A small delegation from the northwest Alaska community of Shishmaref is appealing to lawmakers in Washington for help combating climate change.
Tony Weyiouanna, president of the Shishmaref Native Corporation, is part of a five-person delegation from the rural Alaska village visiting the nation’s capitol this week. Wayiouanna said Wednesday that the group is meeting with Alaska’s congressional delegation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and a bicameral task force on climate change.
“We’re mainly describing what kind of things we’re seeing with the effects of climate change, the effects on our community,” he said.
Weyiouanna said the group’s trip was funded by the group Act on Climate Change, an organization that aims to bring political attention to the issue of climate change.
According to Wayiouanna, the group is looking for money and technical assistance for building a seawall around the village and, ultimately, relocating the village entirely.
“A lot of our focus is to request assistance to get legislation passed to assist communities that are having trouble fighting climate change, towns dealing with erosion or flooding, that kind of thing,” he said.
Shishmaref, a community of fewer than 600 people, is located on a barrier island off the Seward Peninsula, bordered by the Bering Sea to the west and a lagoon on the east.
Weyiouanna was part of the Shishmaref Erosion and Relocation Coalition, a previous effort to raise funds and awareness for the village’s relocation. The total cost of such a project could be close to $200 million.
Protecting the community from erosion, Wayiouanna said, builds upon a past Army Corp of Engineers study that Weyiouanna said affirmed the need to build a new seawall around the island village to combat erosion.
November storms battered Norton Sound and Bering Sea communities. In Shishmaref, the lone road along the spine of the community—the “Dump Road,” as it’s called by locals—suffered significant erosion. That road runs along the community’s airstrip, and Weyiouanna said the runway could be next.
“No state or federal agency that provides that assistance, and we need to work with congressional delegation to see who can carry that torch, be that champion,” he said. So far, the delegation has shared its concerns with a variety of groups but Weyiouanna admitted that there were “no commitments yet.”
The group is continuing to meet with politicians and other organizations through the end of the week.