that address flooding and erosion,
                           while table 3 identifies the main NRCS programs that provide assistance for
                           flooding and erosion.



                           Table 2: Authorities that Address Flooding and Erosion under the Corps’ Continuing
                           Authorities Program

                           Program authority                                        Description
                           Section 14 of the Flood Control                          For emergency streambank and shoreline
                           Act of 1946                                              erosion protection for public facilities
                           Section 205 of the Flood Control                         Authorizes flood control projects
                           Act of 1948
                           Section 208 of the Flood Control                         Authorizes flood control activities
                           Act of 1954
                           Section 103 of the River and Harbor                      Protect shores of publicly owned property
                           Act of 1962                                              from hurricane and storm damage
                           Section 111 of the River and Harbor                      Mitigate shoreline erosion damage cause by
                           Act of 1968                                              federal navigation projects
                           Source: GAO analysis of Corps program information.


                           In addition to the Corps’ Continuing Authorities Program, other Corps
                           authorities that may address problems related to flooding and erosion
                           include the following:




                           Page 19                                       GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
• Section 22 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1974, which
  provides authority for the Corps to assist states in the preparation of
  comprehensive plans for the development, utilization, and conservation
  of water and related resources of drainage basins.

• Section 206 of the Flood Control Act of 1960, which allows the Corps’
  Flood Plain Management Services’ Program to provide states and local
  governments technical services and planning guidance that is needed to
  support effective flood plain management.



Table 3: NRCS Programs That Respond to Flooding and Erosion

Program                                                 Description
Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Provides funding for projects that control
Program                                   erosion and prevent flooding. Limited to
                                          watersheds that are less than 250,000
                                          acres.
Emergency Watershed Protection Program                  Provides assistance where there is some
                                                        imminent threat—usually from some sort of
                                                        erosion caused by river flooding.
Conservation Technical Assistance                       Provides technical assistance to
Program                                                 communities and individuals to solve
                                                        natural resource problems including
                                                        reducing erosion, improving air and water
                                                        quality, and maintaining or restoring
                                                        wetlands and habitat.
Source: GAO analysis of NRCS program information.


In addition to these programs, several other federal programs can assist
Alaska Native villages in responding to the consequences of flooding by
funding tasks such as moving homes, repairing roads, or rebuilding airport
runways. Table 4 lists these programs.




Page 20                                     GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Table 4: Other Key Federal Programs That Can Address Problems Caused by Flooding and Erosion

Agency/program                                                 Description
Federal Emergency Management Agency/National Flood Insurance Makes flood insurance available to residents of communities that
Program                                                      adopt and enforce minimum floodplain management requirements.
Federal Emergency Management Agency/Public Assistance          Provides supplemental federal disaster grant assistance for the
Program                                                        repair, replacement, or restoration of disaster-damaged, publicly
                                                               owned facilities and the facilities of certain nonprofit organizations.
Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration    Provides funding through the state of Alaska for roads, pedestrian
(FHWA)                                                         facilities, and snowmobile trails. FHWA monies may be available to
                                                               assist villages with improving or repairing roads/boardwalks.
Department of Transportation/Federal Aviation Administration   Provides funding to improve airport infrastructure—including those
(FAA)/Alaska Region Airports Division                          threatened by flooding and erosion. Could fund relocation of an
                                                               airport if necessitated by community relocation providing the airport
                                                               meets criteria for funding—airport is in the National Plan of
                                                               Integrated Airport System and meets FAA design standards.
                                                               However, the villages first need to be relocated first before the new
                                                               airport is built.
Housing and Urban Development/Community Development Block      Provides grants to Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages to
Grants Program                                                 develop economic opportunities and build decent housing for low
                                                               and moderate-income residents.
Housing and Urban Development/Native American Housing          Provides grants and technical assistance to Indian tribes and
Assistance Self-Determination Act of 1996 (NAHASDA)            Alaska Native villages to develop affordable housing for low-income
                                                               families. NAHASDA funds could also be used to move homes that
                                                               are threatened by flooding and erosion.
Housing and Urban Development/Imminent Threats Grants          Provides funding to alleviate or remove imminent threats to health
Program                                                        or safety—including threats posed by flooding and erosion.
Bureau of Indian Affairs/Road Maintenance Program              Provides funding for maintaining and repairing roads, culverts, and
                                                               airstrips in order to provide a foundation for economic development.
Bureau of Indian Affairs/Housing Improvement Program           Provides grants and technical assistance to replace substandard
                                                               housing, including housing that is threatened, damaged, or lost due
                                                               to erosion or flooding.
Department of Commerce’s Economic Development                  Provides assistance to protect and develop the economies of
Administration/Economic Adjustment Program                     communities. This assistance could involve building erosion or flood
                                                               control structures in order to protect village commercial structures,
                                                               such as canneries.
Source: GAO analysis of agencies’ data.




                                             Page 21                      GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Villages Have Difficulty    Small and remote Alaska villages often fail to qualify for assistance under
Qualifying for the Corps’   the Corps’ Continuing Authorities Program because they do not meet the
Program                     program’s criteria. In particular, according to the Corps’ guidelines for
                            evaluating water resource projects, the Corps generally cannot undertake a
                            project whose costs exceed its expected benefits.12 With few exceptions,
                            Alaska Native villages’ requests for the Corps’ assistance are denied
                            because of the Corps’ determination that project costs outweigh the
                            expected benefits. Alaska Native villages have difficulty meeting the
                            cost/benefit requirement because many of these villages are not developed
                            to the extent that the value of their infrastructure is high enough to equal
                            the cost of a proposed erosion or flood control project. For example, the
                            Alaska Native village of Kongiganak, with a population of about 360 people,
                            experiences severe erosion from the Kongnignanohk River. The Corps
                            decided not to fund an erosion project because the cost of the project
                            exceeds the expected benefits and because many of the structures
                            threatened are private property, which are not eligible for protection under
                            a Section 14 Emergency Streambank Protection project. One additional
                            factor that makes it difficult for Alaska Native villages to qualify for the
                            Corps’ program is that the cost of construction is high in remote villages—
                            largely because labor, equipment, and materials have to be brought in from
                            distant locations. The high cost of construction makes it even more
                            difficult for villages to meet the Corps’ cost/benefit requirements.




                            12
                             The Corps’ guidelines are based on the Flood Control Act of 1936, which provides that “the
                            Federal Government should improve or participate in the improvement of navigable waters
                            or their tributaries . . . if the benefits . . . are in excess of the estimated costs.”
                            33 U.S.C. §701a.




                            Page 22                          GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
                             Even villages that do meet the Corps’ cost/benefit criteria may still fail to
                             receive assistance if they cannot provide or find sufficient funding to meet
                             the cost-share requirements for the project. By law, the Corps generally
                             requires local communities to fund between 25 and 50 percent of project
                             planning and construction costs for flood prevention and erosion control
                             projects.13 According to village leaders we spoke to, under these cost-share
                             requirements they may need to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars or
                             more to fund their portion of a project—funding that many of them do not
                             have.14



Qualifying for Some NRCS     As shown in table 3, NRCS has three key programs that can provide
Programs Is Less Difficult   assistance to villages to protect against flooding and erosion—two of
                             which are less difficult to qualify for than the Corps program. The NRCS
                             programs are the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program, the
                             Emergency Watershed Protection Program, and the Conservation
                             Technical Assistance Program. The purpose of the Watershed Protection
                             and Flood Prevention Program is to assist federal, state, and local agencies
                             and tribal governments in protecting and restoring watersheds from
                             damage caused by erosion, and flooding.15 Qualifying for funding under the
                             NRCS Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program requires a
                             cost/benefit analysis similar to that of the Corps. In fact, according to an
                             NRCS headquarters official, there should be little if any difference in the
                             standards for cost benefit analyses between the Corps and NRCS
                             programs. As a result, few projects for Alaskan Native villages have been
                             funded under this program.




                             13
                              The Corps has the authority to make cost sharing adjustments based upon a community’s
                             ability to pay under section 103 (m) of the Water Resources Development Act of 1986, as
                             amended. 33 U.S.C. §2213 (m).
                             14
                              According to state of Alaska officials, historically the state has provided the nonfederal
                             matching funds for most Corps of Engineers (and other federal projects), and with the
                             extreme budget deficits currently faced by the state of Alaska, the matching funds have
                             been severely limited.
                             15
                              The Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program was authorized under the
                             Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act, Pub. L. No. 83-566 (1954).




