Knowles pledges disaster relief for Arctic storms

Posted: Friday, October 25, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- Gov. Tony Knowles issued a disaster declaration for Kotzebue and Kivalina, two communities struck by a sea storm earlier this month that caused extensive damage.

The disaster declaration will permit up to $800,000 in state funds to be used to rebuild roads and repair damage to other public facilities. Knowles issued the declaration on Wednesday.

State disaster officials are still considering a similar request for assistance from Shishmaref, which was also damaged by the Oct. 8 storm.

Knowles said the storm caused up to 20-foot seas, extreme winds and strong tidal action that resulted in widespread damage.

State and local officials working in the aftermath of the storm estimated recovery and response costs will be $800,000, Knowles said.

Kotzebue is about 547 air miles northwest of Anchorage near the Arctic Circle.

Erosion caused by fall storms has threatened many coastal villages from Point Barrow to the Bering Strait, where the surf has been dissolving permafrost and destroying shoreline roads.

Federal studies have been under way to consider moving Kivalina and other villages and residents in Shishmaref voted in July to approve such a move.

But as of yet, government officials don't know where funding for such a move would be found.

State law authorizes the governor to spend up to $1 million for emergencies. Since the state's disaster relief fund cannot cover this request, Knowles said he will request supplemental funds from the Legislature.

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