Three Native American Tribes that face severe climate threats are the first to receive money from a federal program that helps move vital buildings and homes out of areas at risk of flooding, erosion, and other hazards.
Two tribes in Alaska and one in Washington state are each getting $25 million to help their ongoing efforts to relocate homes, schools, airports, water-supply wells and other infrastructure, the Biden administration announced.
The grants are the first allocations from a new voluntary relocation program created under the bipartisan infrastructure law enacted in November 2021, which gave the Bureau of Indian Affairs $216 million for tribal climate resilience including relocation projects.
The administration also announced Wednesday eight other threatened tribes will receive $5 million each in planning grants for strategies for climate resilience and relocation. The Alaskan tribes comprise four of the eight, while the other four are located in Arizona, California and Louisiana.
The funding–$115 million in total–represents a fraction of the $5 billion that the Bureau of Indian Affairs has estimated Native American tribes need for relocation as they face “existential threats to their economies, livelihoods and health” from climate impacts.
In Alaska alone, 73 out of 227 federally recognized Alaska Native villages face “significant environmental threats” from erosion, flooding or thawing permafrost,” according to a Government Accountability Office report in May. Alaska is warming at a faster rate than any state (Greenwire, May 19).
” Helping these communities to safety on their homelands are one of the most important climate-related investments we could make. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland stated in a statement announcing grants.
The grants were announced at the White House Tribal Nations Summit, at which President Joe Biden told hundreds of tribal leaders that he would protect from development 450,000 acres of cherished land in southern Nevada.
The tribes that received relocation grants were the Newtok Village in Alaska and the Native Village at Napakiak in Washington.
Both villages of the Alaska Native people are at risk from coastal erosion caused by increasingly severe storms. This is expected to cause major infrastructure damage in just a few years. The Newtok Village will be moving to a new location nine miles away. According to the Interior Department, although the Native Village of Napakiak had plans for relocation, the project was delayed due to a lack in funding.
The Quinault Indian Nation is located on Washington’s Pacific coast in Washington’s northwest corner. It is vulnerable to sea-level rise, storm surge and flooding from the Quinault River, as well as tsunami hazards from earthquakes along the Pacific Rim. Although the tribe has plans to move to higher elevations, it is limited by a lack of funds.
Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2022. E&E News delivers vital news to professionals in the energy and environment industries.