A berm intended to stave off winter storms and coastal erosion is taking shape in the Western Alaska community of Shaktoolik.
The project, funded with more than $600,000 from the Norton Sound Economic Development Corp., follows a blueprint from Alaska’s Department of Transportation. Shaktoolik resident Gloria Andrew said crews are working in shifts from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., gathering gravel and rocks from the mouth of a nearby river to cover the piles of driftwood along the shoreline.
Flooding and erosion are two of the largest climate change-related dangers facing Shaktoolik, according to an adaption plan published in February by the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Alaska Sea Grant Program. A 100-year storm could flood the entire community with more than seven feet of water, the report found. While an evacuation road could cost up to $60 million and would have to cross 13 miles of narrow, low-lying spit, the report said a vegetated berm along the beach could help absorb waves and protect Shaktoolik from flooding.
In 2013, Gov. Sean Parnell declared a state disaster in Western Alaska after hurricane force winds and storm surges battered hundreds of miles of coastline.