                             Page 23                           GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
In contrast, some villages have been able to qualify for assistance from the
Emergency Watershed Protection Program, because for this program
NRCS’s policy is different and allows consideration of additional factors in
the cost/benefit analysis.16 Specifically, NRCS considers social or
environmental factors when calculating the potential benefits of a
proposed project, and protecting the subsistence lifestyle of an Alaska
Native village can be included as one of these factors. In addition, NRCS
headquarters officials have instructed field staff to “take a second look” at
proposed projects in which the potential benefits are nearly equal to the
project costs. In some cases, according to NRCS’s National Emergency
Watershed Protection Program Leader, there may be unusual
circumstances that might make the project worthwhile even if the costs
slightly outweigh the benefits. One example provided by this official was
for projects that involved protecting Native American burial grounds.
Furthermore, while NRCS’s program encourages cost sharing by local
communities, this requirement can be waived when the local community
cannot afford to pay. Such was the case in Unalakleet, where the
community had petitioned federal and state agencies to fund its local cost-
share of an erosion protection project and was not successful. Eventually,
NRCS waived the cost-share requirement for the village and covered the
total cost of the project itself. (See fig. 6.) Another NRCS official in Alaska
estimated that about 25 villages have requested assistance under this
program during the last 5 years; of these 25 villages, 6 received some
assistance from NRCS, and 19 were turned down—mostly because there
were either no feasible solutions or because the problems they wished to
address were recurring ones. One factor that limits the assistance provided
by the program is that it is intended for smaller scale projects than those
that might be constructed by the Corps. Moreover, because this program is
designed to respond quickly to emergencies, it is limited to addressing one-
time events—such as repairing damage caused by a large storm—rather
than addressing recurring flooding and erosion.




16
 The Emergency Watershed Protection Program was authorized under the Flood Control
Act of 1950, Pub. L. No. 81-516 (1950).




Page 24                       GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Figure 6: NRCS Seawall Erosion Protection Project at Unalakleet (c. 2000)




Source: NRCS.




                                           Unlike the other NRCS programs and the Corps program, NRCS’s
                                           Conservation Technical Assistance Program does not require any cost
                                           benefit analysis to qualify for assistance.17 An NRCS official in Alaska
                                           estimated that during the last 2 years, NRCS provided assistance to about
                                           25 villages under this program. The program is designed to provide
                                           technical assistance to communities and individuals that request help to
                                           solve natural resource problems, improve the health of the watershed,
                                           reduce erosion, improve air and water quality, or maintain or improve
                                           wetlands and habitat. The technical assistance provided can range from


                                           17
                                            The Conservation Technical Assistance Program was authorized under the Soil
                                           Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act of 1935, Pub. L. No. 74-46 (1935).




                                           Page 25                          GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
                            advice or consultation services to developing planning, design, and/or
                            engineering documents. The program does not fund the construction or
                            implementation of a project.



Alaska State Programs Are   In addition to the federal programs, the state of Alaska has programs to
Also Available to Respond   help address or respond to flooding and erosion problems of Alaska Native
                            villages. These include:
to Flooding and Erosion
                            • The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, which
                              funds work through its maintenance appropriations to protect village
                              airstrips from erosion.

                            • The Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development,
                              which has a floodplain management program that provides coordination
                              and technical assistance to communities to help reduce public-and
                              private-sector losses and damage from flooding and erosion.

                            • The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, which has a
                              Village Safe Water Program that can pay to relocate water or sewage
                              treatment facilities that are threatened by erosion.

                            • The Alaska Housing Financing Corporation, which has a program to
                              provide loans or grants to persons in imminent danger of losing their
                              homes.

                            • The Alaska Division of Emergency Services, which coordinates the
                              response to emergencies resulting from flooding and erosion, as
                              requested by local communities. Its mission is to lead, coordinate, and
                              support the emergency management system, in order to protect lives
                              and prevent the loss of property from all types of hazards. With
                              authorization from the governor, the state Disaster Relief Fund can
                              make up to $1 million (without legislative approval) available to
                              communities recovering from a state declared disaster. More funding
                              may be available, with legislative approval, for presidential disaster
                              declarations, for which the state is obligated to pay a 25 percent funding
                              match.

                            In addition to these programs, the state legislature, through its
                            appropriations, has funded erosion control structures including bulkheads
                            and sea walls. According to state documents, between 1972 and 1991 the
                            state spent over $40 million for erosion control statewide.



                            Page 26                    GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Four Villages in         Four of the nine villages we reviewed are in imminent danger from flooding
                         and erosion and are making plans to relocate, while the remaining five are
Imminent Danger Are      taking other actions. (See fig. 7.) Of the four villages relocating, Kivalina,
Planning to Relocate,    Newtok, and Shishmaref are working with relevant federal agencies to
                         locate suitable new sites, while Koyukuk is just beginning the relocation
and the Remaining Five   planning process. The cost of relocating these villages is expected to be
Villages Are Taking      high, although estimates currently exist only for Kivalina. Of the five
Other Actions            villages not planning to relocate, Barrow, Kaktovik, Point Hope, and
                         Unalakleet each have studies under way that target specific infrastructure
                         that is vulnerable to flooding and erosion. The fifth village, Bethel, is
                         repairing and extending an existing seawall to protect the village’s dock
                         from river erosion. Table 5 summarizes the status of the nine villages’
                         efforts to respond to their specific flooding and erosion problems. During
                         our review of the nine villages, we found instances where federal agencies
                         had invested in infrastructure projects without knowledge of the villages’
                         plans to relocate.




                         Page 27                     GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Figure 7: Map of Alaska with Nine Villages Highlighted




                                          Page 28        GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Table 5: Nine Alaska Native Villages’ Efforts to Address Flooding and Erosion

Alaska Native village           Population    Status of efforts
Villages planning to relocate
Kivalina                                377   Located on a barrier island that is both overcrowded and shrinking. Cost estimates to
                                              relocate range from $100 million to over $400 million. The village is working with the
                                              Corps on further site selections for evaluation.
Shishmaref                              562   Located on a barrier island and experiencing chronic erosion. Working on
                                              constructing a temporary seawall while concurrently working on a relocation site
                                              selection with NRCS.
Newtok                                  321   Suffers chronic erosion along its riverbank. Legislation for a land exchange with the
                                              U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service became law in November 2003 (Pub. L. No. 108-129).
                                              Under the Corps’ Planning Assistance to States Program, the relocation study is
                                              continuing.
Koyukuk                                 101   Experiences severe flooding from Yukon and Koyukuk Rivers. Community is in the
                                              process of assessing prospective relocation sites.
Villages taking other actions
Kaktovik                                293   Airport runway is subject to annual flooding. FAA-funded study under way to
                                              determine least cost alternative.
Point Hope                              757   Airport runway experiences flooding and is at risk of erosion. The North Slope
                                              Borough is analyzing construction alternatives for an evacuation road.
Barrow                                4,581   The Corps has begun a feasibility study to address beach flooding and erosion
                                              problems, particularly along the village’s utility corridor.
Unalakleet                              747   Coastal and river flooding and erosion have combined to create a chronic problem at
                                              the harbor. The Corps has begun a study on improving navigational access.
Bethel                                5,471   Spring break-up ice jams on the Kuskokwim River cause both periodic flooding and
                                              severe erosion along the riverbank. A seawall to protect the dock and small boat
                                              harbor is currently being repaired and extended.
Source: GAO analysis.




Four Villages in Imminent                 Four villages—Kivalina, Koyukuk, Newtok, and Shishmaref—are in
Danger Are Making Plans to                imminent danger of flooding and eroding and are planning to relocate. (See
                                          table 5.) Kivalina and Shishmaref are located on barrier islands that are
Relocate
                                          continuously shrinking due to chronic erosion. In Newtok, the Ninglick
                                          River is making its way ever closer to the village, with an average erosion
                                          rate of 90 feet per year, and is expected to erode the land under homes,
                                          schools, and businesses within 5 years. The fourth village, Koyukuk, is
                                          located near the confluence of the Yukon and Koyukuk Rivers and
                                          experiences chronic annual flooding.

Kivalina                                  The village of Kivalina lies on a barrier island that is both overcrowded and
                                          shrinking from chronic erosion. Surrounded by the Chukchi Sea and the



                                          Page 29                          GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Kivalina Lagoon, the village has no further room for expansion. (See fig. 8.)
A 1994 study by a private contractor found more than one instance of 16
people living together in a 900-square-foot home. Overcrowding and poor
sanitation have led to an extremely high incidence of communicable
diseases and other health problems in Kivalina. Chronic erosion on the
lagoon side of the island and along its southeastern tip where the lagoon
empties into the sea has further exacerbated overcrowding. Several homes
along this side are currently in danger of falling into the lagoon. On the
seaside of the island, fall storm surges create annual coastal flooding and
beach erosion. Portions of the island have been breached before, and it is
believed that the right combination of storm events could flood the entire
village at any time.




