Secretary Darcy Visits Alaskan Communities Battling Coastal Erosion

By Ms. Moira L Kelley (ASA (CW))March 2, 2017

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(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

This week the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works joined the United States Army Corps of Engineers' Alaska District on multiple site visits in Alaska this week, and today, rounded up her trip with a tour of the Unakaleet Coastal Erosion Project.

Unalakleet is located on a spit of land along the coast of Norton Sound. The Unalakleet River flows past the village thru an inlet to the ocean. The spit of land that the community sits on is subject to flooding from storm surge and accompanying wave attack. Winds from storms approaching from the south-southeast stack water up along this area of the Alaska coast, causing elevated ocean water levels that inundate coastal areas, such as Unalakleet. The elevated water levels allow waves to penetrate into the community causing flooding and damage to roads, structures, and other public facilities.

Alaska Coastal Erosion projects were originally authorized in Section 117 of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2005. This project was first identified in the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill for 2006. The communities of Kivalina, Newtok, Shishmaref, Koyukuk, Barrow, Kaktovik, Point Hope, Bethel, and Unalakleet were identified as eligible recipients of funds.

Studies were performed for these communities. About 670 linear feet of rock revetment was constructed under the Section 117 authority. The remaining work under the initial decision document is being completed as a cost-shared project. The Corps recently completed 450 linear feet of rock revetment. The remaining work includes 350 linear feet of sheet pile revetment to be awarded this fiscal year.

The Corps' Alaska District is incorporating the latest science and engineering into potential water resource development projects. Coastal areas are especially vulnerable to hazards, now and in the future.

There are a variety of approaches that can be used to reduce the risks of these hazards to coastal areas, including natural or nature-based features (e.g., wetlands and dunes), nonstructural interventions (e.g., policies, building codes and emergency response such as early warning and evacuation plans), and structural interventions (e.g., seawalls and breakwaters). The Secretary has been visiting with the Corps of Engineers' Alaska District this week to learn more about their hard work and challenges.