Murkowski Urges for Swift Action on Addressing Coastal Erosion

“We must be working together more aggressively because people’s lives are in danger”

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) called for an urgent focus on assistance for Alaskan communities facing coastal erosion. During an Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee hearing examining the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ budget request for Fiscal Year 2019, Senator Murkowski cited threats to the northern community of Utqiagvik, facing serious winter storms, receding sea ice, and greater coastal erosion.

“You’ve got a utility corridor that is in danger of washing away due to the beach erosion. We also have an old land fill that’s about 100 feet from the water. This land fill is maxed out but you also have some military waste out there from cleanup projects that have gone on. Tens of thousands of drums of waste. A slow moving disaster is the way that I have described the erosion threat that we are seeing,” Senator Murkowski said. “So here you have the most significant community in the North Slope with the potential to lose their utilities, but also from an environmental perspective, a real threat, so the question that they have asked me to ask you is, how quickly are we moving in providing any level of assistance — not only to protect the utility corridor but to deal with the potential for this environmental issue?”

Coastal Erosion

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Senator Murkowski stressed the urgency for the Army Corps and the Assistant Secretary for Civil Works to provide assistance not only to protect the utility corridor and address the potential environmental issues, but called for a broader discussion to ensure there is a plan going forward.

“We must be working together more aggressively because people’s lives are in danger and the potential for an environmental disaster is very real. It is bigger though than Utqiagvik. It is bigger than Kivalina, Shishmaref and Unalakleet. This is the issue that we are facing –coastal erosion and the reality that these are high cost, when you look at it from a cost-benefit ratio. This is where we always fall off the radar because our cost-benefit ratio never pencils out,” Senator Murkowski said. “I have people who are going to bed at night afraid. They are afraid of the next storm coming their way. They are afraid they are going to lose their utilities. They are afraid they are going to have an environmental disaster. They are afraid that their home is going to drop into the ocean like the people in Newtok are facing.”

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