Page 30                     GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Figure 8: Aerial view of Kivalina (c. 1999)




Source: FAA.




                                              Page 31   GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
             In 1990, the Corps placed sandbags around the southern tip of the island in
             an attempt to stem the erosion, but that proved to be only a temporary
             solution. Most recent efforts to respond to flooding and erosion have
             involved studying the feasibility of possible relocation sites. The villagers
             would like a site that is near their current location with access to the ocean
             so that they can continue to pursue their subsistence lifestyle. Much of the
             surrounding area, however, is low-lying wetlands or tundra. One of the
             main obstacles for selecting a site has been the requirement of a gravel pad
             for some of the sites under consideration. In those cases, several feet of
             gravel must be spread over the entire site, both to elevate the new village
             above the floodplain and to protect the fragile permafrost. However, gravel
             is not easily accessible and would have to be barged in. Similarly, the harsh,
             remote terrain and limited site access drive up other costs for materials and
             machinery. The Corps has estimated that the cost to relocate Kivalina could
             range from $100 million for design and construction of infrastructure
             (including a gravel pad) at one site and up to $400 million for just the cost
             of building a gravel pad at another site. As a result, the community is now
             considering whether to ask the Corps to evaluate completely new sites that
             would not require a gravel pad. Remaining on the island, however, is no
             longer a viable option for the community.

Shishmaref   Like Kivalina, the village of Shishmaref is located on a barrier island in the
             Chukchi Sea and experiences chronic erosion. During severe fall storms, as
             occurred in 1973, 1997, 2001, and 2002, the village has lost on average
             between 20 and 50 feet of land and up to 125 feet at one time. This loss is
             considerable for an island that is no wider than one-quarter mile (1,320
             feet). After a severe storm in October 2002, stress cracks along the western
             seaside bluffs became evident. These cracks were 5 to 10 feet from the
             edge of the banks and indicated that the permafrost that holds the island
             together had been undermined by the storm. As the permafrost melts, the
             banks cave in. (See fig. 9.) Several homes located along these banks had to
             be relocated to prevent them from falling into the sea. After the 1997 fall
             storm, which was declared a state disaster, FEMA and state matching funds
             were used to help move 14 homes along the coastal bluff to another part of
             the village, and in 2002, the Bering Straits Housing Authority relocated an
             additional 5 homes out of harm’s way.




             Page 32                     GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Figure 9: Bluff Erosion and Permafrost Melting in Shishmaref (c. 2002)




Source: Kawerak.




Although the Corps had informed the villagers of Shishmaref in 1953 that
relocation would be a cheaper alternative to building a seawall to protect
the bluffs, the community did not vote to relocate until 1973 when it
experienced two unusually severe fall storms that caused widespread
damage and erosion. However, the site that the community selected proved
to be unsuitable because it had an extensive layer of permafrost.
Furthermore, other government agencies told the villagers that they would
not receive funding for their new school or a much-needed new runway if
they decided to relocate. According to Corps documents, the community
reversed its decision and voted in August 1974 to stay on the island. The
new school was completed in 1977, and a few years later a new runway was
also built.

Since the 1970s, the village has attempted a variety of erosion protection
measures totaling more than $5 million. These projects have included
various sandbag and gabion seawalls (wire cages, or baskets, filled with



Page 33                       GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
         rocks) and even a concrete block mat. Each project has required numerous
         repairs and has ultimately failed to provide long-term protection. In
         October 2001, the governor of Alaska issued an administrative order for an
         $85,000 protective sandbag wall that was intended to last only one storm—
         and it did just that. In July 2002, the community again voted to relocate, and
         it is currently working with NRCS to select an appropriate site. Once a site
         is selected, the relocation process itself will take a number of years to
         complete. In the meantime, stopgap erosion protection measures and other
         federal and state services continue to be necessary to safeguard the
         community. For this reason, the community is working with Kawerak, a
         nonprofit Native corporation, to build a 500-foot seawall at an estimated
         cost of $1 million along the most affected part of the seaside bluff. The
         village is also seeking the Corps’ assistance to extend the wall farther to
         protect the school and other public buildings. In addition, the community is
         applying for assistance through the Alaska Army National Guard’s
         Innovative Readiness Training Program, in which guard units gain training
         and experience while providing medical, transportation, and engineering
         services to rural villages.

Newtok   The village of Newtok, located in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta on the
         Ninglick River, suffers from chronic erosion along its riverbank. Between
         1954 and 2001 the village lost more than 4,000 feet of land to erosion. The
         current erosion rate has been estimated at 90 feet per year. At this rate, the
         Corps believes that the land under village residences and infrastructure will
         erode within 5 years.18 Among its various attempts to combat erosion, the
         village placed an experimental $750,000 sandbag wall along the riverbank
         in 1987. The wall, however, failed to slow the rate of erosion. The
         community recently negotiated a land exchange with the U.S. Fish and
         Wildlife Service for a new village site. Legislation authorizing the
         conveyance to Newtok of both the surface and subsurface estate of
         specified federal lands on nearby Nelson Island in exchange for land the
         village currently owns or would receive title to under ANCSA was signed




         18
           Under the Tribal Partnership Program, authorized by section 203 of the Water Resources
         Development Act of 2000 (Pub. L. No. 106-541, 114 Stat. 2572, 2588-2589 (2000)), the Corps is
         currently examining impacts of coastal erosion due to continued climate change and other
         factors in the Alaska Native villages of Bethel, Dillingham, Shishmaref, Kaktovik, Kivalina,
         Unalakleet and Newtok. Congress provided $2 million for these activities in fiscal year 2003.




         Page 34                          GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
          into law in November 2003.19 In anticipation of a move, the village is
          studying the soils and geology of the proposed relocation site to determine
          its suitability.

Koyukuk   The fourth village planning to relocate is Koyukuk, which is located
          entirely in a floodplain near the confluence of the Yukon and Koyukuk
          rivers. It experiences severe flooding, mostly as a result of ice jams that
          occur after the spring breakup of river ice. (See fig. 10.) Water that
          accumulates behind the ice jams repeatedly floods homes and public
          structures, including the school and runway. The flooding is episodic, but
          villagers prepare for it every year in the spring by placing their belongings
          in high places and putting their vehicles on floats. The village has been
          evacuated more than once. In July 2003, with funding assistance from
          FEMA, the Tanana Chiefs Conference, which is a nonprofit regional
          corporation, developed a flood mitigation plan for Koyukuk that includes
          both evacuation and relocation strategies. The community is in the process
          of assessing prospective relocation areas to find an appropriate site. In the
          meantime, the FAA has awarded a grant to the state to both raise the grade
          of and lengthen Koyukuk’s runway at a cost of $10.3 million.20




          19
               Pub. L. No. 108-129, 117 Stat. 1358 (2003).
          20
           According to FAA officials, the planned relocation of the village will not include the
          construction of another airport.




          Page 35                              GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
                           Figure 10: Aerial View of Ice Jam and Flooding at Koyukuk, Near the Confluence of
                           the Yukon and Koyukuk Rivers (c. 2001)




                           Source: Alaska Division of Emergency Services.




Five Villages Are          The remaining five villages, while not in imminent danger, do experience
Conducting Flooding and    serious flooding and erosion and are undertaking various infrastructure-
                           specific activities to resolve these problems. Kaktovik is studying how best
Erosion Studies or         to address flooding of its airport runway. Point Hope is studying
Improving Infrastructure   alternatives for an emergency evacuation road in the event of flooding.
                           Barrow has a study under way for dealing with beachfront erosion that
                           threatens the village’s utility corridor. Unalakleet is beginning a study to
                           respond to erosion problems at its harbor and improve its navigational
                           access. Finally, Bethel is repairing and extending an existing seawall to
                           protect the village’s dock from river erosion.

Kaktovik                   The village of Kaktovik, located on Barter Island at the northern edge of the
                           Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, experiences flooding of its airport runway.
                           The eastern end of the runway is approximately 1 to 2 feet above mean sea
                           level, while the western end is approximately 7 to 8 feet above mean sea
                           level. As a result of this low elevation, the runway usually floods every fall
                           and is inoperative for 2 to 4 days, according to Kaktovik’s mayor. In 2000,
                           the North Slope Borough, which operates the airport, contracted with the



                           Page 36                                          GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
             Arctic Slope Consulting Group, Inc., to conduct a flood study at the airport.
             The study presented a preliminary cost estimate of $11.3 million for
             protecting the runway from damage by storm events resulting in 100-year
             flood conditions. Recently, the North Slope Borough and FAA hired an
             engineering company to prepare an Airport Master Plan that will provide
             alternatives for upgrading the existing runway or building a new airport,
             either on Barter Island (estimated at $15 to $20 million) or on the mainland
             (estimated at $25 to $35 million). FAA will support the least-cost alternative
             and will fund 93.75 percent of the project, while the North Slope Borough
             will fund the remaining 6.25 percent. The study should be completed in
             2004.

