Perspectives on Business and Economics, Vol. 40

67 Collectively, then, the necessary funding is not readily accessible. When funding can be procured, receipt often is difficult as many funding sources require environmental assessments before disbursement. Such requirements can elongate and segment the relocation process. This funding maze cries out for consolidation under one contact point. Environmental Assessments Regarding environmental assessments, Dr. Elizaveta Barrett Ristroph (2021), the principal of Ristroph Law, Planning, and Research, which provides services to Alaska Native villages, observes that funding organizations and government agencies generally require communities to retain geotechnical consultants to create climate hazard reports. Although this seems a sensible approach, deeper examination reveals redundancy and inefficiency. Unless a particular village is fully funded to relocate, doing any sort of preliminary or interim evaluation is of limited value, as the facts on the ground may be different in 10 years when relocation is financially possible. Of course, it is important for a funding source to understand the environmental state of that specific community. The challenge is streamlining that stage of the funding process. Joel Niemeyer, former federal co-chair of the Denali Commission and consultant for the Akiak relocation project, proposes that once a village needs a climate relocation plan, it should take advantage of government agencies like the Army Corps of Engineers (phone interview, December 16, 2021). These agencies may be able to conduct environmental surveys at no cost to the community, in which case there would be no need for expensive private consultants. One report (Statewide Threat Assessment) is often relied on in assessing environmental risk for Native communities. Unfortunately, this report was largely a repackaging of data collected in 2009 for the last assessment presented by the GAO and the Army Corps of Engineers. Furthermore, the assessment is based on self-reported information pulled from publicly available data in addition to volunteered data from the private sector. As highlighted by the University of Alaska’s report, “no communities were visited, nor was any effort made to validate the data,” which undermines the reliability of the report’s conclusions. Unfortunately, much of the current relocation effort rests on this shaky foundation (University of Alaska et al., 2019). Throughout any relocation process utilizing federal monies, environmental impact statements (coordinated through the EPA) and hazard mitigation plans are required of the tribes. FEMA requires each village to have an approved Hazard Mitigation Plan, which must be updated every five years, to be eligible to receive Public Assistance deemed nonemergent. This plan includes Hazard Mitigation Assistance, Pre-Disaster Mitigation, and Flood Mitigation Assistance project grants (Adapt Alaska, 2021a). FEMA provides grants to villages to support them working with a contractor in completing required Hazard Mitigation Plans. Providing Native communities with free access to better environmental risk and assessment tools would promote a more comprehensive understanding of the climate threats they face. It would also be easier for grant organizations to prioritize regions and communities based on the relative risk faced. The Alaska state government has come to understand the need for current, reliable data on climate change. As such, the Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys conducted in-depth research on the climate impact of erosion (Buzard et al., 2021). Their report provides the state with a more reliable perspective on “the location and replacement cost of infrastructure in areas forecast to erode by the 2070s” (p. 17). The maps aid tribes in understanding the expected future of their vital infrastructure, such as water supply, sewage waste systems, and community buildings. However, this assessment also notes the limitations “stemming from data availability, analysis methods, and evaluating impact through estimates of replacement” (p. 19). More such field work is required to afford Native Alaskan communities a robust knowledge base upon which to rely when deciding their future. Multiple government entities require environmental reports and studies, each with unique characteristics but an overlapping main purpose. This process of dealing with multiple organizations is costly and unwieldy. Government entities and institutions must act to craft a more efficient relocation process.