Nightmute was awarded a $50,000 State Fiscal Year 2011 Hazard Impact Assessment grant to identify and define the climate change-related hazards in the Nightmute, establish current and predicted impacts, and provide recommendations on alternatives to mitigate the hazard impacts.
Nightmute is located on the southeast point of Nelson Island, in western Alaska. It is 18 miles upriver from Toksook Bay and 100 miles west of Bethel. Nightmute is located in the Bethel Recording District. The area encompasses 97.0 sq. miles of land and 4.6 sq. miles of water.
Nightmute is influenced by a marine climate. Annual precipitation averages 22 inches, with 43 inches of snowfall. Summer temperatures range from 41 to 57 °F; winter temperatures are 6 to 24 °F.
Over the years, citizens in Nightmute have noticed increased erosion the river of Toksook River. According to the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE - who recently completed a Baseline Erosion Assessment ), fluctuating river levels, high winds, ice jams, spring thawing and melting permafrost have all continued to increasing erosion and subsidence. The erosion of the riverbank is occurring throughout the community and threatened homes, schools and boardwalks, some of which are only a few feet from the river at this point.
Between 2006-2007 the riverbank near the high school eroded 15-20 feet and is now about 50 feet from the kindergarten building. The fuel pump delivery coupling , barge landing/docking area and the corporation store are also being impacted by erosion. The community notes that fall storms seem to have become more frequent and that high tides have impacted houses nearer the beach, necessitating some homes to be raised to protect them from future damage. The USACE notes that in the last decade community dump and utility poles have been relocated to keep them safe from these threats, and the existing airport road has undergone rehabilitation. However, residences, fuel tanks, sewer lines and other structures are still at risk, especially as high water and erosion creep closer. 55 gallon drums were filled with dirt and placed along the riverbank in the mid 1970s, and these were successful in slowing erosion for a period of time, but now the drums have rusted though and have also been removed but the water during tidal events. The City of Nightmute is working on adding sandbags to the riverbank to try and protect the community from further erosion impacts but this is only a temporary measure.
Aerial map showing linear extent of erosion at Nightmute. Photo: USACE Baseline Erosion Assessment
City of Nightmute
Division of Community and Regional Affairs
Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development