Point Hope   The village of Point Hope, located on a spit of land that is one of the longest
             continually inhabited areas in northwest Alaska (with settlements over
             2,500 years old), moved to its current location in the 1970s because of
             flooding and erosion problems at its original site. However, flooding and
             erosion remain a concern for the community at its new location, prompting
             efforts to build an evacuation road and relocate its runway. The North
             Slope Borough has funded a Project Analysis Report that assesses three
             construction options for an emergency evacuation road, which include
             reconstructing an existing road, extending that road to the mainland, or
             constructing a new road altogether. The road would not only facilitate
             emergency evacuation in the event of a flood, but would also provide a
             transportation route to a relocated runway. The village’s current runway,
             which is a mile west of the current village and extends to the Chukchi Sea,
             floods during fall storms and is at risk of erosion. According to village
             representatives, the runway was inoperable for 5 days last year because of
             flooding. (See fig. 11.) One end of the runway is currently about 80 feet
             from the ocean, and village officials estimate that between 5 to 8 feet of
             land are lost to erosion annually. They noted however, that a single storm
             could take as much as 20 feet of land.




             Page 37                     GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Figure 11: Airport Runway at the Native Village of Point Hope (c. 2001)




Source: Tikigaq Corporation.




Barrow                                     The Alaska Native village of Barrow is grappling with ways to address
                                           beach erosion and flooding. Much of the community’s infrastructure is at
                                           risk from storm damage, shoreline erosion, and flooding. About $500
                                           million of Barrow’s infrastructure is located in the floodplain. In particular,
                                           the road that separates the sewage lagoon and an old landfill from the sea is
                                           at risk, as well as the village’s utility corridor. This underground corridor
                                           contains sewage, water and power lines, and communication facilities for
                                           the community. Beach erosion threatens over 1 mile of the corridor.
                                           According to village and North Slope Borough officials, the Borough
                                           coordinates erosion projects for the village and spends about $500,000 each
                                           time there is a flood. The Corps has recently begun a feasibility study for a
                                           storm damage reduction project along Barrow’s beach.




                                           Page 38                        GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Unalakleet                    The Alaska Native village of Unalakleet experiences both coastal and river
                              flooding, which, when combined with shoreline erosion, have created an
                              access problem at the harbor. Eroded land has piled up at the harbor
                              mouth, creating six distinct sandbars. These sandbars pose a serious
                              problem for barge passage; barges and fishing boats must wait for high tide
                              to reach the harbor, delaying the delivery of bulk goods, fuel, and other
                              items, which increases the costs of the cargo and moorage. The sandbars
                              also pose a risk to those whose boats get stuck at low tide and who must
                              simply sit and wait for a high tide. Unalakleet serves as a subregional hub
                              for several nearby villages that rely on the harbor and fish processing plant
                              for conducting their commercial fishing businesses. The village was
                              recently able to raise $400,000 from the Norton Sound Economic
                              Development Corporation and $400,000 from Alaska Department of
                              Transportation and Public Facilities for the local share of a Corps study on
                              improving navigational access to its harbor.

Bethel                        Bethel, the regional village hub of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta,
                              experiences periodic flooding, mostly because of ice jams during the spring
                              breakup of the Kuskokwim River. The ice also causes severe erosion by
                              scouring the riverbanks. The spring ice breakup in 1995 caused such severe
                              erosion that the governor of Alaska declared a state of emergency—ice
                              scour created a cove 350 feet long and 200 feet inland, endangering several
                              structures and severely undercutting the city dock. The village’s main port
                              is the only one on the western Alaska coast for oceangoing ships and serves
                              as the supply center for over 50 villages in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. In
                              response to the 1995 emergency, the village placed rock along 600 linear
                              feet of the riverbank and dock. This was the beginning of an 8,000-foot
                              bank stabilization seawall that cost $24 million. Currently, the Corps has a
                              project under way to repair this seawall by placing more rock and by
                              replacing the steel tieback system and placing steel wale on the inland side
                              of the pipe piles. The project will also extend the seawall 1,200 feet so that
                              it protects the entrance to Bethel’s small boat harbor. The initial cost
                              estimate for this project in 2001 was over $4.7 million, with average annual
                              costs of $374,000.



Federal Agencies Are          During our review of these villages, we found instances where federal
Investing in Infrastructure   agencies invested in infrastructure projects without knowledge of the
                              villages’ plans to relocate. For example, the Denali Commission and the
without Knowledge of
                              Department of Housing and Urban Development were unaware of
Villages’ Relocation Plans    Newtok’s relocation plans when they decided to jointly fund a new health
                              clinic in the village for $1.1 million (using fiscal year 2002 and 2003 funds).



                              Page 39                     GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
During our site visit to Newtok, we observed that the new clinic’s building
materials had already been delivered to the dock. Once it is constructed
and the village is ready to relocate, moving a building the size of the new
clinic across the river may be difficult and costly. Neither the Denali
Commission nor the Department of Housing and Urban Development
realized that the plans for Newtok’s relocation were moving forward, even
though legislation for completing a land exchange deal with the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service was first introduced in March 2002. Similarly, in
Koyukuk, the FAA was initially unaware of the village’s relocation plans
when it solicited bids for a $10.3 million state project to increase the grade
of and lengthen the village’s existing runway, according to FAA officials.
When we further discussed this with FAA officials, however, they noted
that it is the state of Alaska that prioritizes and selects the transportation
projects that receive FAA grants. According to these FAA officials, who
awarded the grant for Koyukuk’s runway, state transportation officials
were aware of the village’s decision to relocate.

Although we recognize that development and maintenance of critical
infrastructure, such as health clinics and runways, are necessary as villages
find ways to address flooding and erosion, we question whether limited
federal funds for these projects are being expended in the most effective
and efficient manner possible. The Denali Commission, cognizant of the
stated purpose of its authorizing act to deliver services in a cost-effective
manner, has developed a draft investment policy intended to guide the
process of project selection and ensure prudent investment of federal
funds. The draft policy provides guidance for designers to tailor facilities
based on six primary investment indicators: size of community and
population trends, imminent environmental threats, proximity/access to
existing services and/or facilities, per capita investment benchmarks, unit
construction costs, and economic potential. These indicators provide the
Denali Commission and its partners with an investment framework that
will guide selection and funding for sustainable projects. Flooding and
erosion issues fall under the “imminent environmental threats” indicator.
The commission has applied this draft policy to Shishmaref, which
requested a new clinic at its current location. Given that the village is in the
process of relocating, the commission awarded $150,000 to repair the
existing clinic in Shishmaref in lieu of building a new clinic.

In addition, the Denali Commission recognizes that systematic planning
and coordination on a local, regional, and statewide basis are necessary to
achieve the most effective results from investments in infrastructure,
economic development, and training, and has signed a memorandum of



Page 40                      GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
                        understanding with 31 federal and state agencies to achieve this goal. This
                        memorandum of understanding could serve as a vehicle by which other
                        federal agencies would follow the lead of the Denali Commission regarding
                        decisions to invest in infrastructure for communities threatened by
                        flooding and erosion.



Alternatives for        The unique circumstances of Alaska Native villages and their inability to
                        qualify for assistance under a variety of federal flooding and erosion
Addressing Barriers     programs may require special measures to ensure that the villages receive
That Villages Face in   certain needed services. Alaska Native villages, which are predominately
                        remote and small, often face barriers not commonly found in other areas of
Obtaining Federal       the United States, such as harsh climate, limited access and infrastructure,
Services                high fuel and shipping prices, short construction seasons, and ice-rich
                        permafrost soils. In addition, many of the federal programs to prevent and
                        control flooding and erosion are not a good fit for the Alaska Native villages
                        because of the requirement that economic costs of the project not exceed
                        the economic benefits. Federal and Alaska state officials and Alaska Native
                        village representatives that we spoke with identified several alternatives
                        for Congress that could help mitigate the barriers that villages face in
                        obtaining federal services.

