Last spring, a multidisciplinary team of eight professional and graduate students enrolled in our Climate Justice Seminar co-authored a paper titled “Initial Assessment of Lead Agency Candidates to Support Alaska Native Villages Requiring Relocation to Survive Climate Harms.” Thirty-one of Alaska’s Native Villages are in immediate danger of flooding and erosion caused by climate change, but few qualify for federal funding or assistance to move out of harm’s way. The goal of the paper was to identify the most appropriate federal agency or agencies to lead Alaska Native Village Relocation efforts.

Based on the analysis, this report makes the case for the following agencies to undergo further evaluation for the role of lead agency: (1) U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; (2) Denali Commission; (3) U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Agency; (4) Federal Emergency Management Agency; and (5) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Although this recommendation is based on a preliminary analysis that does not include critical input from key villages and agencies, or the possibility of significant restructuring of individual agencies, this report aims to further the recommendations of the 2009 GAO report that Congress “may want to consider designating, or creating, a lead federal entity that could work in conjunction with the lead state agency to coordinate and oversee village relocation efforts.” While further analysis and interviews with affected communities is necessary to make final agency recommendation determinations, the need for new legislation granting authority and appropriations for an agency to take leadership of the Alaska Native village relocation efforts is immediate, clear, and dire.

The student authors are: Sara Bender, Oceanography; Dean Chahim, Civil & Environmental Engineering; Laura Eshbach, LL.M Candidate; Lyndsay Lee Gordon, Environmental Science and Resource Management; Fred Kaplan, LL.M Candidate; Kelly McCusker, Atmospheric Sciences; Hilary Palevsky, Oceanography; and Maura Rowell, Civil & Environmental Engineering and Math.

Instructors who helped advise the project include: David Battisti, Takami Endowed Chair, UW Atmospheric Sciences; Jeni Barcelos, J.D., Executive Director, Three Degrees Project, UW Law; Jennifer Marlow, J.D., Executive Director, Three Degrees Project, UW Law, and Teaching Fellows: Erin Burke, Atmospheric Sciences, and Shailee Stzern, Civil Engineering and Public Policy.