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Rural Alaska

Napakiak moves buildings threatened by erosion along Kuskokwim River

NAPAKIAK — A Western Alaska village struggling with erosion has moved two buildings away from its riverbank, officials said.

Napakiak moved its city garage and firehouse back from the encroaching Kuskokwim River, KYUK-AM reported Wednesday.

The project to move the buildings from their original locations about 200 feet from the river was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, officials said.

The community 15 miles southwest of Bethel has been dealing with erosion for many years, but the pace accelerated over the past few years, officials said.

Moving buildings away from the river is becoming routine for Napakiak, said city council member Walter Nelson.

"We've become so used to it," Nelson said.

Nelson estimated the village has lost about 20 feet of riverbank since May.

The community has applied for permits from the Army Corps of Engineers to relocate the boat harbor, which was destroyed by storms in May.

As residents wait to build a new landing, they park boats in a makeshift area in the village, Nelson said.

Meanwhile, the river water continues to encroach on Napakiak and is nearing a road in front a tank farm and the community school, he said.

"The erosion is right there on the road," Nelson said.

The Lower Kuskokwim School District needs to move the school and the fuel tanks next to it, but Nelson said finding money to construct a new school has been challenging, he said.

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