                        These alternatives include (1) expanding the role of the Denali Commission
                        to include responsibilities for managing a flooding and erosion assistance
                        program, (2) directing the Corps and NRCS to include social and
                        environmental factors in their cost/benefit analyses for projects requested
                        by Alaska Native villages, and (3) waiving the federal cost-sharing
                        requirement for flooding and erosion projects for Alaska Native villages. In
                        addition, GAO identified a fourth alternative—authorizing the bundling of
                        funds from various agencies to address flooding and erosion problems in
                        these villages. Each of these alternatives has the potential to increase the
                        level of federal services provided to Alaska Native villages and can be
                        considered individually or in any combination. However, adopting some of
                        these alternatives will require consideration of a number of important
                        factors, including the potential to set a precedent for other communities
                        and programs as well as resulting budgetary implications. While we did not
                        determine the cost or the national policy implications associated with any
                        of the alternatives, these are important considerations when determining
                        appropriate federal action.




                        Page 41                     GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Expand the Role of the        Congress may want to consider expanding the role of the Denali
Denali Commission             Commission by directing that federal funding for flooding and erosion
                              studies and projects in Alaska Native villages go through the commission.
                              Currently, the Denali Commission does not have explicit responsibility for
                              flooding and erosion programs. This alternative would authorize the Denali
                              Commission to establish a program that conducts studies and constructs
                              projects to mitigate flooding and control erosion in Alaska Native villages
                              that would otherwise not qualify under Corps and NRCS flooding and
                              erosion programs. The commission could set priorities for its studies and
                              projects and respond to the problems of those villages most in need, and it
                              could enter into a memorandum of agreement with the Corps or other
                              related agencies to carry out these studies and projects. One of the factors
                              to consider in adopting this alternative is that additional funding may be
                              required.

                              This alternative is similar to the current proposal in S. 295 that would
                              expand the role of the Denali Commission to include a transportation
                              function.21 S. 295 would authorize the commission to construct marine
                              connections (such as connecting small docks, boat ramps, and port
                              facilities) and other transportation access infrastructure for communities
                              that would otherwise lack access to the National Highway System. Under
                              the bill, the commission would designate the location of the transportation
                              project and set priorities for constructing segments of the system.



Direct the Corps and NRCS     A second alternative is for Congress to direct the Corps and NRCS to
to Include Social and         include social and environmental factors in its cost/benefit analysis for
                              flooding and erosion projects for Alaska Native villages. Under this
Environmental Factors in
                              alternative, the Corps would not only consider social and environmental
Their Cost/Benefit Analyses   factors, but would also incorporate them into its cost/benefit analysis.
                              Similarly, NRCS for its Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention
                              Program would also incorporate social and environmental factors into its
                              cost/benefit analysis. To capture these factors even when they cannot be
                              easily quantified, the Corps and NRCS may have to consider these factors
                              explicitly. Several Alaska Native entities have raised this issue with the
                              Corps and the Alaska congressional delegation. For example, the Native
                              village of Unalakleet has led efforts to have the Corps revise its cost/benefit
                              analysis. As part of these efforts, the village has worked with state and


                              21
                                   Denali Transportation System Act, S. 295, 108th Cong. (2003).




                              Page 42                              GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
federal agencies; the Alaska Federation of Natives, which represents Native
corporations statewide; and the Alaska congressional delegation. One
implication of adopting this alternative for Alaska Native villages may be
that it could set a precedent for flooding and erosion control projects in
other communities.

This alternative is intended to benefit small and remote villages that often
fail to qualify for assistance because the cost of the study or project
exceeds the benefits. The number of villages that may be able to qualify for
a study or project under this alternative will depend on the extent to which
the Corps and NRCS incorporate social and environmental factors into
their calculations. However, if more villages qualify for projects under this
approach, the increase could have an impact on the amount of funds and
resources that the Corps and NRCS have available for these efforts.

Congress is currently considering a bill that would direct the Corps to
approve certain projects that do not necessarily meet the cost/benefit
requirement. In H.R. 2557, the Corps would be authorized to provide
assistance to communities with remote and subsistence harbors that meet
certain criteria.22 In particular, for studies of harbor and navigational
improvements, the Secretary of the Army could recommend a project
without the need to demonstrate that it is justified solely by net national
economic development benefits, if the Secretary determines that, among
other considerations, (1) the community to be served by the project is at
least 70 miles from the nearest surface-accessible commercial port and has
no direct rail or highway link to another community served by a surface-
accessible port or harbor or is in Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana
Islands, or American Samoa; (2) the harbor is economically critical such
that over 80 percent of the goods transported through the harbor would be
consumed within the community; and (3) the long-term viability of the
community would be threatened without the harbor and navigation
improvement. These criteria would apply to many remote and subsistence
harbors in Alaska Native villages.




22
     H.R. 2557, §2011, 108th Cong. (2003).




Page 43                              GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Waive the Federal Cost-   A third alternative is to waive the federal cost-sharing requirement for
Sharing Requirement for   flooding and erosion projects for Alaska Native villages. As required by law,
                          the Corps currently imposes a cost-share of between 25 and 50 percent of
Flooding and Erosion      project planning and construction costs. These sums, which are generally
Projects                  in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, are difficult for villages to
                          generate. This difficulty has been one of the more common criticisms of the
                          Corps’ program. For example, the village of Unalakleet had difficulty
                          obtaining funding for its local cost-share requirement for a project.
                          Adopting this alternative for Alaska Native villages would require an
                          assessment of several factors, including setting a precedent for other
                          flooding and erosion control projects in other communities as well as
                          budgetary implications.

                          In H.R. 2557, Congress is considering waiving the cost-sharing provisions
                          for studies and projects in certain areas. In this bill, the Secretary of the
                          Army would be required to waive up to $500,000 of the local cost-sharing
                          requirements for all studies and projects in several locations, including
                          land in the state of Alaska conveyed to Alaska Native Village Corporations.



Authorize Bundling of     Congress could also consider authorizing the bundling of funds from
Funds from Various        various agencies to respond to flooding and erosion in Alaska Native
                          villages. Under this alternative, Alaska Native villages could consolidate
Agencies to Respond to
                          and integrate funding from flooding and erosion programs from various
Flooding and Erosion      federal agencies, such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department
Problems                  of Housing and Urban Development, to conduct an erosion study or to help
                          fund the local cost share of a Corps project. Doing so would potentially
                          allow Alaska Native villages to use available federal assistance for flooding
                          and erosion more effectively and efficiently. By law, Indian tribal
                          governments are currently allowed to integrate their federally funded
                          employment, training, and related services programs from various agencies
                          into a single, coordinated, comprehensive program that reduces
                          administrative costs by consolidating administrative functions.23 Many
                          Alaska Native villages participate in this program.




                          23
                           Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Demonstration Act of 1992, Pub. L. No.
                          102-477, 106 Stat. 2302 (1992).




                          Page 44                        GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
             Several bills have been introduced to authorize tribal governments also to
             bundle federal funding for economic development programs and for
             alcohol and substance abuse programs. For example, in the 106th, 107th, and
             108th sessions of Congress, bills were introduced to authorize the
             integration and coordination of federal funding for community, business,
             and economic development of Native American communities.24 Under
             these bills, tribal governments or their agencies may identify federal
             assistance programs to be integrated for the purpose of supporting
             economic development projects. Similarly, in the 107th and 108th
             Congresses, S. 210 and S. 285 were introduced to authorize, respectively,
             the integration and consolidation of alcohol and substance abuse programs
             and services provided by tribal governments.



Conclusion   Alaska Native villages that are not making plans to relocate, but are
             severely affected by flooding and erosion, must find ways to respond to
             these problems. However, many of these villages have difficulty finding
             assistance under several federal programs, largely because the economic
             costs of the proposed project to control flooding and erosion exceed the
             expected economic benefits. As a result, many private homes and other
             infrastructure continue to be threatened and are in danger from flooding
             and erosion. In addition, many Alaska Native villages that are small,
             remote, and have a subsistence lifestyle, lack the resources to help them
             respond to flooding and erosion. Given the unique circumstances of Alaska
             Native villages, special measures may be required to ensure that these
             communities receive assistance in responding to flooding and erosion.

             Alaska Native villages that cannot be protected from flooding and erosion
             through engineering structures and must relocate face a particularly
             daunting challenge. These villages are working with federal and state
             agencies to find ways to address this challenge. Any potential solution,
             however, whether a single erosion protection project or full relocation,
             goes through stages of planning and execution that can take years to
             complete. In the interim, investment decisions must be made regarding
             delivery of services such as building new structures or renovating and
             upgrading existing structures. Such decisions for villages should be made
             in light of the status of their efforts to address flooding and erosion. We
             identified a number of instances where projects were approved and

             24
              The bills introduced in the 106th, 107th, and 108th Congresses were S. 2052, S. 343, and
             S. 1528, respectively.




