"The dismantling of the Immediate Action Workgroup creates a tremendous gap for communities faced with climate-related threats," Bronen states in her report.
Federal aid lacks a legal framework
But on a federal level, Bronen said, it is as if the issue doesn't exist.
"Our disaster relief legislation is really anachronistic," she said. "It does not allow communities to access disaster relief funding for a relocation effort."
Instead, federal agencies reserve their funding for protecting towns and cities that already exist, because "a relocation of this type has never occurred before," Bronen said. "We don't have a legal framework to use that money in a new place."
In the meantime, Newtok is the only community that has successfully identified a site to move to, but the process has been extremely slow. The city is forced to negotiate with 25 different government agencies to build the infrastructure necessary to support the community, like schools, medical facilities and an airstrip.
But erosion continues to threaten the town's water supply, and the Ninglick River is projected to reach the local school by 2017. In Bronen's report, she quotes Stanley Tom, a tribal administrator for the Newtok Traditional Council: "Getting funding takes time that we don't have. We can't keep up with the erosion."
Bronen called for Congress to form a government relocation framework at a federal level to prepare for more moves caused by climate change -- in Alaska and beyond.
"What's happening in Alaska is really relevant to coastal communities all over the United States," she said. "If the sea level is going to rise as the scientists predict, we need to think now of what we are going to do."
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500