The Newtok Planning Group was formed in May 2006 when representatives from state and federal agencies and non-governmental organizations began meeting with Newtok to coordinate assistance in the relocation of the community to a new village site on Nelson Island. The relocation site is called Mertarvik, which in Yup’ik means, “getting water from the spring.”
The village of Newtok is threatened by advancing erosion caused by the Ninglick River adjacent to the village. This progressive erosion, in combination with permafrost degradation and flooding of the village during seasonal storms has created a serious threat to the existence of the village. Years of erosion studies have concluded that Newtok must relocate as there is no permanent and cost-effective alternative for remaining at the current village site.
In 2006, the Newtok Traditional Council requested the assistance of the Division of Community and Regional Affairs, within the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development (DCCED), with Newtok's relocation effort. DCCED is tasked by two Alaska Administrative Orders (AO 231 and AO 239) "to act as the state coordinating agency to coordinate with the other state and federal agencies to propose long-term solutions to the ongoing erosion issues in... affected coastal communities..." To carry out this coordination, the Newtok Planning Group (NPG) was formed.
The NPG has convened regularly since its formation, working with Newtok and across agencies to leverage resources, secure funding, and to establish a framework and strategy for moving the relocation process forward. Download a list of the participants in the NPG.
Through this unique partnership, a range of initiatives, studies, and pioneer infrastructure projects has been completed or are currently underway at Mertarvik. Collaboration among Newtok and state and federal agencies has been behind the success of every project.
In the past seven years, a community layout plan has been developed to inform a townsite survey and subdivision plan, a barge landing facility and access road have been designed and constructed, an evacuation shelter has been designed and construction initiated, and studies are underway for water/sewer and alternative energy infrastructure, housing, quarry development and a future airport. In 2012, the NPG completed the Mertarvik Strategic Management Plan which provides the "blueprint" for the relocation from Newtok to Mertarvik.
The beginning of a new village...Mertarvik Barge landing, Access road and evacuation center foundation (right). Photo: Harvey Smith, DOT/PF
The collaborative partnership of the NPG was enhanced in 2008 by the addition of the military Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) Program. The IRT provides quality services to remote communities while affording training to military personnel. The IRT made a five-year commitment to the Newtok relocation effort by providing labor and transportation of materials and equipment for the construction of critical infrastructure at the new village. In the summer of 2010, the IRT helped construct an access road leading from the Mertarvik barge landing to the future village site. In 2011, the IRT began preliminary work on a quarry and an evacuation shelter that will provide safe haven to the community if the current village floods during storms. In 2013, the IRT will complete its five-year commitment to Mertarvik with the construction of two storage buildings which will support the Mertarvik Evacuation Shelter.
To learn more about the emergency response and relocation activities currently underway for Newtok and the new village site, Mertarvik, please see "Emergency Response/ Relocation Work" in the Resources Section, below.
Division of Community and Regional Affairs
Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development
550 West 7th Avenue, Suite 1640
Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 269-4588 FAX: (907) 269-4066