             Page 45                           GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
                      designed without considering a village’s relocation plans. Investing in
                      infrastructure that cannot be easily moved or may be costly to move may
                      not be the best use of limited federal funds. It is encouraging that the
                      Denali Commission is working on a policy to ensure that investments are
                      made in a conscientious and sustainable manner for villages threatened by
                      flooding and erosion. Successful implementation of such a policy will
                      depend in part on its adoption by individual federal agencies that also fund
                      infrastructure development in Alaska Native villages.



Recommendations for   In order to ensure that federal funds are expended in the most effective and
                      efficient manner possible, we recommend that the federal cochairperson of
Executive Action      the Denali Commission, in conjunction with the state of Alaska
                      cochairperson, adopt a policy to guide future investment decisions and
                      project designs in Alaska Native villages affected by flooding and erosion.
                      The policy should ensure that (1) the Commission is aware of villages’
                      efforts to address flooding and erosion and (2) projects are designed
                      appropriately in light of a village’s plans to address its flooding and erosion
                      problems.



Matter for            Determining the appropriate level of service for Alaska Native villages is a
                      policy decision that rests with Congress. We present four alternatives that
Congressional         Congress may wish to consider as it deliberates over how, and to what
Consideration         extent, federal programs could better respond to flooding and erosion in
                      Alaska Native villages. In any such decision, two factors that would be
                      important to consider are the cost and the national policy implications of
                      implementing any alternative or combination of alternatives. If Congress
                      would like to provide additional federal assistance to Alaska Native
                      villages, it may wish to consider directing relevant executive agencies and
                      the Denali Commission to assess the cost and policy implications of
                      implementing the alternatives that we have identified or others that may be
                      appropriate.



Agency Comments and   We provided copies of our draft report to the Departments of Agriculture,
                      Defense, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development,
Our Evaluation        the Interior, and Transportation; the Denali Commission; and the state of
                      Alaska. The Departments of Defense, Housing and Urban Development,
                      and the Interior, as well as the Denali Commission and the state of Alaska,
                      provided official written comments. (See appendixes IV through VIII,



                      Page 46                     GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
respectively, for the full text of the comments received from these agencies
and our responses.) The comments were generally technical in nature with
few comments on the report’s overall findings, recommendation, and
alternatives. The Departments of Health and Human Services and
Transportation provided informal technical comments, and the Department
of Agriculture had no comments on the report. We made changes to the
draft report, where appropriate, based on the technical comments provided
by the seven entities that commented on the draft report.

The Denali Commission was the only entity to comment on our
recommendation that the commission adopt an investment policy. The
commission agreed with the recommendation and noted that such a policy
should help avoid flawed decision making in the future. Furthermore, the
commission commented that it was not sufficient for it alone to have an
investment policy, but believed that all funding agencies should use a
similar policy to guide investments. We acknowledge the commission’s
concerns that other funding agencies should also make sound investment
decisions. As noted in our report, the Denali Commission has signed a
memorandum of understanding with 31 federal and state agencies with the
goal of systematic planning and coordination for investments in
infrastructure, economic development, and training, and we believe that
this memorandum could serve as a vehicle by which other federal agencies
would follow the lead of the commission regarding decisions to invest in
communities.

Of the four alternatives presented in the report, the alternative to funnel
funding for flooding and erosion projects through the Denali Commission
received the most comments. The Denali Commission, the U.S. Army
(commenting on behalf of the Department of Defense), and the Department
of Housing and Urban Development all raised some concerns about this
alternative. The Denali Commission commented that it is not convinced
that expanding its role to include responsibilities for managing a flooding
and erosion program is the appropriate response. The Army commented
that the alternative to expand the role of the Denali Commission to mange a
flooding and erosion program might exceed the capabilities of the
organization. Lastly, the Department of Housing and Urban Development
commented that the Denali Commission, as an independent agency, does
not have the capacity to be fully integrated with the efforts of federal
agencies to address this issue. Moreover, while each of these entities
recognized the need for improved coordination of federal efforts to address
flooding and erosion in Alaska Native villages, none of them provided any
specific suggestions on how or by whom this should be accomplished. As



Page 47                    GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
discussed in our report, the Denali Commission currently does not have the
authority to manage a flooding and erosion program, and should Congress
choose this alternative, the commission would need to develop such a
program. Consequently, we still believe that expanding the role of the
commission continues to be a possible option for helping to mitigate the
barriers that villages face in obtaining federal services.


We are sending copies of this report to the Secretaries of Agriculture, the
Army, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the
Interior, and Transportation, as well as to the federal and state cochairs of
the Denali Commission, the Governor of the state of Alaska, appropriate
congressional committees, and other interested Members of Congress. We
will also make copies available to others upon request. In addition, the
report will be available at no charge on the GAO Web site at
http://www.gao.gov.

If you or your staff have questions about this report, please contact me at
(202) 512-3841. Key contributors to this report are listed in appendix IX.




Anu Mittal
Director, Natural Resources
  and Environment




Page 48                     GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Appendix I

Objectives, Scope and Methodology                                                                            AA
                                                                                                              ppp
                                                                                                                ep
                                                                                                                 ned
                                                                                                                   n
                                                                                                                   x
                                                                                                                   id
                                                                                                                    e
                                                                                                                    x
                                                                                                                    Iis




              The fiscal year 2003 Conference Report for the military construction
              appropriation bill directed GAO to study Alaska Native villages affected by
              flooding and erosion. In response to this direction and subsequent
              discussions with committee staff, we (1) determined the extent to which
              Alaska Native villages are affected by flooding and erosion; (2) identified
              federal and Alaska state programs available to respond to flooding and
              erosion and assessed the extent to which federal assistance has been
              provided to Alaska Native villages; (3) determined the status of efforts,
              including cost estimates, to respond to flooding and erosion in the villages
              of Barrow, Bethel, Kaktovik, Kivalina, Koyukuk, Newtok, Point Hope,
              Shishmaref, and Unalakleet; and (4) identified alternatives that Congress
              may wish to consider when providing assistance for flooding and erosion of
              Alaska Native villages. In addition, during the course of our work we
              became concerned about the possible inefficient use of federal funds for
              building infrastructure in villages that were planning to relocate. As a
              result, we are including information regarding these concerns in this
              report.

              To determine which Alaska Native villages are affected by flooding and
              erosion, we reviewed Alaska and federal agency reports and databases that
              contained information on flooding and erosion. We interviewed officials
              from Alaska and federal agencies, such as the Alaska Division of
              Emergency Services, the Alaska Department of Community and Economic
              Development, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Department
              of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, who are involved
              in addressing flooding and erosion problems. We also interviewed Alaska
              Native officials from the selected villages, as well as officials from Native
              village and regional corporations, such as Tikigaq, the Association of
              Village Council Presidents, and Kawarek. For the purposes of this report
              we defined an Alaska Native village as a village that (1) was deemed eligible
              as a Native village under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and (2)
              has a corresponding Alaska Native entity that is recognized by the
              Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs.1

              We identified federal flooding and erosion programs by searching the
              Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance and by using other information.


              1
               A total of 220 Native villages were deemed eligible under ANCSA. However, seven of those
              villages do not have corresponding Alaska Native entities recognized by the Department of
              the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. For a list of Indian entities recognized by the federal
              government, see 67 Fed. Reg. 46328 (July 12, 2002).




              Page 49                           GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Appendix I
Objectives, Scope and Methodology




We reviewed applicable federal laws and regulations for these programs.
We also reviewed program file records and interviewed federal program
officials to determine the extent to which Alaska Native villages have been
provided federal assistance. In addition, to determine the Alaska state
programs that are available to villages for addressing flooding and erosion,
we interviewed appropriate state officials from the Alaska Department of
Transportation and Public Facilities, the Division of Emergency Services,
and the Department of Community and Economic Development. We also
discussed these programs and the assistance provided with selected village
representatives.

While the committee directed us to include six villages, we added three
more—Koyukuk, Newtok, and Shishmaref—based on discussions with
congressional staff and with federal and Alaska state officials familiar with
flooding and erosion problems. To determine the status of efforts,
including cost estimates, to address flooding and erosion at these nine
selected villages, we reviewed federal and state databases and studies. We
also reviewed analyses performed by the Corps and by other federal, state,
and local agencies. We visited only four villages—Bethel, Kivalina,
Newtok, and Shishmaref—due to the high cost of travel in Alaska. We
selected three of the four villages to visit that were in imminent danger (we
visited Bethel because in order to reach Newtok we had to go through
Bethel). We interviewed village representatives from each of the nine
villages. We also interviewed state and federal officials involved in the
efforts to address flooding and erosion for each of the nine villages. We
identified and evaluated Corps studies that addressed these problems with
particular attention to cost estimates. We also assessed the nature and
applicability of these cost studies.

