Story at a glance
- The money will be used to help three tribes in Alaska and Washington whose homes are threatened by climate change.
- The three communities have experienced severe erosion that is projected to destroy critical infrastructure.
- Funds are being provided by the Inflation Reduction Act, the sweeping tax and climate change bill approved by Congress this year.
The Biden administration will pay $75 million in relocation costs to three Native American tribes whose homes are threatened by climate change, the Interior Department announced Wednesday.
The Department of the Interior (DOI) will provide $25 million each to Washington State’s Quinault Indian Nation and Alaska’s Newtok Village and Native Village of Napakiak. The Alaska communities are the site of severe erosion, which is projected to destroy critical infrastructure in Napakiak by 2030 and within the next four years in Newtok.
Napakiak currently loses between 25-50 feet a year to erosion, according to DOI projections.
The Quinault Indian Nation is located where the Quinault River meets the Pacific Ocean, putting it at ground zero for storm surges, flooding and rising sea levels, as well as potential tsunamis caused by earthquakes on the Pacific Rim.
The funds for the voluntary program will be provided through the Bipartisan infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act. The administration will also provide $5 million grants to eight other tribal communities, including four in Alaska, one in Arizona, one in California, one in Louisiana and one in Maine.
“As part of the federal government’s treaty and trust responsibility to protect Tribal sovereignty and revitalize tribal communities, we must safeguard Indian Country from the intensifying and unique impacts of climate change,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “Helping these communities move to safety on their homelands is one of the most important climate related investments we could make in Indian Country.”
The program represents an approach to the ravages of climate change that, rather than seeking to mitigate or adapt to its effects, acknowledges there is a point at which it makes an area unlivable. The Obama administration began a similar resettlement in 2016, using funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the residents of Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana. The resettled residents only began moving into their new homes, about forty miles north, this year.