Alaska village gets $1.7 million to buy out homes threatened by erosion

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NEWTOK, Alaska (KTUU) - A village with around 300 residents is getting some help from a government grant designed to help homeowners relocate after their land became threatened by erosion.

The village of Newtok has been awarded $1.7 million to move seven homes along the Ninglick River, as its swell has continued to erode the banks on which the homes rest.

The money comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, better known as FEMA, which recently allocated $4.46 million to Matanuska residents with the same fund pool from the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, or HMGP.

Initially, some of that $4.46 million was intended to go to Newtok, before complications arose from an incomplete application on Newtok's part.

Now, that issue is settled, and the grant will pay an additional amount of money to the village resting on the Ninglick.

According to Mike Sutton with the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the ultimate goal of Newtok is to move the entire community, however that is not possible yet.

Instead, Sutton said, "this HMGP award we can address the homes most in danger of being lost to river erosion" as the grant is not equipped to move the whole village.

“Naturally occurring erosion, like Newtok is experiencing, is not eligible for aid through the normal state or federal disaster declaration process,” said Sutton.

Instead, without any band aid solutions, Sutton believes Newtok residents would see their homes taken completely by the river, and see no money.

While the eventual fix isn't there yet, and the Ninglick keeps on flowing, at least 7 households will see a buyout that could save them in the long term, even if only saving Newtok in the short term.