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Rural Alaska

Spring storms accelerate erosion in Western Alaska village

NAPAKIAK — Spring storm damage to a riverbank is due to accelerated erosion caused by climate change, say leaders in a Western Alaska village.

Napakiak has lost its boat landing and chunks of land along the Kuskokwim River, Alaska’s Energy Desk reported.

The village 15 miles southwest of Bethel said it has been dealing with erosion for years but the pace has accelerated in the past few years.

The erosion threatens fuel tanks about 140 feet from the river and a school less than 200 feet from the water.

The most recent storm washed about 10 feet from the riverbank, according to city council member Walter Nelson.

"People have lost their boats, four-wheelers," he said. "Totally gone."

Small trees and bushes line parts of the riverbank in front of the school. Roots hold the mud in place, but once the trees go the erosion will accelerate further, Nelson said.

Napakiak needs to build a new school because the current building is too big and old to move, but that will cost the Lower Kuskokwim School District millions of dollars, officials said.

The district first has to build another school for a different community, Newtok. Officials said the entire village is relocating because of erosion.

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