To determine what alternatives Congress may wish to consider in
responding to flooding and erosion of Alaska Native villages, we
interviewed local, state, and federal officials, officials from the Alaska
Federation of Natives, and Kawarek representatives. During these
interviews, we asked people to identify alternatives that they believed
would address impediments to the delivery of flooding and erosion
services. We also obtained and reviewed prior congressional bills that
addressed Alaska Native issues.

We conducted our review from February 2003 through October 2003 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.




Page 50                        GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Appendix II

ANCSA For-Profit Regional Corporations and
Nonprofit Arms                                                                                            Appendx
                                                                                                                Ii




              Table 6 shows the list of the 13 regional corporations and the
              corresponding nonprofit arms. These nonprofit organizations provide
              social services to Alaska Native villages and also help Alaska Natives
              respond to problems, including those dealing with flooding and erosion.



              Table 6: List of ANCSA For-Profit Regional Corporations and Nonprofit Arms

              For-profit regional corporation                 Nonprofit organization
              Ahtna, Inc.                                     Copper River Native Association
              The Aleut Corporation                           Aleutian Pribilof Island Association
              Arctic Slope Regional Corporation               Arctic Slope Native Association
              Bering Straits Native Corporation               Kawerak, Incorporated
              Bristol Bay Native Corporation                  Bristol Bay Native Association
              Calista Corporation                             Association of Village Council Presidents
              Chugach Alaska Corporation                      Chugachmiut
              Cook Inlet Region, Inc.                         Cook Inlet Tribal Council
              Doyon, Limited                                  Fairbanks Native Association
              Koniag, Inc.                                    Kodiak Area Native Association
              NANA Regional Corporation, Inc.                 Maniilaq Association
              Sealaska Corporation                            Central Council
              Thirteenth Regional Corporation                 No nonprofit organization
              Source: GAO.




              Page 51                           GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Appendix III

List of 184 Affected Alaska Native Villages by
ANCSA Region                                                                                       Appendx
                                                                                                         iI




                Ahtna
                Cheesh-Na Tribe (formerly the Native Village of Chistochina)
                Native Village of Chitina
                Native Village of Gakona
                Native Village of Tazlina

                Aleut
                Agdaagux Tribe of King Cove
                Native Village of Akutan
                Native Village of Atka
                Native Village of Belkofskia
                Native Village of False Pass
                Native Village of Nelson Lagoon
                Native Village of Nikolski
                Pauloff Harbor Villagea
                Saint George Island (see Pribilof Islands Aleut Communities of St. Paul
                and St. George Islands)
                Saint Paul Island (see Pribilof Islands Aleut Communities of St. Paul and
                St. George Islands)
                Qagan Tayagungin Tribe of Sand Point Village
                Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska
                Native Village of Ungaa

                Arctic Slope
                Native Village of Barrow Inupiat Traditional Government (formerly Native
                Village of Barrow)
                Kaktovik Village (aka Barter Island)
                Native Village of Nuiqsut (aka Nooiksut)
                Native Village of Point Hope
                Native Village of Point Lay
                Village of Wainwright

                Bering Straits
                Native Village of Brevig Mission
                Chinik Eskimo Community (Golovin)
                Native Village of Diomede (aka Inalik)
                King Island Native Communitya



                Page 52                    GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Appendix III
List of 184 Affected Alaska Native Villages by
ANCSA Region




Native Village of Koyuk
Nome Eskimo Community
Native Village of Saint Michael
Native Village of Shaktoolik
Native Village of Shishmaref
Village of Solomon
Stebbins Community Association
Native Village of Teller
Native Village of Unalakleet
Native Village of Wales
Native Village of White Mountain
Native Village of Elim
Native Village of Gambell
Native Village of Savoonga

Bristol Bay
Native Village of Chignik
Native Village of Chignik Lagoon
Chignik Lake Village
Village of Clark’s Point
Curyung Tribal Council (formerly Native Village of Dillingham)
Egegik Village
Ekwok Village
Igiugig Village
Village of Iliamna
Ivanoff Bay Village
Kokhanok Village
Levelock Village
Manokotak Village
Naknek Native Village
New Koliganek Village Council (formerly Koliganek Village)
New Stuyahok Village
Newhalen Village
Nondalton Village
Pedro Bay Village
Native Village of Perryville



Page 53                           GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Appendix III
List of 184 Affected Alaska Native Villages by
ANCSA Region




Native Village of Pilot Point
Native Village of Port Heiden
Portage Creek Village (aka Ohgsenakale)
South Naknek Village
Traditional Village of Togiak
Twin Hills Village
Ugashik Village

Calista
Akiachak Native Community
Akiak Native Community
Village of Alakanuk
Algaaciq Native Village (St. Mary's)
Yupiit of Andreafski
Village of Aniak
Asa'carsarmiut Tribe (formerly Native Village of Mountain Village)
Village of Atmautluak
Village of Chefornak
Chevak Native Village
Native Village of Chuathbaluk (Russian Mission, Kuskokwim)
Village of Crooked Creek
Native Village of Eek
Emmonak Village
Native Village of Georgetown
Native Village of Goodnews Bay
Native Village of Hooper Bay
Iqurmuit Traditional Council (formerly Native Village of Russian Mission)
Village of Kalskag
Native Village of Kasigluk
Native Village of Kipnuk
Native Village of Kongiganak
Village of Kotlik
Organized Village of Kwethluk
Native Village of Kwigillingok
Native Village of Kwinhagak (aka Quinhagak)
Lime Village



Page 54                           GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Appendix III
List of 184 Affected Alaska Native Villages by
ANCSA Region




Village of Lower Kalskag
Native Village of Marshall (aka Fortuna Ledge)
Native Village of Mekoryuk
Native Village of Napaimute
Native Village of Napakiak
Native Village of Napaskiak
Newtok Village
Native Village of Nightmute
Nunakauyarmiut Tribe (formerly Native Village of Toksook Bay)
Native Village of Nunapitchuk
Orutsararmuit Native Village (aka Bethel)
Oscarville Traditional Village
Pilot Station Traditional Village
Native Village of Pitka's Point
Platinum Traditional Village
Village of Red Devil
Native Village of Scammon Bay
Village of Sleetmute
Village of Stony River
Tuluksak Native Community
Native Village of Tuntutuliak
Native Village of Tununak

Chugach
Native Village of Chanega (aka Chenega)
Native Village of Eyak (Cordova)
Native Village of Nanwalek (aka English Bay)
Native Village of Tatitlek

Cook Inlet Region
Ninilchik Village
Seldovia Village Tribe
Native Village of Tyonek

Doyon
Alatna Village




Page 55                           GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Appendix III
List of 184 Affected Alaska Native Villages by
ANCSA Region




Allakaket Village
Anvik Village
Beaver Village
Birch Creek Tribe (formerly listed as Birch Creek Village)
Chalkyitsik Village
Circle Native Community
Native Village of Eagle
Evansville Village (aka Bettles Field)
Native Village of Fort Yukon
Galena Village (aka Louden Village)
Organized Village of Grayling (aka Holikachuk)
Holy Cross Village
Hughes Village
Huslia Village
Village of Kaltag
Koyukuk Native Village
Manley Hot Springs Village
McGrath Native Village
Native Village of Minto
Nenana Native Association
Nikolai Village
Northway Village
Nulato Village
Rampart Village
Native Village of Ruby
Shageluk Native Village
Native Village of Stevens
Takotna Village
Native Village of Tanacross
Native Village of Tanana
Telida Village
Native Village of Tetlin

Koniag
Village of Afognaka
Native Village of Akhiok



Page 56                           GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Appendix III
List of 184 Affected Alaska Native Villages by
ANCSA Region




Native Village of Karluk
Native Village of Larsen Bay
Village of Old Harbor
Native Village of Ouzinkie

NANA
Native Village of Ambler
Native Village of Buckland
Native Village of Deering
Native Village of Kiana
Native Village of Kivalina
Native Village of Kobuk
Native Village of Kotzebue
Native Village of Noatak
Noorvik Native Community
Native Village of Selawik
Native Village of Shungnak

Sealaska
Angoon Community Association
Chilkat Indian Village (Klukwan)
Craig Community Association
Hoonah Indian Association
Hydaburg Cooperative Association
Organized Village of Kake
Organized Village of Kasaan
Klawock Cooperative Association
Organized Village of Saxman
Yakutat Tlingit Tribe
a
    Reported as vacant by the state of Alaska as of March 2003.




