In conclusion, Alaska Native villages are being increasingly affected by flooding and erosion problems being worsened at least to some degree by climatological changes. They must nonetheless find ways to respond to these problems. Many Alaska Native villages that are small, remote, and have a subsistence lifestyle, lack the resources to address the problems on their own. Yet villages have difficulty finding assistance under several federal programs, because as currently defined the economic costs of the proposed project to control flooding and erosion exceed the expected economic benefits. As a result, many private homes and other infrastructure continue to be threatened. Given the unique circumstances of Alaska Native villages, special measures may be required to ensure that these communities receive the assistance they need to respond to problems that could continue to increase.
However, adopting some of these alternatives will require consideration of a number of important factors, including the potential to set a precedent for other communities and programs as well as resulting budgetary implications. While we did not determine the cost or the national policy implications associated with any of the alternatives, these are important considerations when determining appropriate federal action.
Alaska Native villages have difficulty qualifying for assistance under the key federal flooding and erosion programs, largely because of program requirements that the project costs not exceed economic benefits, or because of cost-sharing requirements.
…according to the Corps’ guidelines for evaluating water resource projects, the Corps generally cannot undertake a project when the economic costs exceed the expected benefits.
According to state of Alaska officials, historically the state has provided the nonfederal matching funds for most Corps of Engineers (and other federal) projects, but with the extreme budget deficits currently faced by the state of Alaska, matching funds have been severely limited.
While each of these entities recognized the need for improved coordination of federal efforts to address flooding and erosion in Alaska Native villages, none of them provided any specific suggestions on how this should be accomplished or by whom.
(2) direct the federal agencies to consider social and environmental factors in their cost benefit analyses for these projects, and (3) waive the federal cost-sharing requirement for flooding and erosion programs for Alaska Native villages.
While most Alaska Native villages are affected to some extent by flooding and erosion, quantifiable data are not available to fully assess the severity of the problem. Federal and Alaska state agency officials that we contacted could agree on which three or four villages experience the most flooding and erosion, but they could not rank flooding and erosion in the remaining villages by high, medium, or low severity. These agency officials said that determining the extent to which villages have been affected by flooding and erosion is difficult because Alaska has significant data gaps. These gaps occur because remote locations lack monitoring equipment. The officials noted that about 400 to 500 gauging stations would have to be added in Alaska to attain the same level of gauging as in the Pacific Northwest.