Page 57                            GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Appendix IV

Comments from the Department of the Army                                                   Appendx
                                                                                                 iIV




Note: GAO comments
supplementing those in
the report text appear
at the end of this
appendix.




                         Page 58   GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Appendix IV
Comments from the Department of the Army




Page 59                       GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
                      Appendix IV
                      Comments from the Department of the Army




See comment 1.




Now on pp. 3 and 4.




                      Page 60                       GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
                      Appendix IV
                      Comments from the Department of the Army




  See comment 2.




Now on p. 4.




Now on pp. 5 and 6.

See comment 3.




                      Page 61                       GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Appendix IV
Comments from the Department of the Army




Page 62                       GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
                        Appendix IV
                        Comments from the Department of the Army




Now on p. 17.




Now on pp. 19 and 20.




                        Page 63                       GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
                Appendix IV
                Comments from the Department of the Army




Now on p. 22.




Now on p. 26.




Now on p. 29.




                Page 64                       GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
                 Appendix IV
                 Comments from the Department of the Army




 Now on p. 34.




 Now on p. 37.




 Now on p. 39.




 Now on p. 42.




Now on p. 44.




                 Page 65                       GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
                 Appendix IV
                 Comments from the Department of the Army




Now on p. 44.




See comment 4.




                 Page 66                       GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Appendix IV
Comments from the Department of the Army




Page 67                       GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
                 Appendix IV
                 Comments from the Department of the Army




GAO’s Comments   The Army commented on our alternative to expand the role of the Denali
                 Commission, which is discussed in the Agency Comments and Our
                 Evaluation section of this report. We also modified the report on the basis
                 of the technical comments that the Army gave us, as appropriate. In
                 addition, discussed below are GAO’s corresponding detailed responses to
                 some of the Army’s comments.

                 1. We disagree with the Corps’ statement that the Flood Control Act of
                    1936 requires benefits to exceed costs for flood control projects. The
                    pertinent provision of the act states that “it is the sense of Congress
                    that . . . the Federal Government should improve or participate in the
                    improvement of navigable waters or their tributaries . . . if the
                    benefits . . . are in excess of the estimated costs.” 33 U.S.C. § 701a. This
                    provision, while setting out a statement of Congressional policy, does
                    not establish a legal requirement that benefits exceed costs, nor does it
                    prohibit carrying out a project where costs exceed benefits. We have
                    included a reference to this provision in the report’s discussion of the
                    Corps’ guidelines for evaluating water resource projects.

                 2. We agree that it is not realistic for a village to go without a health clinic
                    for 10 years. Our report states that development and maintenance of
                    critical infrastructure, such as health clinics and runways, is necessary
                    as villages find ways to address flooding and erosion. However, given
                    limited federal funds, agencies must explore potentially less costly
                    options for meeting a village’s needs until it is able to relocate.

                 3. As noted in our report, if Congress decides to provide additional federal
                    assistance to Alaska Native villages, it may wish to consider directing
                    relevant executive agencies as well as the Denali Commission to assess
                    the cost and policy implications of implementing the alternatives.

                 4. The names for the Alaska Native entities used in appendix III of this
                    report are from the official list of federally recognized Indian entities
                    published by the Department of the Interior in the Federal Register (see
                    67 Fed. Reg. 46328, July 12, 2002).




                 Page 68                       GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Appendix V

Comments from the Department of the
Interior                                                                        Append
                                                                                     x
                                                                                     iV




              Page 69   GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
                        Appendix V
                        Comments from the Department of the
                        Interior




Now on p. 29.

Now on pp. 34 and 35.




                        Page 70                       GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Appendix VI

Comments from the U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development                                                   Appendx
                                                                                      iVI




              Page 71   GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Appendix VII

Comments from the Denali Commission                                                        Append
                                                                                                x
                                                                                                iI
                                                                                                V




Note: GAO comments
supplementing those in
the report text appear
at the end of this
appendix.




                         Page 72   GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
                 Appendix VII
                 Comments from the Denali Commission




See comment 1.




See comment 2.




                 Page 73                      GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
                 Appendix VII
                 Comments from the Denali Commission




GAO’s Comments   The Denali Commission commented on our recommendation and the
                 alternative to expand its role, both of which are discussed in the Agency
                 Comments and Our Evaluation section of this report. In addition, discussed
                 below are GAO’s corresponding detailed responses to some of the Denali
                 Commission’s general comments.

                 1. We agree that the Corps can determine whether preventing or
                    minimizing flooding and erosion is technically and financially feasible.
                    Under the Tribal Partnership Program, authorized by section 203 of the
                    Water Resources Development Act of 2000 (Pub. L. No. 106-541, 114
                    Stat. 2572, 2588-2589 (2000)), the Corps is currently examining impacts
                    of coastal erosion due to continued climate change and other factors in
                    the Alaska Native villages of Bethel, Dillingham, Shishmaref, Kaktovik,
                    Kivalina, Unalakleet and Newtok. Congress provided $2 million for
                    these activities in fiscal year 2003. However, other federal agencies,
                    such as the NRCS, also have the ability to conduct feasibility analyses.

                 2. We acknowledge the commission’s desire for a larger role for Alaska
                    state and local governments in developing and executing response
                    strategies and in helping to prioritize the use of scarce resources.
                    However, whether or not the state and local governments choose to
                    expend their own resources to become more involved in responding to
                    flooding and erosion issues is entirely a state or local government
                    decision. Since this decision would involve the expenditure of state or
                    local government funds, rather than federal funds, it is outside the
                    scope of our report.




                 Page 74                      GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Appendix VIII

Comments from the State of Alaska                                                           Appendx
                                                                                                  iI
                                                                                                  V




Note: GAO comments
supplementing those in
the report text appear
at the end of this
appendix.




Comments for the Denali
Commission are in
appendix VII.




                          Page 75   GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
                 Appendix VIII
                 Comments from the State of Alaska




See comment 1.




Now on p. 26.




See comment 2.
Now on p. 42.

Now on p. 43.




                 Page 76                        GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Appendix VIII
Comments from the State of Alaska




Page 77                        GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
                            Appendix VIII
                            Comments from the State of Alaska




Now on p. 32.




Now on pp. 3, 22, and 23.




Now on pp. 4 and 26.




Now on pp. 2 and 13.




                            Page 78                        GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
                            Appendix VIII
                            Comments from the State of Alaska




Now on pp. 4, 29, and 32.




Now on p. 26.



Now on p. 26.




                            Page 79                        GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
                Appendix VIII
                Comments from the State of Alaska




Now on p. 32.




                Page 80                        GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
                 Appendix VIII
                 Comments from the State of Alaska




GAO’s Comments   The state of Alaska provided technical comments from the Division of
                 Emergency Services and the Department of Community and Economic
                 Development, which we incorporated as appropriate. In addition,
                 discussed below are GAO’s corresponding detailed responses to some of
                 the state’s comments.

                 1. The fiscal year 2003 Conference Report for the military construction
                    appropriation bill directed GAO to study at least six Alaska Native
                    villages affected by flooding and erosion—Barrow, Bethel, Kaktovik,
                    Kivalina, Point Hope, and Unalakleet—we added three more—
                    Koyukuk, Newtok, and Shishmaref—based on discussions with
                    congressional staff and with federal and Alaska state officials familiar
                    with flooding and erosion problems.1 As our report states, four of the
                    nine villages, Kivalina, Koyukuk, Newtok and Shishmaref are in
                    imminent danger from flooding and erosion. We agree that the
                    remaining five villages may not be the most at risk from flooding and
                    erosion.

                 2. It is not our intent to expand the role of the Denali Commission to
                    include a disaster response and recovery component.




                 1
                  H. R. Conf. Rep. No. 107-731, at 15 (2002).




                 Page 81                           GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
Appendix IX

GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments                                                              Appendx
                                                                                                          IiX




GAO Contacts      Anu Mittal, (202) 512-3841
                  Jeffery D. Malcolm, (202) 512-6536



Acknowledgments   In addition to those named above, José Alfredo Gómez, Judith Williams,
                  and Ned Woodward made key contributions to this report. Also
                  contributing to the report were Mark Bondo, John Delicath, Chase Huntley,
                  Marmar Nadji, Cynthia Norris, and Amy Webbink.




(360300)          Page 82                   GAO-04-142 Flooding and Erosion in Alaska Native Villages
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